Interrupted: A Chat with Reverend Run
by: Will Harris
Interview date: 09/06/05
Drink Music to post your thoughts, gripes
As frontman for the legendary rap group Run-DMC,
Reverend Run – born Joseph Simmons – has kept it on the down-low for the past
few years, since the tragic death of his bandmate, Jam Master Jay. 2005,
however, brings the Reverend’s first-ever solo album,
Distortion, as well as the
debut of his MTV “reality sitcom,” called – what else – “Run’s House.” (Whose
house?) The good Reverend took time to speak to Bullz-Eye about these things,
the VH-1 Hip Hop Honors, and his Words of Wisdom, occasionally even letting us
get a word in edgewise...if rarely to actually finish our questions.
Reverend Run: Hello?
RR: Hey, how are ya? (splashing is audible)
BE: Pretty good, how are you?
RR: I’m doin’ well. (more splashing)
BE: Have I caught you early enough in the day that you’re not completely
sick of doing press?
RR: Well, I’m in the pool, man.
BE: A’ight. Well, then I’d say that you’re pretty well relaxed!
RR: I know how to do these things.
BE: A’ight. Well, I just wanted to say that it’s a real pleasure to talk
RR: Well, thank you.
BE: I had hoped to hear the new album (Distortion) in its entirety
before I had a chance to talk to you, but...
RR: Oh? What did you hear?
BE: Well, all I’ve heard, really, is just the single (“Mind on the
Road”), because I know it’s streaming online right now, but I couldn’t get a
hard copy, and...
RR: Did you see the video?
BE: I did see the video, yes.
RR: Where’d you see that?
BE: I saw that...on your website, I believe.
RR: Good. Did you like it?
BE: Yeah, it’s great!
RR: Yeah, the whole album, that record...I’ll just give you some
help...the single you heard is just a sign. It’s, like, you’re driving somewhere
and you see a sign and it says, “Ohio: a couple of miles,” that just shows you
where the album’s going.
BE: Well, I thought it was awesome. I mean...
RR: The album feels very...Run-ish. It’s a Run-DMC type of vibe. It feels
like Raising Hell. It feels like Tougher Than Leather. It’s a Run-DMC
type of thing.
BE: Well, I’m sure this is the exact sort of reaction you want, but, as
soon as I heard the single, it immediately made me want to hear the entire
RR: Yeah, it feels the same way. The album feels that same way.
BE: And, of course, I immediately recognized the sample in the single: “I
Love Rock and Roll,” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
RR: Yeah, a little piece of that.
BE: Obviously, you’ve got a history with the rock and rap combo there.
Was that, like, an intentional choice to...
RR: Yeah, we were the first to do it with “Rock Box,” and then we made
“King of Rock,” and finally “Walk This Way” was the biggest.
BE: So was that an intentional choice, to continue that bridge to this
RR: Uh, it’s just intentional to make what I make, to do what I do, to do
what I’m put on this earth to do. So it was a very simple process because I just
did...me. I was inspired by me, and that whole Run-DMC type of Rick Rubin-ish,
Russell Simmons, Larry Smith era, where we made these types of records, and I
just went there and camped out there and made records from that day.
BE: I heard the single’s being included in “Madden
’06 Football.” How...
RR: Yeah, that’s a breakthrough for me...and, then, I have the television
show coming on MTV, which is a major breakthrough.
RR: It’s called “Run’s House.” It’s replacing “The Osbournes.” I’m very
excited about that.
BE: Excellent. Uh, how did the single get onto the video game? Are you a
fan of the Madden games?
RR: Someway, they just hooked it up through Island / DefJam, and, the
next thing you know, here I am.
BE: Regarding Island, did you have to battle with anyone to follow the
old school path that you...
RR: No one interrupted me. I went in the studio, made the album intact,
and gave it in. Blew their minds completely.
BE: That’s awesome. I...
RR: They didn’t expect me to go this route. No side artists, no great new
expensive producer. Made it in about a month. Well, ten days, but I had to mix
it over the next month or so. It was very easy and very convincing to L.A. Reid
and others that were, like, “Wow, what is this?”
BE: That’s awesome, because I had visions of one of the suits in A&R
saying, “That’s not what the kids want. Lemme tell ya what the
RR: No, the album I went and made...it was very calculated to make this
kind of album, and it was very calculated to put no other artists, it was very
calculated to have no Timbaland and no Pharrell, no new Slow Flow, just Run at
BE: How did you come across Whiteboy (the producer responsible for most
RR: Lyor Cohen was, at that time, the president of DefJam; he said, “I
got this young kid, he’s pretty good. I believe he’s gonna be the next thing.” I
took him, grabbed him, and didn’t let him go. We had great chemistry together
and it worked out beautifully.
BE: And is he, in fact, a white boy?
RR: Yes, he is a white boy. A young, respectful, hard-working white boy.
BE: Excellent. When you were writing and recording “Home Sweet Home”
(Run’s tribute to his fallen comrade, Jam Master Jay, which samples Lynyrd
Skynyrd), was it really cathartic, or was it really difficult to...
RR: It just fell into place. We were looking through some samples and
stuff, that came on, I said, “I’ll use that! That’s what Kid Rock was using on
tour when we were on tour with Aerosmith! They were playing that!” So they told
me who it was, and I said, “Oh, that’s right,” and I just sampled it and started
rhyming over it, and it came out about Jay. It just kind of dropped out of my
spirit. God helped me. God helped me write this album.
BE: Does DMC make an appearance anywhere on the record, or is it...
RR: Nobody but me.
BE: Just you. Okay. I see you’re using E-cards and MySpace.com to promote
the album; are you big into online, or are you just aware of the power of it?
RR: Um...I’m aware of a lot of things that they make me aware of. I’m
basically into making the music and entertaining and preaching. I give a Word of
Wisdom out every morning to many people. I wake up in the morning and I get my
little E-mail machine, my Blackberry, and I start E-mailing hundreds of
people...some entertainers, some radio stations. Like, Serena Williams gets a
word, Kid Rock, Puff Daddy, LL Cool J, radio stations, my brother Russell
Simmons, y’know, a bunch of people get these Words of Wisdom and they enjoy it
and pass around to others. That’s part of my day. And, also, when we were
filming these episodes, they show me writing a Word of Wisdom, and the show is
intertwined into the word. You’ll hear the Word of Wisdom at the beginning, and
then you’ll look at the show and it’s kind of leaning toward the Word, and then
when the show is over, after some funny things with my children and the
conflicts in the house, the Word of Wisdom...I’m back in the tub at the end,
writing another Word of Wisdom which sums up the show. It’s very interesting for
MTV. People should love it.
BE: (going with the flow) I checked (the Words of Wisdom) out on
your site, and the one that spoke to me was the one about Jonathan Livingston
Seagull being rejected by 18 publishers before finally see print.
RR: Oh, you liked that one?
BE: Well, you know, I’m a writer, so it spoke to me.
RR: Yeah, you just gotta stick with it.
BE: How did “Run’s House” (the MTV show) originate? Was it something they
pitched to you, or...
RR: I was in St. Bart’s with my family, and everybody was lookin’ at me
like, “Wow! He’s a reverend, he’s a rapper, he’s got kids, they look
organized...this is unbelievable! You’re a reality show,” Russell’s friend,
Andre Harrell, said. And everybody started saying, “He is a reality show,
now that we look at it! He’s an old school king of rap who’s now a reverend...
this is crazy, this is a hit show!” And then I said, “Russell, you hear these
guys? Let’s go!” We went to Hollywood when we left St. Bart’s two years ago, and
ABC Family jumped all over it. Next thing you know, I get this phone call from
Puffy, out of nowhere, and he’s, like, “I got this idea, man!” I go, “What?”
“You’re a reality show, I just realized that!” I said, “Well, I’ve already got a
deal.” He says, “Nahhh! I wanna put you on MTV, man!” I said, “You gotta talk to
Russell; we have a deal already.” He said, “I love Russell, he’s my hero, but I
wanna do it on MTV, I’ll get you double the money,” la di da didda da didda da.
I said, “Well, ya’ll talk it out.” Next thing I know, I’m on MTV.
BE: Now, are you ready for all the critics to start slinging phrases
like, “It’s ‘The Cosby Show’ for the rap generation,” and stuff like that?
RR: I think they’re gonna love it. It’s gonna be very, very good. I think
people will love it. And the album. So I’m looking forward to a rejuvenation,
new things getting ready to happen for me. I expect greatness.
BE: With the co-hosting gig on the VH-1 Hip-Hop Honors, is that part of
RR: That’s a big deal, that’s to give myself some visual, for people to
see me again in my collar, hanging out with my brother, Russell. It kind of fits
our image, since we kind of were there, kinda helped pioneer the game, and it’s
about honor. You know, we’ll give out some awards and have some fun.
BE: With all the promotions and, I guess, any touring you might do, are
you concerned that it’s going to take away from your work with the church?
RR: Did you say touring?
RR: Yeah, I’m not touring. I haven’t been performing at all. I might sit
on the couch with Jay Leno or something, but I won’t be performing anytime soon.
BE: It sounds like your recording schedule, where you’re going in at 11
AM and were out at 4 PM, you sound like a man who runs his life to make sure
that he gets everything done that he wants to do.
RR: I do. I get up early, eat my breakfast, do some exercise, get over to
Whiteboy’s house or whatever, we make a record, and I come home in time for the
kids to get home from school, helping ‘em with school work, and governing my
home, which is top priority.
BE: Any chance of seeing the Run-DMC albums reissued and remastered
RR: Yeah, they’re remastering them right now. Sony / Legacy is
remastering Run-DMC’s records. (Note: Both of us were apparently out of the
loop on this matter; not only had Sony/Legagy finished the job, deluxe digipak
remasters of Run-DMC, King of Rock, Raising Hell, and
Tougher Than Leather appeared in stores on the very day this interview took
BE: Do you ever feel like it’s kind of a combination blessing/curse that
a lot of people will say, “Yeah, I don’t really like rap, but I like Run-DMC”?
RR: It’s fine with me. I’ll take favor wherever I can get it. I love it,
I thank God for my blessings.
BE: Does it feel weird getting back into the business after such an
absence? (The last Run-DMC album was 1999’s Crown Royal.)
RR: Nah. I’ve been in the business. Before Jay died, I was on tour with
Aerosmith and Kid Rock. We toured all through Europe. We had a hit over there
about 5 years ago; “It’s Like That” was remixed by a guy named Jason Nevins, it
was a smash. I’ve been touring.
BE: So you’ve kept busy.
RR: It’s been a big source of my income.
BE: But no plans to do even any hometown shows?
RR: Nothing. No time soon. I’m excited about this MTV show. It’s a big
deal to me. I’m excited for more seasons of this. I want to do this.
BE: Alright, well, I think that covers about everything. I tried to
streamline things as much as possible; I know you’ve got a busy day ahead of
RR: I appreciate it! God bless you!
BE: Absolutely. I can’t wait to hear the whole album.
RR: Well, I hope they get it to you soon.
BE: I hope they do, too!
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