The Rock-Rap Fusion of Aerosmith and Run-DMC

Aerosmith manager, Tim Collins received a call in 1986 that would not only impact Aerosmith and Run-DMC, but the music game as a whole. On the line was 22 year-old Hip Hop producer and entrepreneur behind Def Jam Recordings, Rick Rubin. Rubin grew up loving Rock music and listened to the likes of AC/DC, Ted Nugent, and (you guessed it) Aerosmith.

Rubin witnessed the numerous difficulties Rap music was experiencing throughout the 80’s. In an attempt to have Rap perceived as legitimate genre of music and have it be accepted by the general public, Rubin approached Aerosmith with the idea of a collaboration.

Aerosmith, whom achieved chart topping success throughout the 1970’s, was now withstanding an outstanding decline in record sales and in popularity. “Walk This Way” was originally released in 1975 and happened to be Aerosmith’s last Billboard top 10 single. While performing on tour, lead singer Steven Tyler, who had been listening to James Brown and the Meters, asked drummer, Joey Kramer, to lay down a funk inspired beat. Guitarist, Joe Perry added a hook and Tyler spouted out lyrics to what would become one of their most famous songs, “Walk This Way.”

With its distinctive funk derived beat, Jam Master Jay and Run of Run-DMC had been cutting and rapping over “Walk This Way” for several years. Despite the connection, both Run-DMC and Aerosmith were reluctant to the offer. Run-DMC were not fans of rapping words that they did not write and Aerosmith were less then enthused to collaborate with artists they had never heard of.

For the rate of $8,000 a day, Aerosmith met Run-DMC on March 9, 1986 at Magic Ventures studio in Manhattan. Though initially unsure of the venture, it became instantaneously apparent that the marriage of these two iconic groups was going to produce a song that would change their lives.

The re-released version of “Walk This Way” reignited Aerosmith’s career and paved the road for decades of hit songs which otherwise may have never occurred.  “Walk This Way” also brought additional fame and notoriety to Run-DMC and created a platform for their music to be heard by all walks of life’s, genders, and races.

“Walk This Way’s” music video added additional commentary to fusion of rock and rap. The video began with the two groups practicing in adjacent rooms, competing on who can be the loudest. As the song rolls on the wall is demolished and Run-DMC and Aerosmith combine their opposing noises together to demonstrate just how outrageously perfect two seemingly polar opposites can be.

The influence of this song is unmistakable with bands such as, Beastie Boys, Lincoln Park, Rage Against the Machine, and many more. Popularizing rap and restoring Aerosmith, “Walk This Way” made a clear impact despite the trepidation first felt for the rock/rap hybrid. In moments like these it becomes apparent that at times, the combination of two very different things can create something positive and everlasting.

–Victoria Shaffer

Sources:
 Grow, Kory. “Rick Rubin: My Life in 21 Songs.” Rolling Stone, 11 Feb. 2016, http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/rick-rubin-my-life-in-21-songs-20160211/avett-brothers-i-and-love-and-you-2009-20160209.
Price, Simon. “Walk This Way: How Run-DMC and Aerosmith Changed Pop.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 July 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2016/jul/04/walk-this-way-run-dmc-aerosmith.

 

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