CD Review of Distortion by Rev Run

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Released: 2005
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Without question, “Mind on the Road,” the first single from Rev. Run’s debut solo album, Distortion, will be remembered by music critics as one of the great singles of the first half of the decade. Coming about as close to the old-school glory of “Walk This Way” as he’s liable to get, the song is powered by a sample from Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” as Run raps poetic about the touring lifestyle of the old days:

Always on the road ‘cause my record’s full blown
Livin’ out my bag, but I’m never missin’ home
Papa was a rocker, and I’m like a rollin’ stone
Got another call, “Yo, it’s time for the show!”
Got my mind on the road, and, yo, it’s time to go!

Those days are over now, however, as is documented on a regular basis via the right Reverend’s reality show on MTV, entitled – what else? – “Run’s House.” In his interview with Bullz-Eye, he indicated that he had no intention of touring behind Distortion and wasn’t even willing to commit to the possibility that he’d make any live performances short of the occasional talk show to hype the record. But that’s probably for the best, at least for the time being; Run is still in the process of creating his new public persona, and, until that’s completely in place, people still think in terms of seeing him on stage with Jam Master Jay and DMC.

DMC doesn’t make an actual appearance on Distortion, but both he and Jay get name-checked in the lyrics of “Home Sweet Home,” Run’s tribute to his late comrade in rap, the good Jam Master. Over a sample from “Sweet Home Alabama,” Run declares that Jay was “the greatest, and he’s sharin’ everything that he earned / And you can count on Jam Master, I was never concerned.” In fact, Distortion is somewhat of a concept album, loosely held together by Rev. Run reminiscing about his career and past accomplishments, from opening track “I Used to Think I Was Run,” where he talks of getting caught up in an ego trip, to “Don’t Stop Ya’ll,” in which he refers to himself as “the first platinum status rap president.” There are also songs on which he re-utilizes samples that had been borrowed by Run-DMC in the past, like the Monkees’ “Mary, Mary,” which re-appears on “High and Mighty Joe,” and, on the aforementioned “Don’t Stop Ya’ll,” he samples Run-DMC themselves (“Rock Box” and “Hit It Run”).

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Distortion is that it’s only 23 minutes and 2 seconds long, which is, in the inarguable words of my lovely wife, “crazy short.” Still, as comebacks go, better to achieve brilliance via brevity than to, say, come roaring out of the gate with a sprawling 2-disc monstrosity in a misguided attempt to prove that he can compete with folks like Outkast or the Wu-Tang Clan. He can, of course; he just doesn’t need spoken-word bits or "sketches" propping up the space between songs to do so. There’s no filler on Distortion; it’s a tight, focused production which meets its established goal – to show that Run is back on the attack – and also whets the appetite for another helping.

~Will Harris