Run-DMC's lyrics on "Walk This Way" are virtually identical to the original Aerosmith lyrics, which might make you wonder: what makes rap and rock so different?
Great question. In fact, the primary muse and subject of many a rock or rap song has been the same for decades: women. "Walk This Way" is a coming-of-age story about a teenager trying to be attractive to a girl, something we hear about on pretty much a daily basis.
The lyrics definitely reflect a shade of teenage boy immaturity. A lot of them sound like schoolyard jump-rope rhymes made more male-oriented and more explicit: for examples, take "And the best thing (love it) was your sister and your cousin," or "Singin' hey diddle diddle with the titty in the middle."
These types of catchy, rhyming lines are perfectly suited for a rap song, which is probably why Run-DMC decided to cover the song rather than rap over a sample from it. The verses are incredibly tight, with ABCCBA rhyme schemes squeezed into three lines apiece. Check it out:
And her feet are flyin' up in the air
Singin hey diddle diddle with the titty in the middle,
And you swingin' like you just don't care
That's not all that's going on. Take a look at who's singing what:
DMC: And her feet are flyin' up in the air
Run: flyin' up in the air
Tyler: flyin' up in the air
DMC: Singin hey diddle diddle with the titty in the middle
Run: diddle middle
Tyler: with the titty in the middle
DMC: And you swingin' like you just don't care
Tyler: swingin' like you just don't care
With the words flying back and forth so fast, Tyler and Run need to pick out the rhymed words to emphasize them. But Tyler and Run also play the part of the hype man here, not only pulling out rhymed words, but also shouting out in the background to make the rap more exciting.
When you get down to it, the cover of the song and the original version aren't that different, except for delivery. And that, in itself, definitely says something.
Though we sometimes think of rap and rock as polar opposites, each has a strong macho streak, perhaps even (as many have complained) a sexist one. The chorus of "Walk This Way"—"She told me to / Walk this way, talk this way"—is about acting a certain way in order to attract women. The only really important characteristic of this "she" is that she is, well, a "she." And maybe this is part of rap and rock's common heritage: both genres were dominated by male groups in their beginnings, and Aerosmith's classic rock and Run-DMC's old school rap postures have one of the same goals in common: looking good to girls.