MGF Reviews Run-D.M.C. – Live at Montreux 2001 [CD/DVD]

Run-D.M.C. – Live at Montreux 2001 [CD/DVD]
Eagle Records (4/3/07)
Hip-hop / Rap

On October 30, 2002, an unidentified gunman waltzed into a recording studio in Queens, N.Y., and pumped a bullet into the head of Jason Mizelli, better known to the rap world as Jam Master Jay. The legendary DJ and member of pioneer group Run-D.M.C., was pronounced dead at the scene. Years have passed and the identity of Jay’s murderer is still to be uncovered.

Ten days ago, The Boston Herald stated an unnamed witness claimed Queens native Ronald “Tinard” Washington was, at least, an accessory to the JMJ shooting. Charges have yet to be filed, but for many hip-hop heads, the recent findings are irrelevant. Nothing will ever bring back the revolutionary Jam Master Jay.

This sad truth makes the recent Run-D.M.C. Live at Montreux 2001 CD/DVD release that much more affecting. The performance at the celebrated Swiss jazz festival is among the few featuring Jam Master Jay before he was gunned down nearly five years ago.

Two decades prior to the Montreux performance, Jam Master Jay, Rev Run, and D.M.C. were signed to Profile Records as “Run-D.M.C.”, and went on to become the major pioneers of hip-hop music, famously assisting hip-hop in crossing over to the mainstream with their cover of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”, which took the new MTV generation by storm with its groundbreaking sound.

However, as the saying goes, what goes up… must come down. And well, it was quite a rocky downhill road for the trio. Even before JMJ’s murder, Randall McDaniels consistently battled alcoholism to the point of permanently damaging his vocal chords. Then around the start of the new millennium, the boys tried to get things in order, and failed miserably. Run-D.M.C. released Crown Royal, which was poorly received by fans and critics alike. Following Jay’s passing, Rev Run sank to the point of appearing in his own VH1 “celebreality” show. For those lucky (or unlucky) enough to have seen D.M.C.’s solo videos on Comcast On Demand, one can clearly see that things will truly never be the same again.

Thankfully, the band mostly brought out the classics for this Montreux show, and fittingly, the CD/DVD opens up with Jam Master Jay cutting and scratching behind the wheels of steel.

After working the crowd into a frenzy, the audience bopped their heads to unforgettable hits “King of Rock”, “Rock Box” and “Down with the King” (Hey, they were kings, and they rocked, so it all makes sense…).

The performance itself is straight old-school hip-hop. It’s totally stripped down and devoid of lasers, dancers and flashy pyrotechnics. And the group is dressed in all black (fedoras included) except of course for their trademark laceless white ADIDAS. This is surely a refreshing change from the overproduced, flamboyant hip-hop shows/videos of today.

While viewing the well-filmed concert footage, one can’t help but notice how far hip-hop has come along. The same three men who once rocked the blocks of Hollis, Queens, with two turntables and a microphone were now performing on the same renowned festival stage that was once graced by the likes of Johnny Cash, Santana, Eric Clapton and Frank Zappa. In doing so, they prove hip-hop to be a legitimate musical art form.

This writer will be adding this CD & DVD to his collection in order to remember the good old days, but more importantly, to properly remember the irreplaceable Jay Mizelli.

R.I.P. Jam Master Jay