0402: “Peter Piper” by Run-D.M.C.

Hip hop was born out of a creative desire to take soul and funk and package it into something new, namely by expanding break beats from tracks like “Apache” by the Incredible Bongo Band. When rapping began to gather influential steam the look and feel of the artists was still grounded in funk and even disco. The genius of Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin was to strip everything down to hard beats, put the focus on the rappers, and have the rappers look more authentically street; Run-D.M.C. was his proxy for this new mission statement and it changed the game for the hip hop/rap genre in a way that is analogous to how The Beatles changed pop music. Raising Hell was the fountainhead of mainstream rap and, while the collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” is the axis of the album for many people, it’s the opening track “Peter Piper” that best encapsulates the genius of the group, and of Def Jam’s philosophy. Starting with a back-and-forth that epitomizes ’80s rap, the track deftly shifts into a big beat surrounded by chimes, a sampled organ, and some scratches. Scores of white kids bought this album for “Walk This Way” but “Peter Piper” is the track that advanced the genre separate from white acceptance.

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