They're Gonna Smash Run-DMC's Brains in

Categories: Deep Voice

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Since October of 1955, when Norman Mailer and co. founded The Village Voice as a weekly paper for bros of the leftist pinko persuasion, we've done our dutiful best to preserve every word ever printed in our pages, tucking them away in our vast archival editorial library (pictured above). This summer, we slogged deep into the back issues to find the most interesting articles about a few Big Shot Bands From Way Back When, which we then scanned and dumped into this here blog for a little #tbt feature we're calling "Deep Voice." (Get it?)

In this week's installment, we look back at a few old articles about Hollis, Queens heroes Run-DMC and find 1) a 1985 feature by the always on-point Greg Tate about a near-riot at a Run-DMC show at the Beacon and the complicated racial politics of this new form of black expression, "They're Gonna Smash Their Brains in" 2) an '86 archive classic, "It's Like This," by John Leland 3) a feature about the group by "The Media Assassin" himself, Harry Allen and 4) a few more cool odds an ends for you to get nostalgic over. To the bound issues!

See also: Ad-Rock Hated "Faggots" and Other Beastie Boys Revelations Gleaned From Our Archives

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[6/21/1983]

John Who?

Hip-hop's hook of the season is "It's Like That," by Run-D.M.C. and Orange Krush. Producers Larry Smith and Russell Simmons (half the credits on Kuris Blow's "Tough") have cut a "stiff and nervous" beat/sound dominated by a mechanical web of bass bams and snare wacks aimed in part at the new wave club market. Its elemental starkness has an eerie European existential alienation all over it and it's a hit on (black) radio. Stiff and nervous Babylon '83. The question haunting rap is, what lies beyond the "it's bullshit" motif? Alienation? "Money is the key to end all your woes....Whatever happened to unity?...Disillusion is the word/I just go through life with my glasses blurred/It's like that/And that's the way it is....If you really think about it, times aren't that bad."

Anyway, the mix of battering-ram percussion and rough vocals succeeds as polyrhythmic dance and hard-rock compulsion. The real breaks come in the syncopated interplayof drunk and electronic shakere rhythms set against corrosive lyrics in "Sucker M.C.'s" ("You don't even know your English/Your verbs or nouns/ You're just a sucker M.C./You sad face clown"). Too bad this percussive clamor's so far from the melodic heart behind John Henry's hammer. But the lack of real emotion in Run-D.M.C.'s recent show at the Roxy was completley overshadowed by the dark brilliance of Bambaattaa and Islam swinging this new Shango thing and jamming rhythm and sound textures as so many subtexts pointing at "One Nation Under a Groove."

- Gary Jardim


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