Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 07/29/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/29/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Run-D.M.C.'s Joseph Simmons

THE PREACHER'S LIFE

LAST SUMMER, JOSEPH "REV RUN" SIMMONS traded his baggy hip-hop gear for a basic-black suit and replaced his massive gold chains with a clerical collar. Indeed, Simmons, cofounder of the pioneering rap group Run-D.M.C, is now an ordained minister. "I've gotten to the point where I'm not gonna step on an ant," Simmons, 31, bellowed one recent Sunday morning from the pulpit of Zoe Ministries in New York City. "And if I step on an ant, I'm gonna give it a funeral—and I'm gonna preach the sermon."

It's hard to believe that this is the same man who helped usher in rap's golden age a decade ago with a mega-platinum album called Raising Hell. Times change, Simmons explains. "From age 17 on, I was a successful rapper, but near the end of the '80s things started slowing down. I wanted to know what the heck was going on.' He turned to God to "find what season of life I was in" and worked as a Zoe usher before becoming one of several ministers in 1995 and launching the gospel label Rev Run Records.

Simmons hasn't left secular life completely behind, however. Still living near Hollis, his old Queens, N.Y., neighborhood, with his wife, Justine, and his four children (Vanessa, 12; Angela, 8; Jo-Jo, 6; and Daniel, 1), he's at work on a new Run-D.M.C. rap CD, due out later this year. And though he's a man of the cloth, he's not hurling fire and brimstone on pistol-packing rappers like 2Pac and Slick Rick. "A lot of them are frustrated," Simmons says, "and they come out with what's going on in their neighborhood. Even in the midst of what they're doing now, I believe God will call on them to do something more positive."

In the meantime, Simmons won't be tuning in. "We're not going to listen to that in my house," he says. "I tell my kids that I worked real hard to get myself together. I totally monitor them because they have a schedule. They go to church and sing in the children's choir. I definitely run an army."

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