Picks and Pans Review: Down with the King

updated 07/12/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/12/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT


After the stark opening beats of Run-D.M.C—the Queens, N.Y., trio's landmark 1984 debut album—hit the airwaves, rap was never quite the same. Run-D.M.C.—now touring with Dr. Dre—was the first hip-hop group to take the sound of the streets and put it in the studio, and their music and attitude set the standard for the style.

But after selling more records (11 million) than any other rap group in history, Run-D.M.C. lost its ability, in the early '90s, to make music that made sense on the streets and on the charts. This much anticipated comeback album—the group's seventh—isn't a breakthrough, but it is still rock-solid hip-hop. The trio has wisely collaborated with some of the genre's biggest names.

The title track (and hit single) features the production team of Pete Rock and CL Smooth, who pay homage to the past, quoting Run-D.M.C.'s classic "Sucker MCs," and infuse the work with dense R&B-flavored beats. Also on board as producers are the Bomb Squad (with the savage "Ooh, Whatcha Gonna Do") and Naughty By Nature, Q-Tip and EPMD, who kick in on the suitably funkified "Can I Get It, Yo."

Lyrically, Down with the King focuses on Run-D.M.C.'s two favorite subjects: themselves and God (you didn't think "the King" referred to Elvis, did you?). The album takes a few bad turns, stumbling big-time with the pedantic "Big Willie" and the lifeless dance-hall cut "What's Next," featuring reggae rap's Mad Cobra: a definite mismatch. But overall, this is an impressive partnership between the masters and those they've influenced. (Profile)

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