1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear – Run DMC’s awful comeback


1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#48: Run DMC – Crown Royal (2001)

Does hip hop get any worse than the execrable comeback album by Run DMC? MATT KELLY thinks not and explains why.

TLDR: An embattled and dysfunctional Run DMC produce their last album under tortuous circumstances and it somehow fails to connect with the record-buying public despite all the hottest hip artists such as Limp Bizkit, Third Eye Blind, Sugar Ray and Kid Rock, inclusive of a verse in which Fred Durst talks about fondling women in a pit full of jello and organising his pantie collection.

Oh god. Sometimes writing these is fun. This is not going to be. Witness as Run DMC fittingly opens their big comeback album with a track titled ‘It’s Over’ and one of hip hop’s greatest OGs goes down in flames. Read on if you want to be depressed.

After 1993’s Down With The King, Run DMC went away. The record didn’t flop – it went gold, decent enough for an ageing hip hop act, but personal troubles broke the group down.


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DMC was struggling with suicidal thoughts and substance abuse, Run became disillusioned with life before re-emerging as a born-again Christian, and Jay’s financial troubles lead him to start dealing drugs on the side. Though there was no break-up, the group just kind of stopped existing.

But DJ Jason Nevin’s 1997 smash hit remix of ‘It’s Like That’ put Run DMC back on the map. The back catalogue started shifting again and Arista phoned the guys up about a new album, pencilled in for 1999.

Writing and recording was slow, primarily because DMC had lost interest in rap, having become a massive Sarah MacLachlan fan (yes really). He wanted to do more intimate, singer-songwriter stuff. This was dismissed by the label and the others in the band who were keen on a crossover rap-rock direction.

Eventually, DMC more or less walked out on the sessions, meaning he has no involvement in seven of the 12 tracks here, arguably making it a glorified Run solo album.

It actually doesn’t open that badly. ‘It’s Over’ is produced by Jermaine Dupri who puts his fucking annoying voice all over it and Run is doing a thinly-disguised Jay Z impersonation, but his braggadocious rhymes about the legacy of Run DMC are charismatic, flow well, and the dramatic choral sample from Marcia Religioso gives things a suitably epic feel.

The second song ‘Queens Day’ is really nice, a laidback piano sprinkled beat worthy of DJ Premier (it’s actually from JMJ) against which Nas and Prodigy speak of how Run DMC put their borough of Queens on the hip hop map.

But then the album goes flying off the fucking cliff with ‘Them Girls’, the Limp Bizkit collaboration. A nauseating sex pest anthem which features multiple instances of Durst braying “THEM GIRLS” 16 times in a row, you might call it Run DMC’s worst song. Well, you might if not for ‘Rock Show’, a godawful attempt at nu-metal cred with comically tryhard production and a laugh-out-loud chorus from Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins. THIS has to be Run DMC’s worst song. But wait – here comes ‘Here We Go’ featuring Sugar Ray
“D.M.C. and DJ Run
dumb-diddy-dumb diddy-diddy-dumb-dumb
We’re rockin’ on the mic and then you know where we’re from
dumb-diddy-dumb diddy-diddy-dumb-dumb
We hope y’all ready for the big beat drum
Drum-diddy-dumb diddy-diddy-drum-drum
So people in the place hear the big beat come
Here it come, here it come, here it kiddy-come-come.”

Jesus Christ this is bad. Production that Marilyn Manson would find tryhard edgy farts away until a bizarre hook where Sugar Ray vocalist Mark McGrath floats away on a psychedelic haze. It isn’t necessarily bad but it has nothing to do with the rest of the song and makes it seem a total mess. Surely THIS is Run DMC’s worst song.

But it could also be Run and Kid Rock playing “who has the most irritating yell” on ‘The School Of Old’. Or the sad spectacle of the group who covered ‘Walk This Way’ to such electrifying effect reduced to a corny take on The Steve Miller Band’s ‘Take The Money And Run’ complete with Everlast going “C’MAWWWWN, HEY HEY HEY”.

A couple of passable tracks and the fact that Run isn’t MCing too badly (though he is stuck on the topic of the glory days) can’t compensate for the album being poisoned by a group of tracks even dedicated fans won’t be able to sit through.

This probably would’ve been the end for the group anyway. Fans *hated* this, the singles tanked, and the group were not seeing eye to eye. I’m not sure they would have continued. They were not given the chance. In October of 2002, allegedly as a result of a drug deal gone bad, Jam Master Jay was shot dead in his Queens recording studio. He was 37 years old. Run and D have never seriously considered continuing without him.

But however bad things got at the end, there is no taking away from Run DMC what they achieved in their ’80s heyday. Run spends a lot of time on this album boasting about how all you rappers and DJs would be unemployed without him, but you know what – he might not be wrong. They played a crucial part in building the hip hop industry and taking rap mainstream, so put on those first four albums and pay respect to the originators.

RIP Jason William Mizell 1965-2002

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Matthew Kelly is the most important person in the music industry – the type of obsessive nerd without whom it would have no reason to produce box sets and nine-hour long documentaries.

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