After the poor response of Back from Hell
decided to make some drastic changes. Their first point of order was to rebuild their dwindling street cred and reiterate their proven track record as the kings by compiling a best-of compilation. Simultaneously, they started work on a fresh and current-sounding album with the help of some of the hottest artists and producers in the rap game. Retreating from the funky new jack swing that overwhelmed Back from Hell
, they enlisted Pete Rock
, Naughty by Nature
, the Bomb Squad
, and Jermaine Dupri
to help produce Down with the King
. The new sound is decidedly more fashionable, and their fedoras and Adidas are abandoned here for bald heads and baggy black hoodies to match their new gangsta musical direction; which takes an obvious cue from Onyx
(signed to Jam Master Jay
's label), whose "Slam" was a platinum hit earlier in 1993. Instead of using the intersecting back-and-forth wordplay that launched their career, this new incarnation of Run-D.M.C.
incorporates the trendy "grimy" sound with ensemble shouts over specific lyrical parts (think Leaders of the New School
). The beats are less corny, less funk-inspired, and more jazzy and sinister, with ominous basslines, organs, and delayed horn samples, and the vocals are more raucous and angry. Longtime fans will wonder why the trio isn't staying true to its past, especially when Run
borrow from newcomers Das EFX
with "stiggitys" and "riggitys," but the album serves its purpose of winning over a new generation of fans, and old-timers can find solace in the fact that rock is incorporated again in "Big Willie," a throwback to "Rock Box" with a rippin' guitar part from Rage Against the Machine
's Tom Morello
. While less original than their earlier classic albums, this is an impressive showing from a rap group that's been together ten years, and is pretty damn innovative in its own right.