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It's Like That
A Spiritual Memoir
By Joseph "Reverend Run" Simmons, Curtis Taylor
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2000 Joseph Simmons
All rights reserved.
WALK THIS WAY
... So I took a big chance at the high school dance with a lady who was ready to play / It wasn't me who was foolin' because she knew what she was doing when she told me how to walk this way / Talk this way ... / walk this way / Talk this way. Walk this way ...
—Run-D.M.C. with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, "Walk This Way" (Raising Hell, 1986)
YEAH, I was the king of rap; there was none higher. And I had all the trappings that came with the throne: drugs and alcohol, women and money. All fueled by my insatiable thirst for mo' sex, drugs, and cash.
And I couldn't stop getting high on the lifestyle and power that come with being at the top of the rap game.
I'd check into a five-star hotel near the Los Angeles airport; the rooms were $750 per night, the best money could buy. There would be five, ten, sometimes even twenty women trying to get on the floor or hangin' around the lobby trying to meet, greet, and get a glimpse of Run, not just the rap star but the king of rap.
And, I must admit, I loved it. I basked in the attention, knowing that this was crazy. The groupies waiting in Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, and New York seduced me into thinking it would never end. Name a city, and the ladies were there waiting; limos lined up to ride; thick, $5,000 gold ropes to represent; and my uniform: Adidas, a sweat suit, and a black hat.
Thousands of fans turned out to help Run-D.M.C. rock the house each night.
And why not? Our sound was fresh, innovative. People had never heard anything like it. Compared to our beats—blazing guitar riffs teamed with the skillful vocals of me, Run; D.M.C. (Darryl McDaniels); and Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell)—all the others were just sucka MCs. We were the best showmen in the business. Sitting at the top of the rap game.
And, because of our exciting style, we ruled the record charts, the first rap group to sell millions of records. And we were just kids.
Crazy. Mad crazy.
And at eighteen I had the loot to prove it.
But God has a way of getting your attention. Almost overnight, mad confusion set in and things began to change. I began to slip. Our new record didn't meet the high expectations. The film we produced with our own money bombed. And although the new record still sold more than a million copies, I felt like a failure because it didn't do as well as the previous one.
With my head all messed up from smoking too much weed and all the pressure that comes with being the king of rap, my live performances began to slip. I was being pushed to do shows at less than 100 percent. I needed a break, but kings don't take breaks; they rap on.
I couldn't find Run, and the fans seemed to stop coming. Although the arenas were nearly filled, the fans seemed to know something was not right in Run's house.
I neglected myself, the people around me.
I had lost almost everything.
My throne was being snatched away like a thick gold chain by a subway thief. I knew I had to do something, but what? It was like chasing after your gold chain: You knew that no matter how fast you ran after the culprit, you were never getting your rope back. So why bother?
There was no way out. I was trapped.
I couldn't find Run.
Intoxicated by the illusion of power I had created, for the first time in my life I felt as if I were failing.
I had lost my vision and my reason to live.
I found my self-confidence to get through the day increased with each joint I smoked. The more I smoked, the more I found Run. So I smoked all the time.
I bought new cars, Rolex watches—anything flashy to make me feel and look like the king of rap. The problem was I didn't have the money or energy anymore to fuel the lifestyle. I did anything to avoid facing the pain inside.
But when your world is all about consumption, you're only going to consume yourself in the end.
Nearly broke, all screwed up, my vision blocked, I didn't have the strength to make it through another day. Being depressed was the lowest point of my life. Maybe I was suffering from a nervous breakdown, but there was something going on when I was on tour.
During this period, I can't say I was a willing participant in Run's world, but thankfully, although I didn't know it at the time, God was always with me.
Out of nowhere Bishop E. Bernard Jordan and Zoe Ministries appeared. I know it sounds crazy—and it was crazy—but there God was knocking at my door offering to bring me in from the cold.
I didn't listen at first. I couldn't see. My vision was blocked. I enjoyed the money, the cars, the ladies, and the fame too much. I was the king of rap.
In the end all those things weren't enough to fuel my soul. It was only after hitting rock bottom that I was forced to change.
I found Run, but he was not the same Run. He had been born again, spiritually empowered as the Reverend Run.
The spiritual transformation started in 1986 while I was out raising hell.
RUN'S HOUSE RULE
You Get What You Put Out
You can't stay hot forever. What goes up will come down. No matter how big you get in the game, you will eventually come back down to earth. But remember, when the excitement and celebrity eventually fade, you were a class act before it all began. Change is a natural state of being. It will happen, so be prepared. Stay humble and remember when things settle down to earth it's only part of life's natural process of regenerating itself. Like a flower blooming, something new has to grow. And remember, you reap what you sow. You get what you put out.
It's Like This ...
Never forget: What goes up must come down. Stay humble.
Be prepared for change. It will come.
Life will kick you in the butt if you are not living right.
It's part of life's natural flow when things settle down.
THE WORD: "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us and not we ourselves: we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture."
REVEREND RUN: "Almost overnight, mad confusion set in and things began to change. ... I bought new cars, Rolex watches—anything flashy to make me feel and look like the king of rap. The problem was I didn't have the money to fuel the lifestyle. I did anything to avoid facing the pain inside. But when your world is all about consumption, you're only going to consume yourself in the end."CHAPTER 2
I beg your pardon? This is Run's muther—in' Garden!
(sold-out Madison Square Garden concert, 1986)
It was the summer of 1986. Run-D.M.C. was headlining a thirty-city tour. Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Saint Louis, and New York City—and Madison Square Garden—were just some of the stops on our tour.
Several months before, we had released the Raising Hell album. And we were hot. It was Run-D.M.C.'s third album, but it was the sound that introduced the world to hip-hop.
We made a lot of noise coming out with Sucker MC's in 1983. And we had combined rock and rap music with Rock Box in 1984. But our fans knew us for our signature song and first big hit: "It's Like That."
That was until we dropped Raising Hell. Then things got crazy.
"Peter Piper," "You Be Illin'," "My Adidas," and one of the first major crossover rock-rap songs (and a video), "Walk This Way," with Aerosmith, hit the radio.
Overnight, we blew up. We were all over the place—the covers of magazines, MTV videos—wearing our trademark sneakers and black hats.
We were headlining the bill, above L. L. Cool J, Whodini, and the Beastie Boys—the hottest acts of the day—selling out night after night.
The three of us—me, Jam Master Jay, and D.M.C.—rocked every stage we hit.
Onstage, I was Run, the raunchy, dynamic, microphone-throwing Michael Jordan of hiphop.
Offstage, I was respected and out of control, smoking weed and loving the ladies. It seemed like in each city there was more weed to smoke and more women available. And not just for me but for anyone associated with the tour.
It seemed the longer we stayed on tour, the more money we made, the more I grabbed at stuff that was not good for me. I was creating problems for myself. The lifestyle didn't fit my inner voice or morals, but I was handling my business, rocking the house each night. So what if I was high most of the time?
Nobody said anything. Why should they? We were selling millions of records; it was a culture where it was acceptable, almost expected, that you would have the ladies, smoke joints, drink. It was part of the tour.
When you are paid thousands—sometimes seventy-five thousand to one hundred thousand dollars a night—to perform it's hard to deal with your personal demons. It's hard to convince yourself something is bothering you. That something is draining you of your entertaining self.
When the tour pulled into New York, I was all for raising hell.
I remember pulling onto Seventh Avenue and looking out of the limo and seeing young kids, a lot of thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-olds, in lines wrapped around the Garden.
We drove up to the back door, and I went into the Garden walking past the security people, and they were a little bit in awe. They were treating me like I was really big. I was feeling it.
A twenty-year-old, on my way to being prosperous and rich.
I was in a daze, because I was huge in there. But I was also really comfortable, because I had played there before the Fresh Festival and all. I was starting to feel like a veteran.
This is Run's house! I thought.
I went backstage. I had my own dressing room.
I was excited, a veteran. I went out and peeked at the crowd. They couldn't see me, but I saw all those kids in the house.
Run-D.M.C. had this routine where I would come out and say, "This is Run's muther—in' house."
But this night was different. Special.
Before going onstage, DJ Hurricane said, "Why don't you say, 'I beg your pardon; this is Run's muther—in' Garden!'"
"Tonight," I said, "I walked in here and they wouldn't let me in the back door."
The crowd, crammed into every square inch of Madison Square Garden, went quiet, listening to my every word, like I was E. F. Hutton.
I looked at security.
I looked at the door.
And the crowd was waiting.
And I said, "I beg your pardon? This is Run's muther—in' Garden."
The crowd went wild! I knew I was in control.
This was "Run's muther—in' house."
Me, D.M.C., and Jam Master Jay had this thing under control!
I prowled across the stage waving the mike. I was a maniac when I performed, out of control.
"Whose house is it?"
The crowd was in a frenzy. "Run's house!"
We played a couple of songs, I don't remember which ones, and the place was rocking. The energy was crazy.
I remember looking out over the audience, feeling like I was on top of the world. I could see people everywhere, all shades, rocking to the power of Run-D.M.C.
I saw myself controlling the microphone. I was the king of rap, and it was like me and the crowd were one. The kids were feelin' me. At the spur of the moment—things were at an all-time high—I had everyone in the whole Garden lift their sneakers in the air.
The spotlight was racing across the crowd, and twenty thousand pairs of Adidas were raised.
Everybody was goin' crazy!
I looked backstage, and there was this executive from Adidas standing there smiling. He knew about the song, had listened to the song, but this was the first time he was feelin' it.
"My Adidas! My Adidas standing on 2-5 Street. Funky fresh and cold on my feet ..."
A sea of three-striped sneakers slowly waving back and forth like white leather clouds was raising a new roof at the Garden.
That summer night, it was Run's house. The lights came on, and I walked off the stage.
"Run! Run! Run!" The crowd was still wanting more of our music.
Backstage, the Adidas representative came up to me to say that Run-D.M.C. would get its own line of clothing if he had anything to say in the matter.
My own Adidas sneaker? The fans' reaction at the concert? I was in a haze.
Incredible. Months later Run-D.M.C. signed an endorsement deal with Adidas for something like $2 million.
But backstage that night, I was just humble. Dee and Jay were feelin' it, too.
It's like we were just doing our thing and the people accepted us for it. We knew we were big, but we also knew we were humbled, because we had worked hard, performed for free at parks and small clubs around the country, and slept in the backseat of our road manager—and now-legendary rap producer—Larry Smith's Caddy to get to shows.
That night, we blew the joint up. Raising hell in Run's house along with the Beastie Boys, Whodini, and L. L. Cool J.
We were given our respect, and everybody was happy.
I think about it often now, that night. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I got into the limousine by myself on the way home, knowing I might soon have my own line of clothing. I was twenty years old.
I was living a crazy fantasy.
On the way home to Hollis, Queens, I told the driver I was getting my own signature sneaker. I told him about the concert and the lines of kids wrapped around the building to see us perform. I told him the story about "My Adidas" raising the roof at the Garden.
I told him about my dreams coming true.
We got to my house and I tipped him $100. I was on top and I knew it. The king of rap, I could afford it.
I woke up the next morning and as my father opened the newspaper—I don't remember which one—I saw myself, Run, standing out front in a picture. It said: "Beat Box: Run-D.M.C. delivers an action-packed performance at the Garden," or something like that.
I looked at myself.
"Hit it, Run. Hit it, Run."
I am back onstage in command. At the time, Doug E. Fresh was the beat-box MC. The beat box was a side thing for me. But there I was onstage just hittin' it off Jam Master Jay's beat.
I had all areas covered. It was not like I was limited. I felt my rap skills. I didn't rhyme. I didn't say a word, just hit the beat box, in the photograph.
I was thinking I was the all-around guy. The flyest rapper. I was rhyming, hitting the beat box; everybody loved Run.
Black jeans, white Adidas with black stripes, black sweatshirt, and a $5,000 gold rope that Jay bought me.
I was the character Run. The epitome of cool.
There was nobody larger. Sucker MC's call me sire.
It was crazy. And I was watching it happen.
It must be the grace of God; I was thinking I was back onstage. But actually during the concert I thought everything but that. I knew God helped me.
I thought I had done something good at that point. I had worked for years to gain the MC skills, starting out at twelve; then I was known as the Son of Kurtis Blow.
But I wasn't thinking about God like I do now; I just thought because I had tried to be a good person, rapping was the blessing. Now, years later, I know you see God when you see people who are doing their thing.
That night I was doing my thing. There was none higher.
A maniac in control onstage. Whatever I told the kids they did. "Wave your hands. Take off your sneakers." They did it. What a very powerful thing, I think back now: Adidas sneakers were giving birth to a new era in music, rap, hip-hop. Three guys from Hollis, Queens. The epitome of cool: black hats, no laces in our shoes. Fans screaming, "Run!" at the top of their lungs. Kids wearing Run-D.M.C. T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats just like ours.
When we started out and I told people we would someday have a hit album and sell out the Garden, they called me crazy.
Excerpted from It's Like That by Joseph "Reverend Run" Simmons, Curtis Taylor. Copyright © 2000 Joseph Simmons. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1. Walk This Way,
2. Run's House,
3. The Son of Kurtis Blow,
4. Raising Hell ...,
5. Spiritual Hard Times ...,
6. Wake Up,
7. Down with the King,
8. Giving: A Formula for Spiritual Success,
9. The Birth of Reverend Run,
10. Live an Enthusiastic Life,
11. Love and Be Loved,
12. Create a Wealth Mentality,
13. My Crown Is Royal: Be a Pioneer,