|The New York Times, August 19, 1987
By Jon Pareles:
AIRPORT-STYLE metal detectors on the way into Madison Square Garden, and helmeted, club-wielding police officers on the way out, lent Monday's sold-out rap show by Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys the air of a concert in a prison. About 800 officers were on duty in and around the Garden, according to
the Police Department. But inside the arena, it was clear that most
people came to party--to dance, wave their arms and shout rhymes
along with the rappers.
Rap delivers the rock-and-roll attitude--a celebration of ego and
sexuality and youthful high spirits--in one of its purest forms,
unmediated by any necessity to learn an instrument or write a melody. The music comes from a disk jockey, whose virtuosity in manipulating records is repeatedly praised during a show; the rappers, or M.C.'s, extol their own wit and put down any competition from "sucker M.C.'s," but imply that audience members could do the same thing. At a rap concert, the kick comes from the shared feeling that everyone can be a star. It's not that easy, of course--solid writing and
punchy delivery are what made Run-D.M.C. multimillion-sellers--but
rap's message is utterly egalitarian.
Run-D.M.C. have reached beyond rap's core black audience by rapping at
half-speed, using a stomping, unsyncopated beat and adding hard-rock electric guitar riffs to electronic rhythms. They chant about their
prowess as rhymers, about the details of their lives and, in raps like
the Coasters-flavored "You Be Illin'," about the pratfalls of urban
existence, like asking for a Big Mac at a Kentucky Fried Chicken
Dressed in black, sporting thick gold chains and their trademark black
hats, Run (Joey Simmons) and D.M.C. (Daryll McDaniels), with the disk
jockey Jam Master Jay Mizell, stalked the stage, shouting words to finish one another's lines and bantering between raps as if they were on a street corner. The message of the show is pure
self-aggrandizement--it takes at least five minutes to get the three band members on stage, after their names are stuttered out from Jam Master Jay's turntables--but with the audience shouting along, that self-aggrandizement turns into triumphant self-affirmation.
Run-D.M.C. insist on positive messages; at one point, D.M.C. shouted "Check this out! Go to school--stay away from drugs!" The Beastie Boys, three white rappers who borrowed Run-D.M.C.'s cadences as well as their amalgam of hard-rock and funk, are bad attitude incarnate. They present themselves as slapstick hooligans, determined to offend tender sensibilities and often succeeding. Their songs are about getting drunk and rowdy and horny, about hanging out with lowlife characters, and about sassing authority figures, particularly parents and teachers.
Shouting the raps from their album Licensed to Ill, and often
substituting profanity for raunchiness, the Beastie Boys shambled around the stage, climbing around various platforms as two women
danced in cages. At one point, they brought a nerdy character in
suspenders on stage to douse him in beer; for the remainder of the
set, they slid in the puddles. And during "(You've Got to) Fight for
Your Right (to Party)," they chased a working photographer across the
stage. As foul-mouthed vaudeville, it was good, rude fun.
Davy D.M.X. Reeves, a disk jockey, opened the show with some
fast-handed "scratching"--manipulating records to make percussive
tones and rhythms--and sang the evening's only song with a melody, to
meager response. For the finale, the Beastie Boys and a few dozen
other rappers and guests joined Run-D.M.C. on stage for their remake
of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." With that, the crowd dispersed
peaceably into the cordon of police.
"The media said tonight's Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C. show was going
to have some kind of racial tension," Mr. Simmons had noted from the
stage. "But I see white and black out there, and ain't nobody
fighting." One altercation, between the opening sets, was quelled
without property damage or arrests, according to spokesmen for the
arena and the Police Department. The other nonmusical excitement in
the arena occurred when autograph-seekers swarmed around Mike Tyson,
the boxer, who eventually retreated backstage. Outside, there were
eight arrests for grand larceny and four for robbery--a "very, very
low" number for a crowd of 20,000 people, said Sgt. John Clifford, a