Run–D.M.C.’s cover of “Walk This Way” reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, far surpassing the success of the original.

The fusion of rap and rock is a match made in heaven, but it hasn’t always been that way. Both musical styles exploded in the early ‘80s, an evolution of sound and style hell bent on pushing the limit. With increasing popularity, a union of these two genres made sense but who would have thought a hard rocking band from Boston would step up and bridge the gap.

Aerosmith is a hard rock band from Massachusetts formed in 1970. Considered by many to be the best-selling American hard rock band of all time. They have sold more than 150 million records worldwide. The group has delivered 25 gold albums, 18 platinum albums, and 12 multi-platinum albums. The original lineup consisted of Steven Tyler (Vocals), Joe Perry (Guitar), Tom Hamilton (Bass), Joey Kramer (Drums) and Brad Whitford (Guitar).

Aerosmith ruled the ‘70s with numerous mainstream hits but the primary songwriting team of Tyler and Perry, often referred to as the “Toxic Twins”, barely survived. Drug addictions and internal strife within the band took their toll. Joe Perry and Brad Whitford actually quit Aerosmith in 1979, many thought it was for good. Fortunately, the pair re-joined the band two years later. After a successful comeback tour, the group entered the studio and recorded Done With Mirrors (1985). The album garnered critical praise but failed to meet commercial expectations. The success of Aerosmith started to wane.

Aerosmith was in a rut and it wasn’t until the band’s collaboration with the rap group Run–D.M.C. (1986) that they began to regain the level of popularity they had experienced in the ’70s.

Run–D.M.C. was founded in New York by Joseph Simmons (Rev. Run)Darryl McDaniels (DMC), and Jason Mizell (Jam Master Jay) back in 1983. The groups swift ascension to the forefront of rap meant old-school hip hop artists were becoming outdated, gone was the flashy disco dress replaced with leather jackets and lace-less Adidas shoes. Rap was moving into a new musical direction. Run-D.M.C. was primed to change the landscape of the hip-hop culture.

Riding high off the success of their part in the feature film Krush Groove, (a fictionalized retelling of the life of Russell Simmons and his Def Jam Recordings label), the band entered the studio ready to capitalize on hip-hop’s new visibility. While working on the album Raising Hell, producer Rick Rubin played the rappers “Walk This Way” off the Aerosmith classic Toys In The Attic.  Run-D.M.C. regularly freestyled over the first few seconds of the song during live settings but never knew what the full track sounded like, or even heard the lyrics. Rubin suggested remaking the song but neither Simmons nor McDaniels liked the idea. They didn’t want the track to be released as a single even after recording with Tyler and Perry. They were shocked to learn the cover was a success, regularly played on both urban and rock radio stations.

Run–D.M.C.’s cover of “Walk This Way” reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, far surpassing the success of the original.

The 1986 video for “Walk This Way” symbolically placed rap and rock in a musical duel. Recording in neighboring studios, the octaves heighten before Steven Tyler literally breaks through the wall that separates them. The video cuts to a shot of the two acts performing together. This was the first hip hop hybrid video played in heavy rotation on MTV and it is regarded as a classic.

Steven Tyler and Joe Perry are the only Aerosmith members to appear in the video. The rest of the band was played by Roger Lane (Guitar), J. D. Malo (Bass), and Matt Stelutto (Drums) of the glam metal act Smashed Gladys.

The song was pivotal to the evolution of music and helped bridge the gap within the underground. In 1991, I saw the thrash act Anthrax and hip-hop group Public Enemy on tour together! A fusion had begun within the two genres.

This merger of rap and rock is still evolving today and while we enjoy these new sounds let’s give a nod to the godfathers who started it all, Aerosmith & Run–D.M.C. ! \m/

Aerosmith (1986):

  • Steven Tyler – Vocals
  • Joe Perry – Guitar
  • Brad Whitford – Guitar
  • Tom Hamilton – Bass
  • Joey Kramer – Drums

Run-DMC (1986):

  • Joseph Ward Simmons (Rev. Run) – Vocals
  • Darryl Matthews McDaniels (DMC) – Vocals
  • Jason William Mizell (Jam Master Jay) – Programing
Share this: