Walk This (New) Way

“When I go to the schools to talk to the kids, I say, ‘Always be open to try something new because it might not just change your life, it could change the world.’”

-DMC

In 1986, hip hop pioneers Run-DMC put out a record single that changed the music world forever, but if it were up to them, it would have never come out. As DMC tells the story, in the mid-80’s, it was common for hip hop emcees to rap over rock ‘n roll breakbeats and the opening riff in Aerosmith’s 1975 song “Walk This Way” from Toys in the Attic was especially popular. None of them had ever actually listened to it long to get to the vocals, however. All they knew was that the #4 on Toys in the Attic made a great breakbeat.

One day, Run-DMC were in the studio recording their newest record, Raising Hell and they were writing some rhymes to go over the “Walk This Way” breakbeat. Jammaster Jay was playing the beat while two emcees, Run and DMC, were threw ideas back and forth. Producer Rick Rubin had an idea. Instead of writing their own rhymes to go over the rock beat, they should listen to the original song, transcribe the lyrics, and rap the song’s original lyrics over the beat. Run and DMC hated the idea until both Jay and Rubin convinced them otherwise.

Rubin then took the whole thing further by actually brought Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to the studio to record the song with a confused and reluctant Run-DMC. The two emcees went along with the idea, but they knew it would be a flop, especially compared to the single “My Adidas” b/w “Peter Piper.” When the single came out, however, it was an instant hit in both the rap world and the rock world, becoming the first rap/rock cross-over hit in history, pushing Raising Hell to double-platinum status and changing American music forever. No one was more surprised than Run and DMC and they grew to love “Walk This Way.”

“As in life, so too in budo. As in budo, so too in life.”

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-creator of Taikyoku Budo and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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