Picks and Pans Review: Tougher Than Leather

UPDATED 07/04/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/04/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

Run-D.M.C.

Let 1,000 rappers declaim! The cultural revolution of '80s music has undoubtedly been the explosion of rap, which has grown in popularity, creativity and productivity by leaps, bounds and miscellaneous hip-hop moves. The venerable chairmen of the revolution remain these three jaunty young men from the New York City borough of Queens. A number of competitors have established themselves with strong rap records since Run's 1985 album, Raising Hell. But with this record, they quickly re-establish their primacy in the form's most basic scratch-and-shout vein with Run's House and They Call Us Run-D.M.C. These, and a number of other songs, sound like extended, unapologetic self-promotions (hardly a great surprise for a group that parlayed a song, My Adidas, into a major shoe endorsement), with Darryl McDaniels, Jason Mizell and Joe Simmons dropping their stage names (D.M.C., Jam Master Jay and Run) and noting the superiority of their own talents in every rhyme. For some reason, whether it has to do with their superconfident declamatory style or their peerless track record, Run-D.M.C.'s boasting seems to melt in their mouths, not in your ears; where other groups in the genre tend to sound foolishly puffed up, these guys seem admirably cocky. The boys manifest a hitherto unexercised playfulness on Tougher Than Leather too. They camp it up with mock-polite e-nun-ci-a-tion on Ragtime. And they dust off—of all things—the Monkees' Mary Mary for a cover that is both def and deft. The title track and Miss Elaine rock out with wire-brush electric guitar backing, but in general the musical setting of this record is more Spartan (check out How'd Ya Do It, Dee) and very much less imposing than Run's Raising Hell and its other predecessors. Tougher than Leather is a lean, clean rapping machine, and it reaffirms Run-D.M.C.'s lofty place as the people's choice. (Profile)

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