Reference Entry

Reverend Run

Regina N. Barnett

in African American National Biography

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195301731
Reverend Run

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was born Joseph Lloyd Simmons in Jamaica, Queens, New York, the youngest of three sons of Daniel Simmons, a teacher and public school administrator, and Evelyn Simmons, an artist. Simmons would become famous as Run of the legendary hip-hop group Run-D.M.C. Joseph Simmons grew up in the Hollis section of Queens, New York. He enjoyed listening to music on the radio at an early age, and his father supplied him with a drum set to support his interest. As a teenager, Simmons learned to be a DJ from his childhood friend Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels. When his older brother, Russell, became the promoter and manager of Curtis Walker (also known as Kurtis Blow), Simmons began to experiment with rhymes using Walker's lyrical style as an example; he eventually had the opportunity to DJ for Kurtis Blow in 1978. Russell's friends named Joe “DJ Run” and later “DJ Run—the son of Kurtis Blow.” After a successful first performance, Simmons continued to spin for Walker and to work with McDaniels, who was emceeing under the stage name of Grandmaster Get High.McDaniels and Simmons formed a duo, which Russell named Runde-MC. After signing to Profile Records in 1981, the group became Run-D.M.C. and Simmons urged another childhood friend, Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizzell, to join. Mizzell initially declined, but ultimately joined in 1982. Run-D.M.C.'s first single, “It's Like That/Sucka MCs” (1983), and their eponymous first album (1984) were characterized by the hard beats and classic rock and heavy metal samples that would establish the group as the first rap crossover to the rock and pop market. In 1984 Simmons married Valerie Vaughn, with whom he had two daughters, Vanessa and Angela, and a son, Joseph Jr.It was not until the release of their 1986 platinum-selling third album, Raising Hell (featuring a hit remixed version of Aerosmith's “Walk This Way”), that the group achieved its greatest commercial success. They became the first rap act to appear on MTV and, for a time, were the biggest-selling rap act in the genre's short history. But by 1988, when the group's album Tougher Than Leather was released, their popularity was already on the wane, and their subsequent albums did not have the same impact or success.Reverend Run, former lead vocalist of Run-D.M.C., arrives at the Annual Kids' Choice Awards in Los Angeles, 31 March 2007. (AP Images.)In 1991 Simmons and his wife Valerie divorced, shortly after a Cleveland woman brought rape charges against Simmons. Although the charges were dismissed, the experience led Simmons to reevaluate his life and he became heavily involved with Zoë Ministries, a nondenominational church in which he became an ordained minister in 1994, changing his stage name to “Rev Run.” While awaiting a court date on the rape charge, Simmons reconnected with Justine Jones, a high school friend; they were married in 1992. The couple had two sons, Daniel and Russell II. (A daughter, Victoria Anne, died shortly after birth in 2006.)Simmons continued to record and tour with Run-D.M.C. after his ordination, and he published his autobiography, It's Like That … A Spiritual Memoir (2000). However, in 2002 Jam Master Jay was murdered, and the remaining members announced the group's retirement. After a brief hiatus, Simmons released his first solo album, Distortion, in 2005, which was a critical but not a commercial success. He and his family also became the stars of an MTV reality show, Run's House, nominated in 2007 for an NAACP Image award for outstanding reality series.

Reference Entry.  610 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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