Run-DMC Biography

Get to know the kings from Queens

Run DMC (circa 1970). Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Run-D.M.C. is one of the greatest hip-hop groups of all time. The trio consists of Run, DMC, and Jam Master Jay. The group formed in 1982 in Hollis, Queens, New York.

Run-DMC Group Members

  • Run (Joseph Simmons) born November 14, 1964, Hollis, Queens)
  • DMC (Darryl McDaniels) born May 31, 1964, Harlem, New York)
  • Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) born January 21, 1965, Hollis, Queens; died October 30, 2002, Hollis, Queens

The Early Years

Run-DMC's influence on hip-hop culture has been so vast that any register of hip-hop's all-time greats would look useless without them.

The trio of Joseph Simmons (Run), Darryl McDaniels (DMC), and Jason Mizell (Jam Master Jay) grew up in Hollis, Queens, a moderately stable African-American community in New York. DMC was born to a teenage mother and was adopted three months later. (His adoption was the subject of a VH1 documentary in 2006.)

The three became friends at school. They engaged in social activities together, and as they became older, grew more aware of the dangerous though exciting environment in Queens.

Run-DMC's Debut

The three friends had a lot in common, but music was the common thread that held them together. Fortunately for them, Run’s older brother, Russell Simmons, had his foot in the music business, as the manager for rappers Kurtis Blow and Whodini. Run, who’d been emceeing since age 12, wanted to record a demo tape. Run recruited DMC and JMJ, and, with some help from big brother Russ, Run-DMC was born. Run-DMC's historic 1983 debut was the 12" that featured "It’s Like That" on the A-side and “Sucker MCs” on the B-side.

Tougher Than Leather

Their style of hip-hop was tough, hard-hitting and incredibly loud. Run and DMC’s proved to be a shouting force to be reckoned with in the music world. Hip-hop heads everywhere fell in love with Run-DMC’s debut. Their popularity shot through the roof.

They kept the momentum going with exuberant gems like “Hard Times/Jam Master Jay” and “Rock Box.” The "Rock Box" video was the first by rappers ever played by MTV. In that sense, Run-DMC helped propel hip-hop from the ghetto to the suburbs and beyond.

Run-DMC's self-titled debut full-length album arrived to massive fanfare and critical acclaim. It reached No. 53 on the Billboard Albums chart and Rolling Stone named it as one of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s. Their sophomore album, King of Rock, was also well-received.

A New Direction

The trio returned with Back From Hell in 1991, but the album was criticized for attempting to keep up with the hardcore posturing then popularized by the likes of NWA.

1993's Down With the King saw Run-DMC evolving into a more socially aware outfit. Along with their turn to social conscious sound came renewed popularity.

1999's Crown Royal betrayed the group's diminishing ingenuity and lack of direction. With very little contribution from DMC (he appeared on three songs), Crown Royal relies on guest verses from Nas, Method Man, and others. Still, the guests did little to revive the album from mediocrity.

Jam Master Jay's Final Bow

Despite their creative differences, Run-DMC's legacy remained untouched. They had blazed the trail and kicked down doors for the future crop of MCs. Hip-hop's version of the Beatles, they kept touring. Run-DMC had finished playing as opening act on a stadium tour with Aerosmith and Kid Rock when Jam Master Jay was shot and killed on October 30, 2002.

JMJ's murder, which remains unsolved, drove a stake through the heart of Run-DMC.

The Kings of Rock

With JMJ gone, Rev Run and DMC have managed to keep the Run-DMC flag flying high with their respective solo careers and other ventures. Younger hip-hop fans who may have missed out on the early Run-DMC experience recognize Rev Run as the star of an MTV reality show dubbed Run's House. DMC started a virtual online community named DMC Worlds.

On April 4, 2009, Run-DMC became the second hip-hop group to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.