|Chicago Sun-Times, July 26, 1987
By Dave Hoekstra:
The "Together Forever" tour will bring the kings of rap, Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, to the Rosemont Horizon on Thursday.
MILWAUKEE--Cigarette smoke wafts through the arena and a steady beat whips the crowd into ice screams. Rabid fans wear gold around their necks and silver on their tongues. Their pants are as tight as the security.
It's white fans at a Chicago Blackhawks hockey game. It's black fans at a Run-DMC concert.
I mentioned the comparison to Run-DMC--Rappers Run (Joseph Simmons), DMC (Darryl McDaniels) and deejay Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell)--during a backstage interview before a recent set at Milwaukee's Summerfest. The parallel is legitimate, the perceptions are different.
"We're young black kids and our voice is strong," said Jay, relaxing on a sofa alongside his rappers. All three members of Run-DMC were sitting with legs outstretched, showing off loud snow-white Adidas with tongues appropriately untied. "There's not three other black kids 20 years old (all three are actually 22 years old) who can get 25,000 kids to listen to what they say. And some people are just scared of that. Even though we use our power in a positive way, we could be negative. We could say, 'Go home and kick that policeman's butt.' But we don't do that.
"In the United States, a lot of people are scared about three young black guys having millions of kids listen to them," he continued. "So once a little something happens, all the press gets on us. It's a real political thing, but we're going to get over it, because positive always is going to override negative."
Bill Adler, the manager of both the Beasties and Run-DMC has simply and truthfully said, "This country is afraid of young blacks."
The Run-DMC/Beastie Boys "Together Forever" tour, which will rumble into the Chicago area for a 7:30 p.m. Thursday concert at the Rosemont Horizon, is one of the summer's sociological highlights. While 3 1/2 solid hours of live rap music hardly qualifies as a musical highlight (rapper Davy D. is the opening act), Run-DMC and the Beasties have accomplished what everyone from Joan Baez to James Brown have generally failed to do, and that's mesh young black and white concert audiences.
"There's a lot more white people in our audience now," Jay said. "But we never designed the tour to go like that. Right now, we're seeing a lot of people who probably were afraid to see Run-DMC before. They bought the album, they liked the group, but they were scared because they figured there'd be a lot of violence or whatever the press might tell them. It's good it's going like this because when you look back at the summer of 1987, you'll able to say Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys were the biggest things in music that summer and they toured together. It would be like trying to put Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry together. But people before us couldn't even think in those kind of ways. It's time for it to be done."
Rap and scratch music put a stronger emphasis on charisma and stage style than any other form of popular music simply because any fast talker with a beat box and a synthesizer has the innate ability to be a rapper. Not everyone has the cool runnings of Run-DMC or the scatological soul of the Beastie Boys.
The Beasties and Run-DMC have commercialized rap in different ways. The Beasties give rap a suburban sense of levity by way of heavy metal guitar lines and teenage stage antics. They have softened the hard-rap form for their young white peers (the average age of a Beastie is 20.3 years old). It's far less intimidating for a white audience to see three white Jewish guys running around spitting beer than it is to see three black rappers such as Run-DMC packaged in black fedoras and black leather. (The irony is that all of the members of Run-DMC and the Beasties hail from middle-class New York neighborhoods.)
Run-DMC, however, employ heavy metal in an inverse approach. Their breakthrough hit was a cover of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." They spent their formative years addressing social issues in raps such as "Hard Times," "Proud To Be Black," and more recently through an appearance on the "(Martin Luther) King Holiday" record and video. Run-DMC learned how to edit messages between the deliberate beats of rap (about 100 beats a minute) from rappin' godfathers such as Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Flash. (In 1977, a 12-year-old Rappers Run deejayed for Blow, whose manager was Rappers Run's brother, Russell Simmons.)
For their next album, Run-DMC will depart from a political base for a more impertinent style. "It started with our last album," Jay said. "We've found you can get the most out of it when you can talk to the kids straight head up. To listen to it on the record, is like, they hear it, but they don't feel it. If I was in a classroom with a bunch of kids, I could talk to them more and they'd be able to understand that. For example, we just finished visiting a jail in Los Angeles. And we do a lot of call-in radio shows in a lot of the cities. Aug. 2 will be Run-DMC Day in Atlanta, and that's sponsored by their NAACP and PAL (Police Athletic League)."
As their popularity crests, what has effected Run-DMC the most?
Not missing a beat, DMC moaned, "The press naggin' us--it's the same violence trip over and over again. Every town we go to, before the show there's television and newspaper stories about racial tension, gangs and how it relates with rap shows. They show news clippings about what happened to us in Long Beach, Calif. I've played Los Angeles four times since then, and I don't want to hear about what happened five times ago."
What happened at a Long Beach concert during the 1986 "Raising Hell" tour was a series of gang fights that left 45 people injured. The other 64 dates on the tour were clean.
Nevertheless, the security for the "Together Forever" tour is awesome. Crowd control barriers will be used to create a snake effect for incoming patrons. Security personnel will use up to a dozen Phillips walk-through metal detection units, supplemented by a battery of hand-held metal detectors. Anyone who trips off the units will be privately searched in a screened-off tent area. The stage and fans near the stage will be protected by a double barricade system. An 80-foot barricade will stand in front of the stage, backed by a second 60-foot padded barricade to alleviate crowd pressure. The security for the "Together Forever" tour will cost more than $600,000.
It's the Abnormandy Invasion.
The Beasties, the opening half of the "Together Forever" tour, have left behind the 12-foot phallic symbol and go-go dancers, the onstage props of their March concert at the Aragon Ballroom. Both acts still feature the material from their most recent records: the Beasties' Licensed to Ill and Run-DMC's Raising Hell.
As Run-DMC nag about the media naggin' them, one unspoken thought is that the bad press comes from a predominantly white media. "Yeah, that has a lot to do with it," Rappers Run said.
Jay groaned, "I'm not on this white-black trip too much, but it hurts. If we were white we probably wouldn't have half the problems we have. But it's all right. I've got no problem with being black. I'm proud to be black. The press and the parents are the only people who are scared that we're putting blacks together with these whites. But it's time for us to change. Where I grew up, there were a couple of white people on my block that I loved.
"It should be like that all around the world."
Chicago Sun-Times, July 31, 1987
By Don McLeese:
"They say wherever we go we promote violence and racial tension," said Run (Joseph Simmons) of Run-DMC at the Rosemont Horizon last night. "I see black people and white people standing right here, and I don't see any trouble. I don't see colors. I see party people."
Like the liveliest parties, last night's show was loud, wild and frequently on the verge of going out of control. And the young, racially mixed crowd that had come to see Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys wouldn't have had it any other way. This wasn't a night for timid ears, for rap isn't timid music.
The black Run-DMC and the white Beasties have billed the tour as "Together Forever," which suggests the racial harmony that they're hoping to promote, but which also attests to the surprising longevity that rap has already enjoyed.
Although many thought these streetwise rhymes over turntable rhythms would burn themselves out quicker than break dancing, Run-DMC now has three hit albums to their credit, each more successful than its predescessor.
As for the Beasties, they were generally considered a joke before they released their first album. After sales of more than 3 million records, the Beastie Boys are the ones laughing loudest.
Success certainly hasn't made the Beasties' act any slicker or tighter. After a short opening set by Davy D, a New York turntable whiz, the Beasties took the stage like kids who have the run of the house while their parents are away.
It was as if the three of them had broken into their old man's beer, turned the stereo up real loud and could now act as goofy as they wanted. Instead of getting in trouble, they had become rock stars.
Although "Fight for Your Right (To Party)" is a dumb-rock classic, you have to wonder how long the Beasties will be able to pull this off. It'll be tougher to make this mindlessness convincing as they grow older and a challenge to retain that common touch while they're making truckloads of money and going out with Molly Ringwald.
While the Beasties were pure attitude--the Three Stooges of rap--Run-DMC backed their rhyming and rapping with plenty of onstage dynamism and musical muscle. Run, DMC (Darryl McDaniels) and DJ Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) enjoyed absolute command of the crowd, mesmerizing them with lasers, rousing them with rhyme, and shaking the house with the hardest of rock-hard rhythms.
While the showmanship demonstrated how far rap has come from its playground and street-corner urban origins, the music's refusal to soften itself or blunt its aggression is what gives rap its raucous vitality. Whenever popular music seems as if it's becoming a little too safe, something comes along to shake it up, to sharpen its edge. For now, rap has succeeded in once again giving young people some music their parents can't stand.