Run DMC released their fourth studio album “Tougher Than Leather” on May 17 1988. The album was produced by Davy DMX, Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin. Run DMC had been in control of the Hip Hop world from 1984-1986 while their classic albums “Raising Hell” and “King Of Rock” ruled the charts. But in 1987 LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions and others had dropped classic albums and Run DMC’s throne was about to be taken over.
The first track off “Tougher Than Leather” is the incredible “Run’s House”. As soon as you hear “We had…” you know this track was going to be a classic. Taking The Soul Searchers “Ashely’s Roachclip” and sampling practically the entire song, Run goes after all the “Sucker MC’s” with lyrics like these,
“Ah, once again my friend
Not a trend for then
They said, rap was crap
But never had this band
Till the ruler came
With a cooler name
Made ya dance and prance and draw the fans insane
Name is Run my son
Number one for fun
Not a gun that’s done and get done by none
The others act, in fact, is just wack I kill
[Run] It’s fun my son and Run heads the bill!“
The next track is “Mary Mary” where Run DMC takes the Monkeys track by the same name and make it funky. The rhymes are simple but it goes with the sampled interpolation.
“Mary Mary Mary you cold thumb suckin
Lookin for you, but you keep duckin
I wanna find you, I gotta tell you somethin
So just be quiet and don’t say NUTTIN
Mary Mary Mary why you out there stuntin?
Supposed to be with me, but not you’re FRONTIN
We started out new, you used to be true
Now you’re buggin, what’s wrong with you?”
“They Call Us Run DMC’ is next to bat and has Run and D flowing on a slow boom bap beat and is later used on the remix of “Back From Hell” with Chuck D and Ice Cube. But once we get to “Beats To The Rhyme”, you know the game is over! The energy that track has is crazy! JMJ takes the “Nautilus” track by the great Bob James, backed up by 4 Run DMC samples and crazy scratching to make this more a JMJ track than a Run DMC one.
“Radio Station” has JMJ scratching the “Dear…” in LL’s “Dear Yvette” and Chuck D saying the name of the same from “Bring The Noise”. One of my favorite songs on the album is “Papa Crazy” which sample “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” by the Temptations. When was the last time you heard a DJ scratch up a Temptations song?
“Now papa livin like a rich man, up on the hill
Yeah my daddy got a Caddy funky fresh Seville
He got diamonds AND FURS, for his AND HERS
and a cat, in the hat that just, chills and purrs
Now he eats and grubs, and rocks beats at clubs
while mama makin nothin while she sweeps, and rubs
You wanna know about his dough, how he got paid
well the last, THAT ASKED, got sprayed, AND LAID, because..”
On the title track, they take a heavy guitar riff and they try to duplicate what they did on the track “Raising Hell”. It’s dope but not better! “I’m Not Going Out Like That” is dope and it even starts off with a vocal sample of MLK. This album unlike the previous three, has JMJ sampling various well known Hip Hop tracks. On this song alone he samples PE, Heavy D and of course Run DMC.
“Crime, time, nah I get mine
Climb, do fine, wine and just dine
Make, break, ill and just take
fate for God sake a break is at stake
Crack, wack, smack you right back
In fact you might last to jack if I crack
Cry, lie, do or just die
Live positive and give, but that’s why “I’m not..”
“How Ya Like It Dee” is dope but “Miss Elaine” tries to be too Rock n Roll and is more of a fast-forward track. “Soul To Rock N Roll” is about how they take all kinds of music, “from soul to rock n roll” and they make it their own. Although it does carry a heavy guitar riff (again) it works with this song!
The final track is “Ragtime” where they take a ragtime track and (yes) they make it work! Run takes the first verse and gives us his best Slick Rick impression. The song may seem a bit corny, but let the track role, it’s catchy and dope not to mention JMJ raps on this track. Run finishes with the last verse,
“Cruisin down the block, in the sixty-six Olds
Girls are on the jock like the ride was a Rolls
Feelin kinda great, got change for the toll
Suckers gotta wait, that’s your fate, poor soul
Heard you on the records and I heard you on the tapes
Stop, switch the conversation over to grapes, because
You’re not bustin none, so stop fussin son
You’re not down with Rush, they call us Russ and Run
Since that’s the company, you won’t be chumpin me
Here’s the man, ask that fan (Run big brother D!)”
The album was dope, another classic album in the discography of Run DMC. It ultimately suffered from poor timing, “Tougher Than Leather” probably came out 1 year too late. Still, these are the pioneers of Hip Hop that are responsible for the Golden Era of Hip Hop. With songs like “Run’s House” and “Beats To The Rhyme” this is a definite part of your music collection. But is it in your Top 3 Run DMC albums. That’s debatable! What’s not is their legacy….and for that we salute you! RIP JMJ