When you hear the name Rev. Run, you might immediately think of the iconic hip hop group Run-D.M.C. or his hit MTV reality show “Run’s House.” But before he became a household name, Rev. Run, born Joseph Ward Simmons, started out as a DJ for the legendary Kurtis Blow.
Simmons was still in high school when his older brother Russell, a rising hip hop promoter at the time, introduced him to Blow. Impressed by his skills on the turntables, Blow brought Simmons on as his DJ, giving him the moniker “DJ Run, Son of Kurtis Blow.”
“I was just absorbing things, being on the road with Blow,” Run later said in an interview with TIDAL. “It was just being inspired by watching what he was doing and being blessed to be able to get on the microphone and kick rhymes whenever they would allow me to come to a show.”
The two performed together in clubs around New York City, and Simmons began to gain recognition for his skills. But fate intervened when, right before Blow was set to embark on a national tour, Simmons broke his arm while playing basketball.
While he was forced to sit out the tour, Simmons used the time to hone his skills as a rapper and soon formed Run-D.M.C. with friends Darryl McDaniels (D.M.C.) and Jason Mizell (Jam Master Jay), to go down as one of the greatest rap groups of all time.
From their first hit “Sucker M.C.’s” to their crossover smash “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith, the Hollis, Queens trio were pioneers in the industry, breaking down barriers and opening doors for generations of rappers to come.
And they did it all while racking up some serious accolades. A No. 1 R&B charting hip hop album? Check. The first hip hop act to chart in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 more than once? Check. One of the first hip hop artists with Gold, Platinum, and multi-Platinum albums? Check, check, and check.
But it’s not just about numbers with Run-DMC. They were also trailblazers in terms of cultural significance. They were the first hip hop act to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, the first to make a video appearance on MTV, and the first to perform at a major arena. Plus, they even landed a major product endorsement deal with Adidas, cementing their status as style icons in addition to their musical accomplishments.
Kurtis Blow: Of course, I taught Rev how to rap and how to DJ. This was around 1978. He used to practice in the attic, because their dad bought him a turntable for him to practice on. He was real young — five or seven years younger than Russell and I. He was running around going to park jams in Queens and stuff. And at the time, calling someone your “son” was a compliment, similar to calling someone your protégé. So “Son of Bambaataa” was Africa Islam, for example. And Run at one point was the “Son of Kurtis Blow”! Right after I was signed, he was my DJ for a while too, actually. Rev Run was my disco son; we’d play music, and have big fun!When He Ruled The World: The Kurtis Blow Interview | Medium