KINGS FROM QUEENS: THE RUN DMC STORY Review: Three Neighborhood Friends Become Music Superstars, Change the World

Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell star in the engaging docu-series, directed by Kirk Fraser.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
KINGS FROM QUEENS: THE RUN DMC STORY Review: Three Neighborhood Friends Become Music Superstars, Change the World

How independent artists became mega-stars while retaining their independence.

Kings From Queens: The Run DMC Story
All three episodes debut Thursday, February 1, exclusively on Peacock TV. I've seen all three episodes.

A docu-series about an influential rap group might not seem like a natural fit for a site that primarily focuses on independent genre films from around the world. But wait!

Run DMC came to prominence in the early 1980s, bursting forth from Hollis, Queens (a neighborhood in New York City), winning widespread acclaim and influencing dozens, if not hundreds, of musicians in their wake. As a person of mixed-race living in Brooklyn at the time, I was certainly aware of them, and heard them everywhere I went, but I can't say they were ever personal favorites of mine, musically-speaking.

Yet their story remains fascinating and inspiring, in large part because they were independent artists who forged their own style, musically and otherwise, and it was because of their determination to follow their own distinctive muses that they became so influential. The parallel for me is that the American independent film scene in the early 1980s burst forth from New York and Los Angeles (and elsewhere), and the filmmakers who have stuck around, people like Spike Lee and Jim Jarmusch and Steven Soderbergh and the Coen Brothers and David Lynch, have always been determined to follow their own distinctive muses and became influential as a result.

Once they came together as a group, Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, and Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell were combustible, quickly rising to prominence in their native New York and then spreading nationwide, thanks to persistent hard work and a desire to expand their creative horizons. Kings From Queens, divided into three episodes and paced to play with ad breaks on Peacock TV, skillfully weaves together archival photographs and film footage with a plethora of interviews with Simmons (and his older brother Russell), McDaniels, and many, many other musicians and collaborators.

Skillfully directed by Kirk Fraser, whose many past credits include From Scratch: The Birth of Hip Hop (2017), the series seeks to illuminate how the group came together, the challenges they faced as the music world and pop culture changed around them, and their own personal and family growth over the years. It's close to a hagiography, in that it focuses primarily on all the good things they did, but my word, if anyone deserves a hagiography, it's Run DMC.

Even if you're not (particularly) a fan of their music in general, the docu-series lays down an engrossing and lively story about a group that changed music, changed lives, and influenced a generation of musicians, who in turn have passed down their own distinctive, independent visions to multiple generations of listeners.

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