Rappers try new spin

Run DMC links up with youthful stars in hopes of reclaiming rap crown

— Run DMC has never been shy about emphasizing the group's importance in the rap world.

The hip-hop pioneers are quick to boast about the millions of records they've sold, how they took rap mainstream with hits like "It's Tricky," and how they basically started the whole rap-rock fusion genre, most notably with their smash collaboration with Aerosmith on "Walk This Way."

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AP Photo

Run DMC is trying to recapture its lost youth with the new album "Crown Royal." From left are Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell), DMC (Darryl McDaniels), and DJ Run (Joseph Simmons).

But even the "Kings of Rock," as they like to call themselves, know that legend won't get them too far among today's rap fans, who know more lyrics from newcomers like Lil' Bow Wow or Ludacris than any of the groundbreaking raps Run DMC recited.

So as they attempt a comeback with their new album, "Crown Royal," the once mighty rap pioneers are willingly sharing the spotlight with today's current hitmakers, hoping with collaborators. Run DMC hopes artists like Kid Rock, Method Man, Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst and R&B; group Jagged Edge will help them capture the attention of today's music fans.

"We're a nonentity until we drop a hit record, and that's the bottom line," said Joseph Simmons, aka DJ Run. "I think all the rappers, they look up to us ... if we come through and do something big, it makes them look up to us even more."

Although the trio of DJ Run, Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) and DMC (Darryl McDaniels) have stayed in the public eye through the years with a heavy tour schedule and the occasional commercial, they haven't made an impact on the charts for years. Their last album, 1993's "Down With the King," was certified gold, but hardly made the splash of albums released during their peak, such as the multiplatinum "Raising Hell" in 1986.

Like the majority of rap's early performers, Run DMC watched its celebrity diminish as the genre exploded in popularity, producing numerous stars whose albums routinely sell millions of copies � artists like DMX, Eminem, Jay-Z and Dr. Dre.

But instead of growing bitter about their declining role, Simmons decided to recapture it with an approach similar to Santana, who sold millions of copies of 1999's "Supernatural" in part because of collaborations with younger artists such as Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas and Wyclef Jean.

"We incorporated ourselves and injected ourselves into the young people through being down with the young people," said Simmons. "Truthfully, the whole album is full of youth. The oldest people on the album is us."



While it may end up winning Run DMC some new fans, the strategy cost them artistically. McDaniels, fed up with the Simmons' and Mizell's desire to capture the youth market, left the project and is barely heard on any of the tracks, even though he is prominently featured on the album's cover and is participating in their current tour.

Producer-rapper Jermaine Dupri, one of the many stars on the album, says McDaniels' limited role takes away from the group's attempted comeback.

"I think it's a big loss," he said. "I think DMC played a very, very big role. From a creative side, I think there was so much more that could have been done if DMC was around."

Yet Dupri, who helped jump-start a Run DMC comeback last year by tapping Simmons to rap on the remix of the Jagged Edge hit "Let's Get Married," believes the album can still be a success, although he admits it will be an uphill battle.

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