Walk This Way
In a Nutshell
It might surprise you to learn that the first rap song to bring the genre to a wide mainstream audience wasn't even originally a rap song.
That's right: this track is a straight-up cover of a 1975 Aerosmith hit. It doesn't just sample the riff and the chorus—the lyrics are also almost identical to the original. Rap went rock, and the crowd went wild. (This might be a good place to mention that heading in the direction of rock and roll isn't always met with a positive response: Bob Dylan literally got booed off the stage the first time he performed "Like A Rolling Stone."
But there's more going on here. Run-DMC emcees Run and DMC hadn't even wanted to record "Walk This Way." They felt (unsurprisingly) that covering a song they didn't even particularly like for the sake of attracting a bigger audience amounted to selling out. Even once their Def Jam producers convinced them to do the cover, they tried to draw attention away from it.
Music history had a different plan. This is one of those unusual cases in which a song that might have been forgotten entirely as a failed crossover attempt is remembered, instead, for the great service it did to a genre. In fact, this song did exactly what Def Jam hoped it would do: it brought rap into the mainstream. And the mainstream would never be the same.
About the Song
|Artist||Run-DMC & Aerosmith
||Musician(s)||Run/Joseph Simmons (vocals), DMC/Darryl McDaniels (vocals), Jam Master Jay (DJ), Stephen Tyler (vocals), Joe Perry (lead guitar)
|Writer(s)||Stephen Tyler, Joe Perry|
|Producer(s)||Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Whatever their reservations about covering a hard rock song, we're going to go ahead and say that it's a good thing that Run-DMC ended up doing "Walk This Way"—mostly because we're not sure what the rap world would have looked like today if they hadn't. Who knows how that might have affected the popularity and musical careers of the rap artists who followed, like Eazy-E
, Dr. Dre
, the Wu Tang Clan
, and Kanye West
This song was important to rock music
, too. It helped Aerosmith, a behemoth hard rock band of the 1970s that had fallen on hard times, make a comeback and find their place in the 1980s
. Without Run-DMC's take on "Walk This Way," Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler almost certainly wouldn't be sitting among the judges on American Idol
On the Charts
"Walk This Way" made its way to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1986.
The 1987 Soul Train Music Award for Best Rap Single went home with both Aerosmith and Run-DMC for this single.
According to rock critics, the music video for "Walk This Way" is one of the best of all time. Rolling Stone
named it the 11th best of all time in 1993, MTV put it at #5 in 1999, VH1 deemed it #11 two years later, and Fuse set it down at #24 in 2007.Raising Hell
took Run-DMC way
mainstream in 1986, when it peaked at #3 in the US. Their two earlier albums, Run-DMC
and King of Rock
, topped out at #53 and #52, respectively.