I remember the Raising Hell days very well. This was Run-DMC’s breakthrough album back in 1986. Their version of Walk This Way revitalized Aerosmith’s career, and made the two MCs (and Jam Master Jay) bigger than anything that had ever been seen in rap before. It was an exciting time to be a fan of theirs, as I had been since their debut album from a few years before. I will never tire of telling my kids that rap has never been–and could never be–the same since then.
I had the first three Run-DMC albums on vinyl, but I haven’t owned any music in that format for at least twenty years. But I have their greatest hits on CD, and two nights ago I picked it up as I was leaving the house. I put the CD in as I was driving around, and was hit with a revelation that was a quarter-century in the making.
The lead track on Raising Hell is called “It’s Tricky.” The chorus goes “It’s tricky to rock around//to rock around//that’s right on time//It’s tricky.” Or so I thought, all the times that I’ve heard it since I was a senior in high school. But a closer listen–which isn’t always my strong suit–revealed something different from what I thought.
Instead of it being tricky to “rock around,” Run and D.M.C were actually saying that it’s tricky to rock a rhyme (to rock a rhyme//that’s right on time//it’s trick–ay!)
This shouldn’t have been seen as a revelation, but it felt like learning something new, after having learned it the wrong way a long time ago. I listened to the song again, and sang or rapped or whatever I did along to the music.
It’s not like I figured out important mysteries or anything, but it felt good to discover the truth, anyway. Every day should bring such a pleasant–if long overdue–surprise. And if I ever saw the Penn and Teller video for this song, I had forgotten about it until now. I’ll call this a good thing, all the way around.