Being the first counts for something. But make no mistake about it, that's not why it's on this list. I'm not giving out vanguard awards. But the first time I heard this record, it was a tape that my brother somehow smuggled onto the property. I still don't know the origin of that cassette. I was 8 years old. I remember it beginning in silence and then Rev Run's deafening voice starts out of the darkness:
"Now Peter Piper picked peppers but Run rocked rhymes,
Humpty Dumpty fell down that's his hard time,
Jack B. Nimble what nimble and he was quick,
But Jam Master cut faster Jack's on Jay's..."
And then the chimes of Bob James' "Take Me to Mardi Gras" thunder in and Rev continues:
"Now Little Bo Peep cold lost her sheep,
And Rip Van Winkle fell the hell asleep,
And Alice chillin somewhere in Wonderland,
Jack's servin Jill a bucket in his hand.
And Jam Master Jay's making out our sound,
The turntables might wobble but they don't fall down."
The first time you heard that, you stopped in your tracks. And if you were one of those kids who got the record, fast forwarded so you could hear "Walk This Way" again, you missed the impact of "Peter Piper" altogether. I've still yet to hear a nastier, meaner opening to an album, here 20 years later.
As a kid, it was difficult to listen to Run DMC and not feel some sort of fear and excitement. It was like you were sneaking to the back of the corner store to do something you weren't supposed to. And while the feeling of danger and impact of those first listens has lessened, the album itself sounds no less supreme.
Essentially, it's a rock record. The beats were hard, the riffs were deep and the delivery of Rev Run and DMC were shouted, not spoken--altogether creating an assault of sound and rhythm that was more aggressive than most records of the era. Rock included.
From "It's Tricky" to "Hit and Run" leading off the flipside and, yes, even "Walk This Way" in all of its overexposure, Raising Hell set the mark so very high for early hip hop and cut the standard by which all rap records for the next ten years would be measured.
"You Be Illin'"
"Walk This Way"
"Hit and Run"