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Wednesday, Jul 8 1998
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Run-D.M.C.
Run-D.M.C. didn't invent rap's lyrical art form, nor did they perfect it -- they just made it famous. With the help of DJ Jam Master Jay, Joseph "Run" Simmons and Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels created a revolution in the '80s, influencing everything from fashion and slang to, oh yeah, the course of pop music. They did it (with the help of producer Rick Rubin) by blowing up hip hop's then-standard "beatbox" rhythm with a diverse palette of metal guitar riffs, tight rhyme exchanges, and reggae and rock samples. Together, these propelled them into the mainstream with triple-platinum sales, pop-music mag covers, MTV stardom, and a legion of multiracial fans. For the first time, rap was widely recognized for what it had always been: an art form.

But the group's embrace of positivity, party rhymes, and upbeat musicality fell out of place with the onset of the gangsta rap era. In the '90s Run-D.M.C. made several changes, both musical and religious. The last two albums struggled for a cohesive identity while both rappers became devout Christians. (Simmons is now also known as Reverend Run.) Don't expect conversions -- of the religious persuasion anyway -- when Run-D.M.C. play the Bay Area for the first time in five years. Step into the old Adidas and step out to witness the old-school rhymes of the only rappers ambitious enough to proclaim themselves the Kings of Rock.

-- Robert Arriaga

Run-D.M.C. perform Thursday July 9, at 8 p.m. at Cafe Echelon, 2203 Mariner Square Loop in Alameda. Tickets are $10; call (510) 337-1011.

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Robert Arriaga

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