A Washington Post staff writer offers a cultural history and play-by-play of the unlikely 1986 recording session that he argues catapulted hip-hop into the mainstream and revived Aerosmith's fading career.
As Washington Post reporter Geoff Edgers tells the story in his fascinating chronicle Walk This Way, it’s more than a hit song; it’s a cultural collision between rap and rock, black and white, past and future ... Edgers treats this like a cultural detective yarn, doing valiant gumshoe work. He talked to everyone involved ... Edgers proves a master storyteller, rushing through the parallel narratives like a hip-hop DJ crossfading between turntables ... Walk This Way’ is also a study of team dynamics—the way prima donnas keep elbowing for a bigger slice of the credit[.]
All of this is well-trod territory. There has been no dearth of ink spilled about Run-DMC, Aerosmith or hip-hop’s rise to cultural domination. So in a book that is occasionally hyperbolic yet fastidiously thorough — sometimes too thorough: Walk This Way grew from a long-form article and often feels better suited as one, unless you’re enthralled by the nitty-gritty of industry insider-ness ... Edgers gives us the hyper-amusing blow-by-blow of just how this duet came alive, from the back-and-forth of lyrical expletives in the studio — Run called Tyler’s lyrics 'hillbilly gibberish' — to the recording of a music video that is both harbinger and metaphor for the song’s legacy ... There is an elephant in the room here, one that Edgers signals toward but ought to face squarely. What does it say about American culture that for an African-American art form to receive its due it had to not just seek white validation but cloak itself in the trappings of whiteness? ... Edgers tells the story with incredulity — behold how one song changed American music! — but in the context of American history the ending is actually an inevitability: If it hadn’t been hip-hop it would have been something else, because as Ralph Ellison pointed out in his famed Time magazine essay 'What America Would Be Like Without Blacks,' American culture is African-American culture and vice versa...'
In Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music Forever, Washington Post staff writer Geoff Edgers makes a convincing case for the track as a line of pop cultural demarcation: Before Run-DMC and Aerosmith joined forces, rock radio and MTV, the twin engines that powered any hit song, were off-limits to rap artists ... It’s an exhaustively sourced, briskly entertaining read, both a ground-level recounting of that 1986 recording session, and a just-enough-information primer on the histories of Run-DMC and Aerosmith, and the early days of rap and MTV.