Almost a decade later, and to your surprise—their last album release was in 1993—rap artists Run, DMC and DJ Jam Master crown themselves as the kings of rap and rock in Crown Royal, still adorned in gold medallions and strutting the same shell-toed Adidas fashion as 20 years ago.
A wrinkle in time has elapsed for Run-DMC, their grandkids and yours, but they are hip to the selling trend of hybridized music. This compilation of rap mixed with heavy metal, R & B, alternative and pop is interspersed with their simple rhymes but, although the fusion successfully surpasses the recent duet of Wyclef Jean and Kenny Rogers, it still lacks the unifying sound it strives so hard for. Almost 20 years on, rap seems to have run away from its progenitors.
But let us reflect on the brilliantly corny decade when Run-DMC truly shined in the neon lights. Recall break dancing in red leather to "Walk This Way" with Aerosmith, "Peter Piper" and the yuletide gang’s MTV Christmas videos. Fans of ‘80s nostalgia will refrain from scoffing too hard at their latest attempt, and rap appreciators know—true to DMC’s word—that Run-DMC set the style for subsequent rap to spawn from,
Run-DMC were the first to sell rap packaged in album form, rather than in strings of single hits. They opened the gates for the political rap better versed by Public Enemy, as well as the gangsta rap notorious of NWA. They sought to break down barriers between rock and rap in their second album, The Kings of Rock, and then, after some bouts with alcohol and mishaps with women, they produced Down with the King in 1993 as a symbol of their newfound faith in Christianity.
Crown Royal, with all its guest appearances by other artists, is practically a tribute album. The kings of rap-rock are occasionally eclipsed by filler supplied by such children-in-spirit as Everlast, Third Eye Blind, Kid Rock, Method Man and many others. Run-DMC show they can jive with Latin pop buff Fat Joe and rap over heavy rancor with Sugar Ray in "Here We Go 2001,” but Run-DMC still sound oddly distant from today’s hip-hop in their insistence or remaining locked in an ‘80s time bomb. Some might condone their purity of purpose to preserve that simple old school beat; others would rebuke them for not having evolved. The closest the listener can get to modern hip-hop on Crown Royal is with Method Man’s help in "Simmons Incorporated."
Take them for what they are, though—legendary pioneers of rap—and enjoy plenty of synthesized sound that lays down a smooth path to cruise the strip on with tinted windows rolled down.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
No Longer Shall We Part
Turn down the lights, burn the candles, and lock your door. Nick Cave is back from the halfway house. He’s lost his nurse—his only salvation, since God and Nick have had such a poor rapport for the last 20 years. He’s buried under “15 ft. of Pure White Snow” in his latest album. No Longer Shall We Part.
This time around, though, he’s not brooding around in his lost tunnel to the afterlife. Some critics say Cave has “matured” across his chronology of albums; he’s not the post-experimentalist punk he used to moan himself to be. He’s still perverted, though, and for some twisted reason or another one can’t help but appreciate him and his dark lyrical nature.
If Nick Cave were to ever drop his tormented tales of murder, violence, love, and religion, his band “the Bad Seeds” would drop him, and so might the listener. Cave is to rock what Broadway musicals are to theater: fantastically melodramatic, but—once you get lost in the context and begin to appreciate the purpose—genuinely passionate and moving. Cave is a multi-talented Australian artist: actor, author, and singer. He’s confounded by the Old Testament; it his belief that “redemption is far outweighed by the possibility of retribution.” The man comes across scared and indignant, but his underlying motive is to invite the listener into his mind to search the soul inside out.
No Longer Shall We Part is Cave’s resurrection from the abysmal depths of down under. The dreams of writhing devils and death that found such a sympathetic bellow in Cave’s baritone voice have now been exorcised. Cave has opened "The Gates to the Garden," yet, alas, in “The House of God" he reverts back to mocking the fundamentalist in a tidy community safe from “freaks, lesbian counter attacks, crack houses and gypsies.” In this house there are white kittens and fences, and "At night we get down on our knees with no fear about if we all hold hands and shout."
Cave still is neurotic, but he has come closer to being at peace. People are drawn to him because he’s inexorable to mainstream society. He’s raw and honest and not drunk on love sonnets. In this album he tones down and confesses his mistakes with love and poeticizes them. The symphonic winds howling behind his “Love Letter” are poignantly emotional. The Bad Seeds continue to play the haunting chords so complementary to Cave, but they never overplay him. They set the mood: a quiet seriousness heard in the classic piano. They let their music coincide, spiral and synchronize next to the straining voice of the singer.