Review Summary: Raising Hell is a top quality listen, managing to incorporate a fun characteristic whilst maintaining a high standard of musical integrity and should not be excluded from any music collection, hip-hop or otherwise.“Raising Hell is rap's first masterpiece”
Time Magazine 2006
When discussing the most influential hip-hop albums of all time there are a certain few that always seem to get a mention. Nas’ Illmatic
, Wu Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers
and Public Enemy’s It Take’s A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
seem by general consensus to be the cream of the crop, praised the world over from nearly every corner of this site and beyond. Occasionally however, the brilliance of a group gets overshadowed, lost in the midst of time to all but the few who remember them for who they were. Despite undoubtedly being one of the most influential groups in rap history; they were one of the first groups to pioneer the rock/rap fusion, Run DMC fall into the latter category, perhaps best remembered more for their hit singles It’s Tricky
and It’s Like That
than their groundbreaking albums. Although Run DMC
and King of Rock
were well received, it was their 1986 release Raising Hell
that was perhaps the most important and influential album they released, solidifying the groups place in the annals of hip-hop greats and transforming rap from an underground phenomenon into a mainstream success.
Having built their style on Run DMC
and then improved it on King Of Rock
the band were on a high, having slowly gained both commercial success and critical acclaim. However on Raising Hell
the now infamous fusion of rap and rock was perfected, taking this commercial and critical success to another level. The music here is rockier than anything the band had previously done, toning down the raw passion found on earlier releases and replacing it with a more comfortable flow. The inclusion of a rockier sound doesn’t detract from the trademarks of hip-hop however. The lyrical aggression, whilst relatively weak in comparison to today’s standards, is stronger than on previous releases, the razor sharp wit still evident and the beats and samples still as efficient as ever. Being produced by one of rock music’s greats in Rick Rubin certainly had something to do with the heavier sound. Rubin’s incessant touch is notable throughout, no more so than on It’s Tricky
which samples The Knack’s My Sharona
, the guitar heavy Rasing Hell
and the obvious collaboration with Aerosmith on Walk This Way
, which did much to get Run DMC noticed in white middle class culture and beyond.
An explosive, captivating start greets the listener, with the first four tracks each standing out for entirely different merits. The daring Peter Piper
opens the album, followed immediately by one of the bands most well known tracks Its Tricky
. The contrasting styles between these tracks is evident, with the former showcasing older rap credentials before the rockier sound seeps in through the subsequent tracks. The catchy My Adidas
sounds like a more polished version of the bands older material before Walk This Way
upstages them all with the addition of a wonderful collaborative vocal performance from Steven Tyler. The quality of the album never lets up, with each track bringing something different to the mixture. Only one track really feels out of place, the distinctly slower tempo of Perfection
detracts some of the energy away in the middle of the album, but the excellence of the titular track and You Be Illin’
hide this flaw well.
The beats, whilst never particularly extraordinary, are always a solid enough platform for the boys to perform on. The stalwart base that they provide let the focus lay almost entirely on the accomplished vocals and consummate lyrics. Interestingly the most notable beats are found on the highly rock influenced, guitar-centric Raising Hell
with the tight drum beats and guitar solo complementing the vocals well and excelling over more traditional hip-hop beats such as those found on My Adidas
Lyrically this album is a masterpiece, with the vocal interplay between the two rappers complimenting the often intelligent and occasionally humorous lyrics. Lyrics such as
In New York the people talk and try to make us rhyme
They really hawk, but we just walk, because we have no time
And in the city it's a pity, 'cause we just can't hide
Tinted windows don't mean nothing, they know who's inside
from Its Tricky
show not only a catchy, rhythmical flow but are also a startling awareness of the realities of success. Conversely some tracks such as Peter Piper
seem to exist solely for bragging rights, with audacious rhymes being executed exemplarily. Generally speaking, tracks in this mould bring most of the humour to the table, with snappy one liners such as:
Jack B. Nimble was nimble, and he was quick,
but Jam Master cut faster, Jack’s on Jay's dick.
Like the little old lady who lived in a shoe.
If cuts were kids, he would be due.
dominating the song. Ultimately it is the differences in lyrical styles that add variety to the album and the inclusion of ample amounts of both serious and fun songs give the album a great balance.
This album helped mould the shape that hip-hop formed throughout the 90’s and paved the way for acts such as Public Enemy to follow, with great success. The rock elements are integrated into the music extremely well without losing any hip-hop fundamentals; reason alone to warrant a listen. What separates this album from others of the same ilk is the originality of the concept coupled with the flawless execution and at times brilliant vocals and exceptional lyrics. Raising Hell
is a top quality listen, managing to incorporate a fun characteristic whilst maintaining a high standard of musical integrity and should not be excluded from any music collection, hip-hop or otherwise.
Walk This Way
Overall 5 Classic