It was the mid 1980s. He was the king of rock, there was no higher. The sucker MCs, they should call him sire.
He was Run, and his co-rapping partner was D.M.C. Along with DJ Jam Master Jay, they put Hollis, Queens, on the map and made Run-D.M.C. the crossover act of the first rap/rock era. “It was cool. I enjoyed it,” says Run. “It was new, it was great, it was happening. I was lucky, it was beautiful.”
Run — born Joseph Simmons, younger brother of rap mogul Russell — is now Rev Run, who hosts the popular MTV show Run’s House (Wednesdays at 10 pm), a Father Knows Best for the hip-hop generation. On August 23, he’ll travel to Brookline Booksmith to speak and sign copies of Take Back Your Family: A Challenge to America’s Parents (Gotham), a book he and wife, Justine, co-wrote with Chris Morrow.
Later that night, he’ll rap with his pal Kid Rock at Comcast Center. But rapping is now the smaller slice of Rev Run’s pie. The big piece is being a husband, father, and reverend, as evidenced by his show.
“This is my ministry to the world,” says Rev Run. “We have to serve in some way, in a different capacity, which happens to be a family ministry. Let’s show people how we pull together, show the love in our house.”
He sees the obvious comparisons to The Cosby Show — “professional black people making it and taking care of their kids.” But his literature is not unlike the good doctor’s, too.
In Take Back Your Family — “a by-product of what we’re already doing” — Rev Run discusses his youthful hijinks, which included weed, women, and wildness, and offers parenting guidelines. Among his pearls of wisdom: get rid of clutter, don’t spoil the kids, and run the house with a firm but loving hand.
He’s fortunate that his six kids (from two marriages) are not drawn to the vices he once pursued, he says, and follow the example of their now-mature father.
“That’s pretty crazy going from rapper to reverend,” says Rev Run. “Maybe I am the new Al Green on the hip-hop level.”
As for his transition into a holy man, he says he turned to God after 1988’s Tougher Than Leather album failed to match the sales of ’86’s Raising Hell, and he felt Run-D.M.C. was foundering.
“I said, ‘I’m having problems here. I need some help.’ So I ran to God and He gave me new guidance. I didn’t feel confident in what was going on around me. I wanted God to show me what my new mission in life was.”
In keeping with that newfound mission, the rapper-turned-reverend has plenty of new things in store. “I created Run-D.M.C., I’ll create something else. I’m not gonna try and live off ‘Walk This Way’ the rest of my life.”
Which begs the question, has the murder of his former hit-making partner Jam Master Jay affected him? “I loved him, I performed with him,” he says.
“You remember the good times and block [out the bad]. You keep moving. I’ve got a family to raise. I don’t let it affect me because I can’t. I have to function here on this Earth.”
Rev Run signs copies of Take Back Your Family on August 23 at 1 pm at Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard Avenue, Brookline, 617.566.6660. He will also appear at the Comcast Center, 885 South Main Street, Mansfield, 508.339.2331, as part of the Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Back Door Slam show on August 23 at 6:30 pm.