I was in high school when Run-DMC hit the mainstream. I was a member of the MTV generation. I vividly remember when “Walk This Way” hit the airwaves. I’d never heard anything like it. I was vaguely aware of Aerosmith, and I knew who Run-DMC were, but I didn’t realize you could mix rock and rap until I heard this song. I remember sitting with my best friend, watching MTV on a Friday night, and loving the video. Run-DMC was on one side of a wall and Aerosmith on the other, each trying to play music and each being annoyed with the other…until Steven Tyler broke through the wall and then they hit the stage…together. Cheesy? Yes. But back then, it was revolutionary.
Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music Forever is the story of the making of that song. But this book is more than that. It’s about the beginning of a massive cultural shift in America, that continues to this day. Prior to Walk This Way, rap was not getting a lot of radio play. Radio was reserved for the likes of the Eagles, Foreigner, and other rock bands. MTV followed radio format and largely played rock and new wave music. It wasn’t until this song hit that rap became mainstream and invaded the public consciousness. It made stars of Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, and LL Cool J.
The story is told in alternating chapters. One chapter is about Run-DMC and the other about Aerosmith. It also includes such supporting characters as Russell Simmons (brother of Run) and Rick Rubin (record producer legend). It tells so many stories, aside from the making of the song. It talks about culture, race, records making, radio, video. The story was engaging and the book is well-written. You learn things that you may not have known before – that Jam Master Jay wasn’t on Run-DMC’s first three album covers, but he was the glue that held the guys together and was the most “musically” oriented of the three, or that Joe Perry and Steven Tyler weren’t so fond of each other and the other members of Aerosmith were referred to as LI3 (the less important 3). The book charts the rise and fall and rebirth of everyone involved. The story is fascinating.
Geoff Edgers has written a really good book, capturing an important moment in this history of American music. This is the song that made Jay-Z, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar possible. This is the song that brought rap music to mainstream America. This is the song that was polarizing to the hip-hop community and even to each band, themselves. The book lays all of this out and is immensely readable. I recommend this book if you want to learn more about the beginning of rap supremacy in American music, the rebirth of Aerosmith, or just an entertaining read about the making of a song.
I won a copy of this book and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.