Ice Cube: I Was Obsessed with Run-DMC

N.W.A’s lead lyricist pays tribute to the Kings from Queens

By Ice Cube

I became a rap music fan in 1979 when the Sugarhill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight.” I was also a fan of groups like Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force. Although those groups did great records, I could not relate to them as much as I could relate to three guys out of Queens, N.Y., who looked like the older homies from around my block—black hats, black leather jackets and that confident attitude.

The first time I heard “It’s Like That” I almost had a seizure it was so good, and on the B-side it was “Sucker M.C.’s.” My homie Sammy Dennis wore out his speakers playing that song relentlessly on repeat. By 1983 Run-DMC released their second single, “Hard Times” and “Jam-Master Jay.” Then I knew there was a God and I had found my new favorite group.

Run-DMC were the first group that I obsessed over. Their debut album, Run-D.M.C., was the first album I ever saved up to buy with my own money. As a matter of fact, me and my friend Ronnie bought the record together. I would keep it four days; he would keep it three days. Our parents thought we were crazy when we took all the shoestrings out of our shoes.

Run-DMC at Hammersmith Odeon, September 1986 | Photo by David Corio/Redferns

Run was my favorite MC. I thought he had 1,000 percent more swagger than any rapper of today. Ronnie loved DMC’s voice. He said nobody could ever sound like the Devastating Mic Controller. I remember the day that Dr. Dre played me the Raising Hell album. We knew we had to step our game up.

Run-DMC took hip-hop to rock star status. They showed us how to do everything, especially how to perform with songs like “Here We Go.” They showed us if you had a dope DJ you “didn’t need no band,” and that rappers from the hood could be the Kings of Rock too. I wouldn’t be a rapper today if Run-DMC didn’t show me how to do it with class.

In 1985 I went around to every movie theater I could find looking for a movie called Krush Groove because Run-DMC were in it. In 1987 I saw them perform in Phoenix. After the show we went by their hotel and DMC needed a ride to the store. After buying a 40 oz with DMC, I thought I died and went to heaven.

Run, Jay and D in Manhattan in 1986

A few years back I had a bucket list moment when BET asked me to do a cypher with my two sons and Run with his two sons. There’s nothing like sharing a rooftop in Brooklyn and a little alone time with one of my heroes. I had a chance to thank him for inspiring me to be great and showing me that it’s cool to rap about the world around you.

It’s been a blessing getting to know these guys over the years as one of their peers. I remember when someone said hip-hop was dead. I didn’t believe them until I heard that they killed Jam Master Jay. Then I believed them.

A part of hip-hop died that night, but the spirit lives on. I will always love and be totally indebted to and grateful to the phenomenal Kings from Queens, Run-DMC.

Run-DMC, who received a 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy, was among the artists saluted at this year’s “GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends.”

Ice Cube is a rapper, producer, actor, and filmmaker. He is an original member of 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees N.W.A, who were the subject of the 2015 biopic and box-office smash Straight Outta Compton, named after the group’s seminal debut album. His solo work includes hit albums such as AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and Death Certificate, and he recently starred in the film Ride Along 2 and Barbershop: The Next Cut.

Top Image: Run-DMC | Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns

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