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Rock: Run-D.M.C. And Beastie Boys At the Garden

By Jon Pareles

  • Aug. 19, 1987

run dmc tour 1987

AIRPORT-STYLE metal detectors on the way into Madison Square Garden, and helmeted, club-wielding police officers on the way out, lent Monday's sold-out rap show by Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys the air of a concert in a prison.

About 800 officers were on duty in and around the Garden, according to the Police Department. But inside the arena, it was clear that most people came to party - to dance, wave their arms and shout rhymes along with the rappers.

Rap delivers the rock-and-roll attitude - a celebration of ego and sexuality and youthful high spirits - in one of its purest forms, unmediated by any necessity to learn an instrument or write a melody. The music comes from a disk jockey, whose virtuosity in manipulating records is repeatedly praised during a show; the rappers, or M.C.'s, extol their own wit and put down any competition from ''sucker M.C.'s,'' but imply that audience members could do the same thing. At a rap concert, the kick comes from the shared feeling that everyone can be a star. It's not that easy, of course - solid writing and punchy delivery are what made Run-D.M.C. multimillion-sellers - but rap's message is utterly egalitarian.

Run-D.M.C. have reached beyond rap's core black audience by rapping at half-speed, using a stomping, unsyncopated beat and adding hard-rock electric guitar riffs to electronic rhythms. They chant about their prowess as rhymers, about the details of their lives and, in raps like the Coasters-flavored ''You Be Illin','' about the pratfalls of urban existence, like asking for a Big Mac at a Kentucky Fried Chicken stand.

Dressed in black, sporting thick gold chains and their trademark black hats, Run (Joey Simmons) and D.M.C. (Daryll McDaniels), with the disk jockey Jam Master Jay Mizell, stalked the stage, shouting words to finish one another's lines and bantering between raps as if they were on a street corner. The message of the show is pure self-aggrandizement -it takes at least five minutes to get the three band members on stage, after their names are stuttered out from Jam Master Jay's turntables -but with the audience shouting along, that self-aggrandizement turns into triumphant self-affirmation.

Run-D.M.C. insist on positive messages; at one point, D.M.C. shouted ''Check this out! Go to school - stay away from drugs!'' The Beastie Boys, three white rappers who borrowed Run-D.M.C.'s cadences as well as their amalgam of hard-rock and funk, are bad attitude incarnate. They present themselves as slapstick hooligans, determined to offend tender sensibilities and often succeeding. Their songs are about getting drunk and rowdy and horny, about hanging out with lowlife characters, and about sassing authority figures, particularly parents and teachers.

Shouting the raps from their album ''Licensed to Ill,'' and often substituting profanity for raunchiness, the Beastie Boys shambled around the stage, climbing around various platforms as two women danced in cages. At one point, they brought a nerdy character in suspenders on stage to douse him in beer; for the remainder of the set, they slid in the puddles. And during ''(You've Got to) Fight for Your Right (to Party),'' they chased a working photographer across the stage. As foul-mouthed vaudeville, it was good, rude fun.

Davy D.M.X. Reeves, a disk jockey, opened the show with some fast-handed ''scratching'' - manipulating records to make percussive tones and rhythms - and sang the evening's only song with a melody, to meager response. For the finale, the Beastie Boys and a few dozen other rappers and guests joined Run-D.M.C. on stage for their remake of Aerosmith's ''Walk This Way.'' With that, the crowd dispersed peaceably into the cordon of police.

''The media said tonight's Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C. show was going to have some kind of racial tension,'' Mr. Simmons had noted from the stage. ''But I see white and black out there, and ain't nobody fighting.'' One altercation, between the opening sets, was quelled without property damage or arrests, according to spokesmen for the arena and the Police Department. The other nonmusical excitement in the arena occurred when autograph-seekers swarmed around Mike Tyson, the boxer, who eventually retreated backstage. Outside, there were eight arrests for grand larceny and four for robbery -a ''very, very low'' number for a crowd of 20,000 people, said Sgt. John Clifford, a police spokesman.

run dmc tour 1987

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Beastie Boys And Run-D.M.C. Wrap Up Tour At The Garden

Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C. wrap up their Together Forever tour with a show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Run-D.M.C. tell fans to stay in school and avoid drugs; Beastie Boys have cage dancers and beer.

The groups are unquestionably the hottest acts in hip-hop, with Run-D.M.C.'s Raising Hell album and Beastie Boys' Licensed To Ill each with over 3 million in sales. New York City is their stomping ground: Run-D.M.C. is from Queens, Beasties represent Brooklyn. It's a sell-out crowd of over 20,000, including Mike Tyson, who has to abscond backstage when he's mobbed by fans. Like every stop on the tour, there is added security, with fans funneled through airport-style metal detectors in an over-reaction to rap shows that have been marred by violence in the past. But as it has been throughout the tour, there are no major problems, with most of the mayhem taking place on stage during the Beasties' set. Playing to the stereotype they curated in their " (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party) " video, they act like petulant spring breakers, going for shock value by ad-libbing obscenities and rapping the raunchiest versions of their lyrics they can think of. They spill beer on stage and slide around in the puddles. Run-D.M.C., the headliners, are a lot more classy. This trio has set the standard for hip-hop style and developed a distinctive two-MC flow that has earned them fans not only in NYC, but in the suburbs, long considered the hip-hop hinterlands. They're already legend, having played Live Aid, landed three Gold albums, and merged their genre with rock on the Aerosmith collaboration " Walk This Way ." They deliver clever wordplay and positive messages while bashing the sucker MCs that try to take them on. Over the next few years, Run-D.M.C. goes on the wane while Beastie Boys push forward with a series of groundbreaking albums, including the landmark Paul's Boutique in 1989. They wisely drop the obnoxious brat routine and mothball "Fight for Your Right (to Party)."

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30 Years of Beastie Boys: A Photographer Recalls the Early Days

R icky Powell is known for his candid street photography, capturing moments during hip-hop’s “Golden Age” and the 1980s downtown art scene in New York City, with his subjects ranging from the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC to Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. “Graffiti writers were like outlaw celebrities,” says Powell, “I was born at the right time.”

Identifying as an “individualist” rather than a photographer, Powell’s relationship with the Beastie Boys first started when he and Adam Horovitz, later known as Ad-Rock, grew up together, hanging out in a schoolyard in Greenwich Village in the 1970s.

Fast-forward to Sept. 1985, Powell began an unexpected career path as a photographer, when he obtained an ex-girlfriend’s Minolta 35mm camera, “I never thought I’d be taking pictures or would be a photographer, because I went to Hunter college to be a gym teacher,” says Powell. He saw the Beastie Boys for the first time that month at the Cat Club in New York City following their opening gig on Madonna’s successful The Virgin Tour. “I said, let me go check these kids,” says Powell, knowing Horovitz was in the group. “I’ll never forget this, the lights went black and then the crowd went ‘woo’ and then the signature Def Jam 808 bass drum sound dropped and the crowd went nuts.” Attendees that night included budding rapper LL Cool J and Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons. After the show, Powell went backstage and Horovitz introduced him to bandmates Adam “MCA” Yauch and Mike “Mike D” Diamond and one thing led to another.

From left: Ad-Rock, Mike D and MCA in an image known as the "Charles Street Shuffle," during Powell's first official shoot with the Beastie Boys for the East Village Eye in 1986.

During the spring of 1986, Powell was asked by hip downtown magazine the East Village Eye to shoot the Beastie Boys for his first cover shoot. Powell chose the familiar location of Greenwich Village by the P.S. 41 schoolyard as a setting, with Def Jam co-founder and producer Rick Rubin overseeing the photo shoot, which only lasted 30 minutes. “If I don’t get the shot in two snaps, I’m in the wrong business,” says Powell. One image from this shoot, a homage to the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover known as the “Charles Street Shuffle,” became one of the Beastie Boys’ most iconic images.

“You could say I’m taking the photo of the subject, but I like to say to the subject, person or people, look we’re creating this image together, you be you,” says Powell.

From left: Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock on the first stop of their Licensed to Ill tour in Missoula, Mont., Jan. 1987.

On Nov. 15, 1986, the Beastie Boys’ debut album, Licensed to Ill dropped. It became the first rap album to top the Billboard album chart and eventually sold over 10m copies in the United States alone. “Listen, I ain’t no art expert or music expert, but to me they kind of had a sound that wasn’t mainstream,” says Powell, “It was kind of underground and made them so cool that the music industry had to bring that to the surface.”

Working as a messenger in the Def Jam office, Powell was suddenly brought along to document the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill Tour. “They never expected it to become what it had become, so I think a lot of the bookings were just little venues and whatnot and then it turned into arenas, which is kind of the beauty of it,” says Powell.

The Licensed to Ill tour eventually turned into the Together Forever Tour with Run-DMC, with Powell joining both groups in Europe in May 1987. Powell’s images hanging out with both bands would go onto reflect two rap groups on the rise during early hip-hop’s position and acceptance as a global phenomenon.

“Natural chemistry is possibly a pre-requisite. Every situation is unique and I think you have to have some kind of feeling. If you want to have a good symbiotic relationship with a subject that you’re feeling, you have to ‘be like water,’ to quote Bruce Lee.”

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run dmc tour 1987

The 20 greatest hip-hop tours of all time

Our ranking, inspired by all the great rap acts on the road this summer, is 100% correct

run dmc tour 1987

L ook around and it might feel like we’re in a golden age of rap tours.

Rhyme greats De La Soul recently finished a European tour billed The Gods of Rap with the legendary Public Enemy, Wu-Tang Clan and Gang Starr’s DJ Premier. And the summer concert season is set to feature even more high-profile hip-hop shows.

West Coast giant Snoop Dogg is headlining the Masters of Ceremony tour with such heavyweights as 50 Cent, DMX, Ludacris and The Lox. Lil Wayne is doing a string of solo gigs and will launch a 38-city tour with pop punk heroes blink-182 starting June 27. Stoner rap fave Wiz Khalifa will headline a 29-city trek on July 9. The reunited Wu-Tang Clan continue their well-received 36 Chambers 25th Anniversary Celebration Tour, and Cardi B will be barnstorming through the beginning of August.

With all this rap talent on the road, The Undefeated decided to take a crack at ranking the 20 greatest hip-hop tours of all time.

Our list was compiled using several rules: First and foremost, the headliners for every tour must be from the hip-hop/rap genre. That means huge record-breaking, co-headlining live runs such as Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s On the Run II Tour were not included, given Queen Bey’s rhythm and blues/pop leanings. We also took into account the cultural and historical impact of each tour. Several artists, ranging from Run-DMC and Salt-N-Pepa to MC Hammer and Nicki Minaj, were included because they broke new ground, beyond how much their tours grossed. For years, hip-hop has battled the perception that it doesn’t translate well to live performance. This list challenges such myopic ideas.

With only 20 spots, some of rap’s most storied live gigs had to be left off the list. Many were casualties of overlap, such as Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys’ memorable 1987 Together Forever Tour and the Sizzling Summer Tour ’90, which featured Public Enemy, Heavy D & the Boyz, Kid ’n Play, Digital Underground and Queen Latifah. The 12-date Lyricist Lounge Tour, a 1998 showcase that featured Big Punisher, The Roots, De La Soul, Black Star, Common, Black Moon’s Buckshot and Fat Joe, also just missed the cut.

You may notice that Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. are missing from the list. But this was no momentary lapse of sanity. ’Pac’s and Biggie’s brief runs took place when rap shows were beginning to become a rarity, leaving most of their memorable stage moments to one-off shows. Dirty South royalty Outkast’s strongest live outing, when Big Boi and Andre 3000 reunited in 2014, was not included because it was less of a tour and more of a savvy festival run.

There are other honorable mentions: Def Jam Survival of the Illest Tour (1998), which featured DMX, the Def Squad, Foxy Brown, Onyx and Cormeg a; the Ruff Ryders/Cash Money Tour (2000); Anger Management 3 Tour with Eminem and 50 Cent (2005); J. Cole’s Dollar & A Dream Tour (2013); and Drake’s Aubrey & The Three Migos LIVE! tour (2018).

With that said, on with the show!

20. Pinkprint Tour (2015)

Nicki Minaj, featuring Meek Mill, Rae Sremmurd, Tinashe and Dej Loaf

run dmc tour 1987

The most lucrative hip-hop trek headlined by a woman also served as the coronation of Nicki Minaj as hip-hop’s newest queen. What made The Pinkprint Tour such a gloriously over-the-top affair was its seamless balance of dramatic Broadway-like theater, silly high jinks and a flex of artistic ferocity. One moment Minaj was in a black lace dress covering her eyes while mourning the loss of a turbulent union during “The Crying Game.” The next, she was backing up her memorable appearance on Kanye West’s “Monster” as the most wig-snatching guest verse of that decade. And the Barbz went wild.

Gross : $22 million from 38 shows

run dmc tour 1987

Kendrick Lamar performs during the Festival d’ete de Quebec on Friday, July 7, 2017, in Quebec City, Canada.

Amy Harris/Invision/AP

19. The Damn. Tour (2017-18)

Kendrick Lamar, featuring Travis Scott, DRAM and YG

run dmc tour 1987

When you have dropped two of the most critically lauded albums of your era in Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (2012) and To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), there’s already an embarrassment of riches to pull from for any live setting. But Kendrick Lamar understood that to live up to his bold “greatest rapper alive” proclamation he also needed populist anthems to turn on the masses. The Damn. album and world tour presented just that, as he led his followers each night in an elevating rap-along. It kicked off with a martial arts film, a cheeky nod to Lamar’s Kung Fu Kenny alter ego, before launching into the chest-beating “DNA.”

Gross: More than $62.7 million from 62 shows

run dmc tour 1987

Drake and Future performing on stage during The Summer Sixteen Tour at AmericanAirlines Arena on Aug. 30, 2016 in Miami.

Getty Images

18. Summer Sixteen Tour (2016)

Drake and Future

run dmc tour 1987

This mammoth, co-headlining tour was a no-brainer: Drake, the hit-making heartthrob, Canada’s clap-back native son and part-time goofy Toronto Raptors superfan. And Future, the self-anointed Atlanta Trap King, gleeful nihilist and producer, whose slapping, codeine-addled bars made him a controversial figure on and off record. The magic of this yin/yang pairing shined brightest when they teamed up to perform such tracks as “Jumpman” and “Big Rings” off their industry-shaking 2015 mixtape What a Time to Be Alive . When the smoke settled, Drake and Future walked away with the highest-earning hip-hop tour of all time.

Gross : $84.3 million from 54 shows

run dmc tour 1987

From left to right, Sandra ‘Pepa’ Denton, DJ Spinderella and Cheryl ‘Salt’ James perform on stage.

17. Salt-N-Pepa Tour (1988)

Featuring Keith Sweat, Heavy D & the Boyz, EU, Johnny Kemp, Full Force, Kid ’n Play and Rob Base

It may seem preposterous in this outspoken, girl-power age of Cardi B, Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion, Kash Doll, Young M.A, Tierra Whack and City Girls, but back in the early ’80s, the thought of a “female” rhyme group anchoring a massive tour seemed out of reach. That was before the 1986 debut of Salt-N-Pepa, the pioneering group who’s racked up a plethora of groundbreaking moments and sold more than 15 million albums. The first female rap act to go platinum ( Hot, Cool & Vicious ) and score a Top 20 hit on the Billboard 200 (“Push It”), Salt-N-Pepa led a diverse, arena-hopping showcase that gave the middle finger to any misogynistic notions. And Salt, Pepa and DJ Spinderella continue to be road warriors. They’re currently on New Kids on the Block’s arena-packing Mixtape Tour.

Encore: Opening-act standouts Heavy D & the Boyz would co-headline their own tour the following year off the platinum success of their 1989 masterpiece Big Tyme .

16. Glow in the Dark Tour (2008)

Kanye West, featuring Rihanna, N.E.R.D, Nas, Lupe Fiasco and Santigold

run dmc tour 1987

Yes, Kanye West has had more ambitious showings (2013-14’s button-pushing Yeezus Tour) and more aesthetically adventurous gigs (the 2016 Saint Pablo Tour featured a floating stage, which hovered above the audience). But never has the Chicago-born visionary sounded so hungry, focused and optimistic than he did on his first big solo excursion, the Glow in the Dark Tour.

Before the Kardashian reality-show level freak-outs and MAGA hat obsessing, West was just a kid who wanted to share his spacey sci-fi dreamscape with the public, complete with a talking computerized spaceship named Jane. Even the rotating opening acts — topped off by the coolest pop star on the planet, Rihanna — were ridiculously talented.

Gross : $30.8 million from 49 shows

15. I Am Music Tour (2008-09)

Lil Wayne, featuring T-Pain and Keyshia Cole

run dmc tour 1987

Between 2002 and 2007, Young Money general Lil Wayne was hip-hop’s hardest-working force of nature, releasing an astounding 16 mixtapes. Then Weezy broke from the pack with the massively successful I Am Music Tour. The bulk of Lil Wayne’s 90-minute set was propelled by his career-defining 2008 album Tha Carter III , which by the show’s second leg had already sold 2 million copies. By the time T-Pain joined the New Orleans spitter for a playful battle of the featured acts, Lil Wayne’s takeover was complete.

Gross : $42 million from 78 shows

run dmc tour 1987

MC Hammer, performing on stage in 1990, had a large entourage for his Hammer Don’t Hurt ’Em Tour.

14. Hammer Don’t Hurt ’Em Tour (1990-91)

MC Hammer, featuring En Vogue and Vanilla Ice

With 15 background dancers, 12 singers, seven musicians, two DJs, eight security men, three valets and a private Boeing 727 plane, MC Hammer’s world tour was eye-popping. Rap fans had never seen anything of the magnitude of the Hammer Don’t Hurt ’Em stadium gigs, which recalled Parliament-Funkadelic’s army-size traveling heyday in the 1970s.

Each night the Oakland, California, dancing machine, born Stanley Burrell, left pools of sweat onstage as if he was the second coming of James Brown. If the sight of more than 30 folks onstage doing the Running Man, with MC Hammer breaking into his signature typewriter dance during “U Can’t Touch This,” didn’t make you get up, you should have checked your pulse.

Gross : $26.3 million from 138 shows

13. Things Fall Apart! Tour (1999)

run dmc tour 1987

Each gig was a revelation. This was no surprise given that Philadelphia hip-hop collective The Roots, formed by longtime friends drummer Questlove and lead lyricist Black Thought, had a reputation for being unpredictable. Still, it’s ironic that a group known for being the ultimate road warriors — they were known for touring 45 weeks a year before becoming the house band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2014 — is represented on this list by one of their shortest tours.

But the brilliant Things Fall Apart club and hall sprint, which took place throughout March 1999, proved to be an epic blitz fueled by the band’s most commercially lauded material to date, Questlove’s steady percussive heart and the inhuman breath control of Black Thought.

Encore: Neo soul diva Jill Scott, who co-wrote The Roots’ breakout single “You Got Me,” gave fans an early taste of her artistry as she joined the band onstage for some serious vocal workouts.

12. House of Blues’ Smokin’ Grooves Tour (1996)

The Fugees, Cypress Hill, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Ziggy Marley and Spearhead

run dmc tour 1987

While gangsta rap was topping the charts, the hip-hop industry faced a bleak situation on the touring front. Concert promoters were scared to book “urban” acts in large venues. Enter the House of Blues’ Kevin Morrow and Cara Lewis, the booking agent who achieved mythic status when she received a shout-out on Eric B. & Rakim’s 1987 anthem “Paid in Full.” The pair envisioned a Lollapalooza-like tour heavy on hip-hop and good vibes. The first ’96 incarnation came out of the gate with Haitian-American rap trio The Fugees, multiplatinum weed ambassadors Cypress Hill, A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes.

Encore: The series, which has also featured Outkast, The Roots, Lauryn Hill, Gang Starr, The Pharcyde, Foxy Brown and Public Enemy, is credited with opening the door for a return to more straight-ahead hip-hop tours led by Jay-Z, DMX and Dr. Dre.

run dmc tour 1987

Kanye West (left) and Jay-Z (right) perform in concert during the Watch The Throne Tour, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J.

11. Watch the Throne Tour (2011-12)

Jay-Z and Kanye West

run dmc tour 1987

In better times, Jay-Z and Kanye West exhibited lofty friendship goals we could all aspire to, with their bromance popping on the platinum album Watch the Throne. Before their much-publicized fallout, Jay-Z and West took their act on the road for the mother of all double-bill spectacles.

Two of hip-hop’s greatest traded classics such as the ominous “Where I’m From” (Jay-Z) and soaring “Jesus Walks” (West) from separate stages on opposite sides of the venue. Those lucky enough to catch the tour can still recall the dream tag team launching into their encore of “N—as in Paris” amid roars from thousands of revelers.

Gross : $75.6 million from 63 shows

10. The Miseducation Tour (1999)

Lauryn Hill, featuring Outkast

run dmc tour 1987

In 1998, Lauryn Hill wasn’t just the best woman emcee or the best emcee alive and kicking. The former standout Fugees member was briefly the voice of her generation as she rode the multiplatinum, multi-Grammy success of her solo debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill . By February 1999, it was time to take the show on the road. Hill and her 10-piece band went beyond the hype, especially when they tore through a blistering take of the heartbreaking “Ex-Factor.”

Encore: Outkast (Atlantans Andre 3000 and Big Boi) rocked the house backed by some conspicuous props, including two front grilles of a Cadillac and a throwback Ford truck, kicked off their own headlining Stanklove theater tour in early 2001.

9. No Way Out Tour (1997-98)

Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, Lil’ Kim, Ma$e, Busta Rhymes, Foxy Brown, 112, The Lox, Usher, Kid Capri, Lil’ Cease and Jay-Z

run dmc tour 1987

The Los Angeles Times headline spoke volumes: “Combs to Headline Rare Rap Tour.” Combs, of course, is Sean “Diddy” Combs, the music, fashion, television and liquor mogul who Forbes estimates now has a net worth of $820 million. But back then, the hustler formerly known as Puff Daddy was struggling to keep his Bad Boy Records afloat after the March 9, 1997, murder of Brooklyn, New York, rhyme king The Notorious B.I.G.

But out of unspeakable tragedy rose Combs’ chart-dominating No Way Out album and an emotional all-star tour. Despite suggestions that large-scale rap shows were too much of a financial gamble, Puffy rallied the Bad Boy troops and a few close friends and proved the naysayers wrong. The No Way Out Tour was both a cathartic exercise and a joyous celebration of life. “It’s All About the Benjamins” shook the foundation of every building as Combs, The Lox and a show-stealing Lil’ Kim made monetary excess look regal. And the heartfelt Biggie tribute “I’ll Be Missing You,” which was performed live at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, had audiences in tears.

Gross: $16 million

run dmc tour 1987

Rap stars, from left, Redman, foreground, DMX, Method Man and Jay-Z join host DJ Clue, background left, in a photo session on Jan. 26, 1999, in New York, after announcing their 40-city Hard Knock Life Tour beginning Feb. 27, in Charlotte, N.C.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

8. Hard Knock Life Tour (1999)

Jay-Z, featuring DMX, Redman and Method Man

run dmc tour 1987

Jay-Z stands now as hip-hop’s most bankable live draw. In 2017, the newly minted billionaire’s 4:44 Live Nation production pulled in $44.7 million, becoming America’s all-time highest-grossing solo rap jaunt. It’s a long way from the days of Jay-Z lumbering through performances in a bulletproof vest when he was last off the bench on Puff Daddy’s No Way Out Tour.

Surely the seeds of Jay-Z’s evolution as a concert staple were first planted on his Hard Knock Life Tour, which was documented in the 2000 film Backstage . This was a confident, full-throated Shawn Carter, and he would need every ounce of charisma, with Ruff Ryders lead dog DMX enrapturing fans as if he were a Baptist preacher at a tent revival and the duo of Redman and Method Man rapping and swinging over crowds from ropes attached to moving cranes. What a gig.

Gross : $18 million

run dmc tour 1987

Flavor Flav (left) and Chuck D (right) of the rap group Public Enemy perform onstage in New York in August 1988.

7. Bring the Noise Tour (1988)

Public Enemy and Ice-T, featuring Eazy-E & N.W.A. and EPMD

run dmc tour 1987

There has always been a controlled chaos to a Public Enemy live show. Lead orator Chuck D jolted the crowd with a ferocity over the intricate, combustible production of the Bomb Squad while clock-rocking Flavor Flav, the prototypical hype man, jumped and zigzagged across the stage.

DJ Terminator X cut records like a cyborg and never smiled. And Professor Griff and the S1Ws exuded an intimidating, paramilitary presence. Armed with their 1988 watershed black nationalist work, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back , an album many music historians consider to be the pinnacle hip-hop statement, Public Enemy spearheaded arguably the most exciting rap tour ever conceived.

Encore: Along for the wild ride was the godfather of West Coast rap, Ice-T, who was putting on the rest of the country to Los Angeles’ violent Crips and Bloods gang wars with the too-real “Colors.” N.W.A. was just about to set the world on fire with their opus Straight Outta Compton. Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella unleashed a profanity-laced declaration of street knowledge that was instantly slapped with parental advisory stickers. And Erick and Parrish were making dollars with their rough and raw EPMD joint Strictly Business .

6. Nitro World Tour (1989-90)

LL Cool J, featuring Public Enemy, Eazy E & N.W.A., Big Daddy Kane, Too $hort, EPMD, Slick Rick, De La Soul and Special Ed

run dmc tour 1987

But not even LL Cool J was ready for the monster that was N.W.A. The self-proclaimed World’s Most Dangerous Group completely hijacked the spotlight when N.W.A. was warned by officials not to perform their controversial track “F— the Police” at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. A minute into the song, cops stormed the stage and shut down Eazy-E and crew’s volatile set, a wild scene that was later re-created in the 2015 N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton .

Encore: A few months before the Detroit gig, N.W.A. was booed during a Run-DMC show at New York’s Apollo Theater. “We all had watched Showtime at the Apollo , so we all knew if it went bad what was gonna happen,” Ice Cube explained on the Complex story series What Had Happened Was … “We hit the stage, and as soon as they saw the Jheri curls, all you heard was ‘Boo!’ I mean, before we even got a line out, they was booin’. I guess they just wasn’t feeling the Jheri curls.”

run dmc tour 1987

Rappers Christopher “Kid” Reid and Christopher “Play” Nolan of Kid ‘n Play perform onstage during “The World’s Greatest Rap Show Ever” on Jan. 3, 1992 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

5. The World’s Greatest Rap Show Ever (1991-92)

Public Enemy, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Geto Boys, Kid ’n Play, Naughty by Nature, A Tribe Called Quest, Leaders of the New School and Oaktown’s 3.5.7.

Props to the promoter who put together this awesome collection of hip-hop firepower for a tour that at least aimed to live up to its tagline. What stands out the most was the early acknowledgment of rap’s reach beyond the East and West coasts. The significance of including Houston’s Geto Boys, for instance, cannot be overstated.

Scarface, Willie D and Bushwick Bill carried the flag for Southern hip-hop, winning over skeptical concertgoers with their raw dissection of ’hood paranoia, “ Mind Playing Tricks on Me ,” which had become a favorite on Yo! MTV Raps . Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince proved they could still rock the house with PG-rated material. (It helped that Will Smith had just begun the first season of NBC’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. ) Queen Latifah busted through the testosterone with the empowering “Ladies First.” And Naughty by Nature frequently knocked out the most crowd-pleasing set of the night with their promiscuous anthem “O.P.P.”

Encore: The World’s Greatest Rap Show Ever made its Jan. 3, 1992, stop at New York’s Madison Square Garden less than a week after nine people were fatally crushed at a hip-hop charity basketball game at City College of New York. Before Public Enemy’s powerful message of black self-determination, Heavy D, an organizer of the doomed event, made a plea for unity. Fans were certainly listening. The gig was a resounding, peaceful triumph.

run dmc tour 1987

LL Cool J performs at the Genesis Center in Gary, Indiana in December 1987.

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

4. Def Jam Tour (1987)

LL Cool J, Whodini, Eric B. & Rakim, Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew, and Public Enemy

run dmc tour 1987

From 1986 to 1992, New York’s Def Jam Records was the premier hip-hop label. Its roster of artists, which included Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, EPMD and Slick Rick, was unparalleled in range and cultural dominance. So when it came time for partners Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin to spread the Def Jam gospel on its first international tour, the imprint’s biggest star, LL Cool J, was chosen to lead the way. And he didn’t disappoint.

James Todd Smith strutted out of a giant neon boombox sporting a Kangol hat, dookie rope gold chain and Adidas jacket. Of course, that jacket would soon be thrown to the floor as a shirtless Ladies Love Cool James tore through his ’85 single “Rock the Bells” as if it were the last song he would get to perform.

For many overseas, their first taste of American rap also included DJ Eric B. & Rakim, who were killing the streets with their 1987 masterpiece Paid In Full . Almost overnight in Germany, France, Norway and the Netherlands, hip-hop became the new religion.

Encore: This was the first proper world tour for Public Enemy, who had just dropped their 12-inch single “Rebel Without a Pause.” Although they were the opening act, Chuck D and his posse stole the show, establishing their standing as global behemoths. The now-legendary show at London’s Hammersmith Odeon can be heard throughout It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back .

run dmc tour 1987

The Up In Smoke Tour in 2000 was a dream team bill, headed by producer Dr. Dre and featuring Eminem, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and more.

Photo by Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

3. Up In Smoke (2000)

Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Eminem, Tha Dogg Pound, Warren G and Nate Dogg, and Xzibit

run dmc tour 1987

The multimillion-dollar stage design put the concert industry on notice that not only could rap shows attain the lavish production values of the best rock shows, they could surpass them. It was also an emphatic statement that the largely West Coast rap dignitaries knew how to throw a party. And there still isn’t another hip-hop song that matches the first 20 seconds of Dre’s “Next Episode” in concert.

Gross : $22.2 million from 44 shows

2. Raising Hell Tour (1986)

Run-DMC, featuring LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys and Whodini

run dmc tour 1987

There’s a reason Run-DMC is hailed as the greatest live hip-hop act of its era. They understood that less is always more. Because of their stripped-down beats and rhymes, the group amplified the genius of every aspect of their concert presentation up to 11. Jam Master Jay’s scratching was more thunderous than the other DJs on the 1s and 2s. Run’s pay-me stage presence commanded respect. And D had the throat-grabbing voice of God. They wore Godfather hats, black jeans and shoelace-less Adidas sneakers. The Hollis, Queens, crew was the personification of cool.

LL Cool J was just 18 during the Raising Hell Tour, but he was coming after Run-DMC’s crown every night. The hotel-wrecking Beastie Boys co-piloted rap’s bum-rush into Middle America, scaring parents wherever they landed. And Whodini brilliantly straddled the line between electro funkateers and around-the-way dudes representing BK to the fullest.

As “Walk This Way,” Run-DMC’s genre-shifting Aerosmith collaboration, exploded on the pop charts, vaulting the Raising Hell album to 3 million copies sold (the first hip-hop album to go triple platinum), ticket sales followed. The 45-city tour affirmed hip-hop’s cultural takeover.

Encore: The image of Joseph Simmons commanding 20,000-plus fans to hold up their sneakers during a performance of “My Adidas” at a New York show is still a surreal sight.

1. Fresh Fest (1984)

Kurtis Blow, Run-DMC, Whodini, The Fat Boys, Newcleus & the Dynamic Breakers, New York City Breakers, Turbo and Ozone

Ricky Walker had an idea: The concert promoter wanted to put together the first national rap music and break-dancing tour. In 1984, hip-hop had moved on from its underground beginnings in the Bronx. Run-DMC had just dropped their self-titled debut, and their “ Rock Box ” became the first rap video to received play on MTV. Breakin’ , the first break dancing movie to hit the big screen, pulled in nearly $40 million at the box office on a minuscule $1.2 million budget. Walker saw the future.

He called New York impresario Simmons to tap some of his Rush Productions talent, which included heartthrob Brooklyn trio Whodini , rap’s first solo superstar Kurtis Blow, the comedic Fat Boys and, of course, the hottest hip-hop act in the country, Run-DMC. But when it came time to promote the first show, billed as the Swatch Watch NYC Fresh Fest Festival , in Greensboro, North Carolina, Walker was laughed out of the room by a radio ad man.

Rap was still viewed by many record industry power brokers as a passing fad. In a 1985 interview with Billboard magazine, Walker recalled the salesperson pleading with him. “You’re a friend of mine,” he said. “Can’t I talk you out of doing this show?”

Walker’s instincts, however, proved to be dead-on. Fresh Fest moved 7,500 tickets in four hours. The tour, which also featured some of the best street dancers on the planet, such as Breakin’ stars Boogaloo Shrimp and Shabba Doo, as well as the synth funk-rap group Newcleus, not only did brisk business at mid-level venues but also sold out 20,000-seat arenas in Chicago and Philadelphia. Like the pioneering rock ‘n’ roll shows of the ’50s conceived by Cleveland radio DJ Alan Freed, the Fresh Fest proved that rap could be a serious and profitable art form. The rest is hip-hop history.

Gross : $3.5 million

Keith "Murph" Murphy is a senior editor at VIBE Magazine and frequent contributor at Billboard, AOL, and CBS Local. The veteran journalist has appeared on CNN, FOX News and A&E Biography and is also the author of the men’s lifestyle book "Manifest XO."

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Beastie Boys & Run DMC: Together Forever Tour television ad from 1987.


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run dmc tour 1987


  1. Run DMC and the Beastie Boys in New York, 1987. : r/OldSchoolCool

    run dmc tour 1987

  2. Run Dmc 1987 Photos and Premium High Res Pictures

    run dmc tour 1987

  3. Run D.M.C. 1987

    run dmc tour 1987

  4. Photographing Hip-Hop's Golden Era

    run dmc tour 1987

  5. Run-DMC on Club MTV *1987*

    run dmc tour 1987

  6. Run DMC (1987)

    run dmc tour 1987


  1. Run DMC

  2. The Legendary Guitarist for Run-DMC

  3. RunDMC-TVSpecial(1988)

  4. 1988 ARCHIVE: RUN DMC in Trinidad and Tobago

  5. Run DMC Uptempo 1987

  6. Club MTV September 1988


  1. Run-D.M.C. Concert & Tour History

    Run-D.M.C. was a hip hop group founded by the late Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell that included Joseph "Run" Simmons and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels. The group had an enormous impact on the development of hip hop through the 1980s and is credited with breaking hip hop into mainstream music.

  2. Run‐D.M.C. Concert Map by year: 1987

    Back From Hell Tour (11) Crown Royal Tour (63) Down With The King Tour (12) Family Values Tour 1999 (7) Girls Of Summer Tour (14) It's Like That Tour 1998 (2) King of Rock Tour (1) Music Midtown 2014 (1) Raising Hell Tour (70) Run's House (55) The Swatch Watch New York City Fresh Festival (3) Together Forever (38) Tougher Than Leather Tour (8)

  3. Run‐D.M.C. Tour Statistics: 1987

    Back From Hell Tour (11) Crown Royal Tour (63) Down With The King Tour (13) Family Values Tour 1999 (7) Girls Of Summer Tour (14) It's Like That Tour 1998 (2) King of Rock Tour (1) Music Midtown 2014 (1) Raising Hell Tour (70) Run's House (55) The Swatch Watch New York City Fresh Festival (3) Together Forever (38) Tougher Than Leather Tour (8)

  4. Beastie Boys

    Directed and produced by Peter DoughertyI mixed and co-produced this spot in 1987. I had DMC in the vo booth. I played "Walk This Way" on the Akai sampler ma...

  5. Run-DMC

    Run-DMC in Paris, 1987. In 1987, following on from the Raising Hell Tour, Run-DMC embarked on the Together Forever Tour ... Performing allowed McDaniels to come out of his depression and he appeared revitalized on the tour. There was even talk of Run-DMC finally signing with Def Jam, which by then was no longer held by its original founders. ...

  6. Run DMC and the Beastie Boys concert at San Diego Sports Arena 1987

    Excited fans outside the San Diego Sports Arena spoke to CBS 8 reporter Artie Ojeda before the Run DMC and Beastie Boys concert on June 19, 1987. Some fans d...

  7. Rock: Run-D.M.C. And Beastie Boys At the Garden

    The Beastie Boys, three white rappers who borrowed Run-D.M.C.'s cadences as well as their amalgam of hard-rock and funk, are bad attitude incarnate. They present themselves as slapstick hooligans ...

  8. Run‐D.M.C. Setlist at Paramount Theatre, Seattle

    Get the Run‐D.M.C. Setlist of the concert at Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA, USA on June 17, 1987 from the Together Forever Tour and other Run‐D.M.C. Setlists for free on setlist.fm!

  9. ZZ Top / Run DMC / Stevie Ray Vaughan

    Saturday, March 21, 1987 Venue: Aloha Stadium Location: Honolulu, Hawaii, United States. Band Genres. Blues: 2 bands: Blues: ZZ Top; Stevie Ray Vaughan; Blues Rock: 2 bands: Blues Rock: ZZ Top; ... Buy tickets to ZZ Top / Run DMC / Stevie Ray Vaughan: Choose the vendor you'd like to view:

  10. Beastie Boys And Run-D.M.C. Wrap Up Tour At The Garden

    Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C. wrap up their Together Forever tour with a show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Run-D.M.C. tell fans to stay in school and avoid drugs; Beastie Boys have cage dancers and beer. The groups are unquestionably the hottest acts in hip-hop, with Run-D.M.C.'s Raising Hell album and Beastie Boys' Licensed To Ill ...

  11. RUN DMC Live Amsterdam 1987

    RUN DMC Live Amsterdam 1987 - Peter Piper (Featuring The Almighty JAM MASTER JAY) Hip Hop / Hiphop / RapRecorded during their 1987 European tour with the Bea...

  12. Beastiemania.com

    In 1986, the Beastie Boys were slated to open for Run DMC on the Raising Hell tour. It was at this point that DJ Hurricane left the Run DMC crew and became DJ for the Beastie Boys. The tour lived up to its name when concert violence erupted in Los Angeles. A dark media shadow was cast upon the remainder of the tour. By the winter of 1987 ...

  13. Beastie Boys: 30 Years Later, Photographer Recalls Early Days

    The Licensed to Ill tour eventually turned into the Together Forever Tour with Run-DMC, with Powell joining both groups in Europe in May 1987. Powell's images hanging out with both bands would ...

  14. Run‐D.M.C. Setlist at MECCA Arena, Milwaukee

    Get the Run‐D.M.C. Setlist of the concert at MECCA Arena, Milwaukee, WI, USA on June 30, 1987 from the Together Forever Tour and other Run‐D.M.C. Setlists for free on setlist.fm!

  15. Run-DMC

    1983-2002. Genre(s): Hip Hop

  16. The 20 greatest hip-hop tours of all time

    Many were casualties of overlap, such as Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys' memorable 1987 Together Forever Tour and the Sizzling Summer Tour '90, which featured Public Enemy, Heavy D & the Boyz, Kid 'n Play, Digital Underground and Queen Latifah. The 12-date Lyricist Lounge Tour, a 1998 showcase that featured Big Punisher, The Roots, De La ...

  17. Beastie Boys & Run DMC Together Forever Tour Commercial

    Beastie Boys HD VideosBy Ben EscobedoExclusively On Youtube !Check Out These 3 Ways to View my Beastie Boys Video Collection :-----...

  18. Run‐D.M.C. Setlist at Richmond Coliseum, Richmond

    Get the Run‐D.M.C. Setlist of the concert at Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, VA, USA on August 14, 1987 from the Together Forever Tour and other Run‐D.M.C. Setlists for free on setlist.fm!

  19. Beastie Boys & Run DMC: Together Forever Tour television ad from 1987

    Excision Announces 'Nexus' Tour; Fall Out Boy Announces So Much For (2our) Dust; TIME Reveals the 2023 TIME100 Next List of the World's Rising Stars; Photo Gallery: Parkway Drive with The Amity Affliction, Northlane and Make Them Suffer at Toronto's RBC Echo Beach

  20. Run‐D.M.C. on tour Raising Hell Tour

    Run‐D.M.C. performed 49 concerts on tour Raising Hell Tour, between Joe Louis Arena on August 10, 1986 and Apollo Theater on April 19, 1986

  21. 1987 Beastie Boys RUN DMC Vintage Tour Rap Tee Shirt 80s 1980s ...

    Vintage 1987 Beastie Boys + RUN DMC Tour Tee 100% Authentic Worn To Perfection - few marks, use pics as reference and ask any questions single stitch Original Tag tag too faded to read - See measurements below (Measured backside facing up laying flat): Pit to Pit: 19 1/2" Length (down the center): 27 1/2"

  22. Run‐D.M.C. Concert Map by year: 1988

    Back From Hell Tour (11) Crown Royal Tour (63) Down With The King Tour (13) Family Values Tour 1999 (7) Girls Of Summer Tour (14) It's Like That Tour 1998 (2) King of Rock Tour (1) Music Midtown 2014 (1) Raising Hell Tour (70) Run's House (55) The Swatch Watch New York City Fresh Festival (3) Together Forever (38) Tougher Than Leather Tour (8)