Kings from Queens

SYNOPSIS: Unveiling the compelling narrative of hip-hop pioneers RUN DMC, this three-part documentary series immerses viewers in the 1980s, a transformative era where Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell forged a groundbreaking sound that resonated not just in Queens but reverberated globally.

REVIEW: During my college years, I was initially skeptical when assigned Ken Burns’ Jazz series, anticipating a daunting eighteen-hour exploration of a single music genre. To my surprise, I found myself captivated by the series, gaining a newfound appreciation for jazz. Transcending genres, the three-part series “Kings From Queens: The Run DMC Story” successfully encapsulates the birth of rap by delving into the journey of one of its legendary duos. Featuring insights from Joseph Simmons and Daryl McDaniels themselves, the documentary weaves interviews with hip-hop luminaries, past and present, offering a glimpse into the present lives of the artists. Clocking in at just under three hours, this series provides a captivating origin story for the nascent genre of rap.

“Kings From Queens” narrates the ascent of Run DMC in 1983, tracing the friendship between Joseph Simmons and Daryl McDaniels from their school days. With Simmons, the younger brother of renowned producer Russell Simmons, collaborating with DJs and McDaniels deeply immersed in comic books, their synergy was realized with the addition of Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell. The series unfolds the duo’s sudden rise to fame, showcasing the immense effort behind establishing rap as a legitimate and enduring musical form. Episode one sets the stage, featuring interviews with contemporaries like Ice Cube, Ice-T, The Beastie Boys, Ed Lover, and others, highlighting Run-DMC’s profound influence on the burgeoning hip-hop scene.

The subsequent episodes follow a conventional trajectory, delving into the duo’s experiences with success and the individual paths taken by Run and DMC. The narrative skillfully explores not only the musical evolution of Run-DMC but also their reciprocal influence with other artists. While the documentary addresses the tragic death of Jam Master Jay, it remains an inspiring tribute to the resilience of the duo. Airing on Peacock allows the series to authentically portray the complexities of rap music without sidestepping sensitive subjects.

Crafted by directors Simmons and McDaniels, with Kirk Fraser at the helm, “Kings From Queens” benefits from Fraser’s extensive experience in music videos and documentaries. The series boasts a rhythmic pace, featuring seamless transitions, animated graphics breathing life into archival material, and engaging interviews with renowned musicians. Striking the right balance between candor and sensitivity, the documentary refrains from sensationalism, navigating the darker chapters of Run-DMC’s legacy, including DMC’s struggles with addiction and Rev Run’s pursuit of a religious career.

In essence, “Kings From Queens: The Run-DMC Story” is a commendable homage to the journey of two iconic figures in music. Accessible to both rap novices and nostalgic enthusiasts, this documentary leaves a lasting impression, prompting a reevaluation of Run-DMC’s impact. My primary regret is that the series isn’t longer, and I hope it sparks interest in similar stories from recent music history. Overall, it’s a compelling watch that encouraged me to revisit my Run-DMC albums with fresh perspective.

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By acinetv