“Now Peter Piper picked peppers, but Run rocked rhymes.
Humpty Dumpty fell down, that’s his hard time.
Jack B. Nimble was nimble and he was quick.
But Jam Master cut faster, Jack’s on Jay’s dick.
Now Little Bo Peep cold lost her sheep.
And Rip van Winkle fell the hell asleep.
And Alice chilling somewhere in Wonderland.
Jack’s serving Jill a bucket in his hand.
And Jam Master Jay’s making all that sound.
The turntables might wobble, but they don’t fall down.”
This is the first verse, of the first song on Run DMC’s “Raising Hell” album.
This is the song that got me into rap music.
Like most of my friends, at the time, I saw the “Walk This Way” video on MTV and had no Idea who the white dudes were. I also had no idea how groundbreaking and culturally significant that song was. What I did know …the joint was ill. And I needed that tape. I needed it!
But I was 12, lived in my mother’s house, and the album was called “Raising Hell”. Despite my late night shenanigans (mom went to bed early and was a heavy sleeper), there was no way she would allow this in a house of gospel and R&B music. So the tape case lived under my dresser and the cassette itself didn’t leave my Walkman for months.
Now don’t get wrong. By this point, I’d seen Krush Groove, Breakin’, and Beat Street. I’d heard Boogie Down Productions, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. But I never connected any of this to a particular style. It was just music that I liked. Images I could relate to. Messages I understood.
But when I saw “Walk this Way”, I instantly recognized this was something different. Not just different than any other Run DMC song I’d heard at the time, but far removed from what was familiar to me at all. I wanted more.
Parental Advisory wasn’t a thing yet, so all it took was a few bucks and a bike ride to Sam Goody. I bought it new and unwrapped it before I even left the store. “Nah man. I don’t need a bag.”
Cracked it open, slid the tape in the player with that familiar, satisfying rattle, and hit ‘play’. Without pomp, circumstance, or ceremony of any kind, DJ Run & DMC just start rhymin. The first 3 and a half bars are acapella, before JMJ drops the beat on me. And just that fast, I was hooked. For the next 10 minutes (I listened to it three times in a row), I stood outside of Sam Goody and received an education in word play, masterful delivery, & mixing. The creativity was off the charts. The concept of using children’s nursery rhymes to showcase their lyrical skill, while showing love to, arguably, the best DJ in the biz, was genius. My wig…was split. And the fact that they dedicated the first song on the album to their DJ made the whole thing feel like a family gathering. I later came to realize, “Peter Piper” perfectly represented the optimal relationship between DJ & MC. When your DJ is cuttin like that, you better have something to say. Jam Master Jay delivered a flawless backdrop. Run and Darryl came all the way correct with the flow.
This song was my gateway to seeing hip hop as a culture. This album gave me an objective understanding of how expansive rap music can really be. Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels & Jason Mizell will forever be considered Kings in the hip hop landscape. And for good reason.