"Maybe I should have titled it Crown Royal: An Album of Collaborations," says Reverend Run (né Joseph Simmons) about the new Run-D.M.C. album, Crown Royal. "It probably would have been much easier for critics to swallow. I'm getting a lot of flack, but I'm beyond worrying about flack because I've already accomplished a lot of great things."
Originally scheduled for release in 1999, the long-awaited follow-up to 1993's Down With the King was victim to a host of delays. Expectations were high for the album from the groundbreaking rappers (first rap group to reach No. 1 on the American R&B charts; first to make the pop chart's Top 10; first to go platinum; first rappers on MTV; first on the cover of Rolling Stone, etc.).
Upon its April 3 release on Arista Records, however, the album was widely declared a flop, primarily because of the absence of D.M.C., who appears on only two of 12 tracks, and the overbearing presence of questionable contributors — such as Sugar Ray, Third Eye Blind's Stephan Jenkins, and Fred Durst. Only the title track — possibly the album's strongest — is without a guest star, causing many to call it the rap equivalent of Santana's collaborative comeback, Supernatural.
Though D.M.C. (né Darryl McDaniels) was openly opposed to the collaboration-heavy material, Run asserts that D.M.C.'s absence was more due to vocal problems. "His voice changed on me out of nowhere, and it was a hard time for me trying to accept it," he says. "How am I going to do what I'm trying to do at that time — being competitive with the Jay-Z's and DMX's — and pull D into this picture? And therefore, we crashed on how we can make a Run-D.M.C. album in 2001.
"There's a certain thing we had where he was upset with me and I was a little upset with him. But it didn't change our touring thing, which is 'come and rock anytime.' Right now we're bonding again and having fun on the road and that's the bottom line."
Despite its low profile in recent years, Run asserts that the band (including DJ Jam Master Jay, né Jason Mizell) has been very active in live shows. "In our mind, we're very relevant because we're always performing. Puff Daddy had a birthday party; he hired us. Def Jam has a party; they'll hire us," Run asserts. "We're like the go-to group for events where you want things to work out right because you see this special thing of Run-D.M.C. performing at this event and the crowd gets real excited and they remember, 'Oh my god, king of rock!'
"Our album isn't really needed for us. For the industry, maybe they need that, but it's like The Rolling Stones — if they put out an album that doesn't hit, it still doesn't stop their touring ability. We're not in the generation that has to have a hit record or has to create an excitement at the college level."
He suggests otherwise, however, when he unveils the group's current plans. "I think Run-D.M.C. will be back in the recording studio immediately. Me and D are going to sit down and incorporate his style with mine and make an album with no collaboration. Hopefully now, like today."