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Joseph Simmons (Reverend Run)

Joseph Simmons (Reverend Run)

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Also Known As: Joseph Simmons, Joseph Simmons (Run), Joseph Ward Simmons, Reverend Run Died:
Born: November 14, 1964 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Queens, New York, USA Profession:

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One third of the first rap group to gain mainstream superstardom, Reverend Joseph "Run" Simmons was a founding member of Run-D.M.C., which burst out of New York in the early 1980s with an aggressive, stripped-down sound that virtually laid the blueprint for modern hip-hop. With Daryl "DMC" McDaniels and DJ Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, Simmons elevated rap from the club scene to the pop charts on the strength of such forceful, boast-heavy tracks as "It's Like That," "King of Rock," "My Adidas" and their breakout hit, "Walk This Way," a collaboration with Aerosmith that made them the first rap act to reach the heights of the R&B and pop charts. Personal problems and changing musical tastes undermined Run-D.M.C.'s popularity in the early 1990s, which prompted Simmons to become a born-again Christian and an ordained minister. The death of Jam Master Jay in 2002 brought an end to Run-D.M.C., but Simmons continued to remain in the public eye as a solo performer and reality television star on the MTV series "Run's House" (2005-2009). A pioneer in rap music for over three decades, Joseph "Run" Simmons was a key figure in the genre's rise from underground sensation to part of mainstream popular culture.Born...

One third of the first rap group to gain mainstream superstardom, Reverend Joseph "Run" Simmons was a founding member of Run-D.M.C., which burst out of New York in the early 1980s with an aggressive, stripped-down sound that virtually laid the blueprint for modern hip-hop. With Daryl "DMC" McDaniels and DJ Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, Simmons elevated rap from the club scene to the pop charts on the strength of such forceful, boast-heavy tracks as "It's Like That," "King of Rock," "My Adidas" and their breakout hit, "Walk This Way," a collaboration with Aerosmith that made them the first rap act to reach the heights of the R&B and pop charts. Personal problems and changing musical tastes undermined Run-D.M.C.'s popularity in the early 1990s, which prompted Simmons to become a born-again Christian and an ordained minister. The death of Jam Master Jay in 2002 brought an end to Run-D.M.C., but Simmons continued to remain in the public eye as a solo performer and reality television star on the MTV series "Run's House" (2005-2009). A pioneer in rap music for over three decades, Joseph "Run" Simmons was a key figure in the genre's rise from underground sensation to part of mainstream popular culture.

Born Nov. 14, 1964 in the Hollis neighborhood of Queens, NY, he was the youngest of three sons by public school administrator Daniel Simmons, Sr., and his wife, Evelyn Simmons, a New York City park administrator. His elder brother, Daniel Simmons, Jr., would become a noted painter and co-producer of "Def Poetry Jam" (HBO, 2002- ) while Russell Simmons formed his own music management company, Rush Management, in his teens before becoming a successful entertainment entrepreneur by founding Def Jam Records and Rush Communications, among other companies. Russell Simmons also provided Joseph with his entry into the music business as a DJ for one of his clients, pioneering rap artist Kurtis Blow. His ability to spin records on two turntables at the same time earned him the moniker "Kurtis Blow's Disco Son - DJ Run," which he later shortened to DJ Run and later Run, which he adopted as his stage name after moving successfully from DJ to MC. After graduating from high school and attending Laguardia Community College as a mortuary science student, he formed a rap duo with friend Daryl McDaniels in 1982. They began performing at Two-Fifths Park in Hollis, where many local DJs performed and competed. There, they caught the attention of Jason Mizell, better known as Jam Master Jay, and whose street gangster attire - snap brim fedora, leather coat, thick gold chains and unlaced Adidas sneakers - was soon adopted by the group, which set them apart from the then-traditional hip-hop attire of track suits or flashy club wear. The trio approached Russell Simmons, who had by then formed his own label, Def Jam, with Columbia University student Rick Rubin, about recording a single. Simmons became their manager after dubbing the trio Run-D.M.C. - a name they initially disliked - and co-produced their first single, "It's Like That/Sucker MCs" (1983), which landed them a contract with the fledgling rap label Profile Records. Run-D.M.C.'s abrasive, minimalist sound immediately established them as a harder-edged alternative to the disco-driven tracks favored by other New York hip-hop groups. The new direction also proved popular with listeners, who sent the single to No. 15 on the R&B chart.

Subsequent releases, including "Hard Times" and "Rock Box," which marked one of the earliest mergers of rap and rock-n-roll, further established Run-D.M.C. as the vanguard of a new movement in hip-hop, a notion underscored by the release of their self-titled debut album. Their second album, King of Rock (1985) continued their cross-pollination of genres, but their true breakout came with 1986's Raising Hell, which featured a duet with Aerosmith on the latter group's concert staple, "Walk This Way." To the surprise of many, the single shot to No. 4 on the Billboard 100, while the record itself became the first rap album to top the R&B charts and reach the Top 10 on the pop charts. It was also the first hip-hop album to reach platinum sales status, while the videos for "Walk This Way" and "It's Tricky" were the first to receive regular airplay on MTV. The trio was also the only rap act to perform as part of Live Aid in 1985. But as Run-D.M.C. rose to the top of the music business, McDaniels began to unravel from the pressures of touring and recording. He developed a serious drinking problem and was twice arrested for public intoxication. Simmons soon fell victim to his own drinking and legal problems, including a rape charge that was eventually dropped. The mounting turmoil within the Run-D.M.C. camp had a deleterious effect on their careers, with the soundtrack Tougher than Leather (1988), a low-budget action film inspired by the "blaxploitation" subgenre that also starred the trio, failing to match the success of Raising Hell and its follow-up, Back from Hell (1990) earning brickbats from critics and consumers alike for a revamped sound that embraced the pop-R&B-friendly New Jack Swing movement.

Both McDaniels and Simmons sought refuge in their faith, which informed their comeback album, Down with the King (1993). Featuring a Who's Who of early '90s rappers including Jermaine Dupri and Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, the record returned Run-D.M.C. to the top of the R&B charts and the Top 10 on the pop charts. The revival, however, proved short-lived; Simmons was devoting more time to his church, where he served as a deacon before becoming an ordained minister in 1995, while McDaniels invested himself in a new marriage and family. Touring remained a constant for the group, which eventually left McDaniels exhausted and depressed. His battle with alcohol was soon hampered by problems with prescription drugs, as well as a vocal disorder called spasmodic dysphonia, which caused involuntary spasms of the larynx muscles. In order to preserve his failing voice, he pushed for a less aggressive sound for the group's music, which put him at odds with Simmons' wish for their established hard-edged sound. McDaniels subsequently refused to participate in all but three songs on the group's 2000 album, Crown Royal, which was a dismal failure. A truce of sorts appeared to take place on their subsequent tour with Aerosmith and Kid Rock, which received widespread praise. But at the height of what appeared to be a second comeback, Simmons decided to pull out of the tour, leaving the future of Run-D.M.C. in doubt.

Sadly, the execution-style murder of Jam Master Jay in October 2002 ended any possible change of a full-fledged Run-D.M.C. reunion. Though the group was officially retired, both Simmons and McDaniels began recording material for solo albums. Billed as "Rev. Run," Simmons released his solo debut, Distortion, in 2005, which eventually reached No. 78 on the Billboard albums chart. More successful, however, was his foray into reality television with "Run's House," which followed the personal and professional lives of Simmons, his second wife Justine Jones, their three children and three stepchildren from Simmons' first marriage to Valerie Vaughn. The series gained national attention in 2006 when the family granted permission to document the death of daughter Victoria, who succumbed to complications from a birth defect shortly after her birth. The family subsequently adopted a four-month-old daughter, Miley, in 2007. Like his brother Russell, Simmons devoted considerable energies to charitable organizations, including KaBOOM, a non-profit collaboration with Kool-Aid that built playgrounds in lower-income communities. He also published a book, Take Back Your Family: A Challenge to America, in 2008, the same year he returned to touring as part of Kid Rock's Rock N Roll Revival Tour. The following year, Run-D.M.C. became the second rap act to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Simmons and McDaniels soon brought the act out of retirement with select performances as Run-D.M.C. at various festivals in 2010 and 2012.

By Paul Gaita

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Full Court Press (1997)
2.
 To Be a Black Man (1995) Himself
3.
 Tougher Than Leather (1988) Run
4.
 Krush Groove (1985) Run
6.
 VH1 Presents the '80s (2001) Interviewee ("Hip Hop/R&B")
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