Today Monday, July 4 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Run-D.M.C. andAerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” The groundbreaking hip-hop reworking of the rock band’s 1975 single, described by Vibe Editor-at-Large Keith Murphy as “the most unpredictable and weirdest union in pop,” helped rap cross over into the mainstream in a major way.
While Run-D.M.C. was already successful, it wasn’t until “Walk This Way” dropped that fans outside of rap took notice. “It opened up Run-D.M.C. to people’s grandmothers…to people beyond the fanbase,” Murphy tells ABC Radio. “Middle America was suddenly enthralled with these three great artists from Queens.”
The song also helped revive Aerosmith’s career. “This was a group that went through their own drug crisis and had a flop album and people were really counting them out,” says Murphy. “I really believe that this was a great union…probably the most unpredictable and weirdest union in pop!”
While Run-D.M.C. had rapped over “Walk This Way” for fun, they were initially unsure when producer Rick Rubin suggested they record it.
“While they liked the beat of ‘Walk This Way,’ and the way you can cut it up, they weren’t quite sure about the lyrics,” explains Murphy. “They didn’t know what Steven Tyler was singing about…they looked at Rick Rubin and said ‘They’re speaking gibberish.'” Luckily, Rubin insisted and, says Murphy, “We have history.”
You could also thank — or blame — “Walk This Way” for the rise of rap/rock in the early 2000s, says Murphy. “If you talk to Limp Bizkit…Korn [or]…Linkin Park, they will tell you that they were hardcore Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy fans,” Murphy says.
“Walk This Way” hit #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Run-D.M.C. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, eight years after Aerosmith.