This is a rap version of an Aerosmith song from 1975. According to the February 2006 Q magazine, Run-D.M.C. stumbled across this song during a search for breakbeats to use during DJ sets in the early '80s. They didn't know who Aerosmith were and thought the band was called Toys In The Attic because that was the album title. Rick Rubin, who was producing Raising Hell, was a huge fan of Aerosmith and suggested to Jam Master Jay that he call Perry to ask if he and Tyler would play on their cover version. Aerosmith's 1985 album Done With Mirrors had flopped and the band were all but washed up. Perry's reaction was predictable: "It took me all of a minute to say yes. I didn't know what was gonna happen when I walked in the studio. I thought they'd show us some ideas on how to rearrange it, but all they had was a drum track. Rubin said, All you gotta do is play the song the way you play it. So I sat down and played it."
Both bands were working against the clock. Aerosmith had to catch a plane to their next gig. Run-D.M.C. had an even more pressing concern - their hire car was due back before the rental shop closed for the day. As Perry and Tyler headed to the airport, neither were aware that they had hit on something big. Run-D.M.C. weren't even sure if it was going to go on their album.
This was the perfect song to expose rap to a white audience. It led to Top 40 radio play and television coverage for rap artists, who up to that point were mostly ignored by the white media. Rick Rubin said in the book I Want My MTV: "The record and the video had a huge effect on both groups. It opened the door to Run-D.M.C.'s full suburban crossover, and it reminded people how great Aerosmith was."
Run-D.M.C. made inroads incorporating rock elements in hip-hop with their songs "Rock Box
" and "King of Rock
," but their rappers (Joseph "Run" Simmons and Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels) wanted nothing to do with an Aerosmith collaboration. When their producer, Rick Rubin, gave them the record and told them to learn the words to "Walk This Way," they couldn't understand what Steven Tyler was singing and hated it. They refused to record it, but were convinced when their DJ, Jam Master Jay, told them that Rubin had Steven Tyler and Joe Perry in the studio, and they were going to do the song with or without them. Jay gave them the idea to switch off lines between the rappers instead of having each of them take an entire verse. D.M.C. said: "If it had been up to us, our version would have just been the beat, a couple of the guitars, and me and Run bragging about how great we are."
Along with Kid Rock, Run-D.M.C. toured with Aerosmith in 2002. Later that year, Jam Master Jay, Run-D.M.C.'s DJ, was shot and killed at his recording studio. Aerosmith was one of many bands to pay their respects and contribute to a fund to help find the killer.
Reverend Run of Run-D.M.C. performed this with Elmo on a 2011 episode of Sesame Street. Elmo was learning about grasshoppers, so the song became "Hop This Way."
The video for this song was directed by Jon Small and shot at the Park Theater in Union City, New Jersey. It marked the first time Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were on MTV. Aerosmith would soon become regulars on the channel.
Aerosmith would enjoy a tremendous resurgence, starting with this song, but they still weren't sober when they recorded it. The band was doing more drugs than ever and deteriorating at a fast pace when this song found them a new audience. They cleaned up for their next album, Permanent Vacation, and the comeback was under way.
In America, this was the first single released from Raising Hell, which went on to sell over 3 million copies there.
Run-D.M.C. wasn't familiar with Aerosmith when they recorded this, but Joe Perry's 11-year-old stepson was big into hip-hop and would blast Run-D.M.C. in his bedroom, so Perry knew of them. When he and Tyler went to the studio, however, they got a chilly reception from the rappers. "They weren't all that excited about it, frankly," Perry said in a Songfacts interview
. "They weren't sure they wanted it on the record - they weren't sure they wanted electric guitars on there. They were at the forefront of this new kind of music and they didn't want to spoil it. I think they saw it as either a step sideways or a step backwards."
Joe Perry brought a guitar to the studio to record his part, but when he wanted to add some bass, there was a problem: he didn't bring that instrument. Some kids that were hanging around the studio were willing to help out - they lived nearby, so one of them went home and retrieved a bass that Perry used to add that section. Those kids turned out to be the Beastie Boys, another act Rick Rubin was producing.
Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. performed this song together only once: at the Grammy Awards in 2020. Instead of Aerosmith breaking through the wall like in the video, the rappers came through a wall to join the rockers.