Picks and Pans Review: Back from Hell

UPDATED 01/21/1991 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/21/1991 at 01:00 AM EST


None of the more rebellious new rappers would be likely to admit it, but maybe they could learn something from the veteran hands of Run-D.M.C.

With no salacious live performances and no graphic violence in their videos, Jason Mizell (Jam Master Jay), Joseph Simmons (Run) and Darryl McDaniels (D.M.C.) are still solid on the charts. And they've done it with a minimum of hype and attitude.

Maybe it's their status as granddaddies of rap that gives them such confidence they don't have to resort to headline-grabbing tricks. By not grossly overstating their message (it is rap, so there's still lots of swaggering), they might also get a nonurban audience to listen to what they have to say.

That's not easy. The mix is noisy and full of every imaginable urban sound. "The Ave.," for example, plays out like a home movie, catching all the wayward mayhem found on any dicey inner-city street, the ubiquitous sirens overstating the chaos. The bootee-shakin' fun of "Party Time" and the rhythmic boogie of "Pause," which has an actual instrumental solo (gasp!), are two other particularly savory cuts.

There's even some humor. On "What's It All About," Johnny Mathis's voice can be heard singing "Alfie" amidst the scratching and rhythm. The reggae-tinged "P Upon a Tree" (yes, that's what it's about) is just an interlude; on the high-threshold-of-disgust Rap Taste Meter, it hardly registers.

There's still enough energy in the old boys, if not variation, to compete even with the exalted likes of Public Enemy. (Profile)

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