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Checks, Thugs and Rock & Roll is a political album, DMC said. "I'm a little older now, and I need to start using this rap vehicle to address the things that are going on in the world and society. Teenage pregnancy, gun control, violence, from everything that happened with Columbine to even it's cool to get your drink on and stuff like that but you've got to be responsible. You just can't make these videos with these images and not expect these kids to not emulate it, but when they watch the same videos over and listen to the same records over, people learn from repetition."

  "... people learn from repetition."
The title of the album has a lot to do with the shift in the reasons people rap.

"Checks, meaning everybody knows rap is a big business now. Most of these kids that come up to me are like, 'I wanna make a rap record so I can get money.' Back in the day, a kid would come up to me just because he had fun, he wanted to spit, and he just wanted to be creative and innovate. Then I call it Thugs 'cause everybody has this thugged-out image, which is good 'cause in rap you gotta be a little aggressive. You gotta have some ego. But some of these cats are taking it too far, and I think that's giving a negative message to the kids. Then I call it Rock & Roll 'cause I think that's the thought pattern. ... No, I think that's the idea that's missing from hip-hop. We can rap about anything we wanna rap about. It's creative. It's innovative, and we record, produce and write songs the same way composers do. We're doing the same things the Rolling Stones and Van Halen did all those years."

And, like any big rock band, Run-DMC have occasionally been asked to pitch a product. This past weekend, fans got one last look at Run-DMC together when a Dr. Pepper commercial featuring all three members and LL Cool J aired during the NFC Championship game.

"It's super special," LL said of the ad. "I loved those dudes from the bottom of my heart when he was alive, so him dying makes [the ad] even more special. ... These are guys who basically taught me how to perform and basically put me under their wing for years and took me around the world and showed me living a new way of life and helped me change my life."

  LL Cool J/Run-DMC
Dr. Pepper Commercial: "Be You"
LL dismissed any suggestion that it was no longer appropriate to air the ad, in which he's shown paying respect to the rap pioneers. "I know that Jay will want people see him doing what he did in that commercial, because that was the whole point. He wouldn't have done it if he didn't want it to come out."

"It's one of his last great performances," DMC said. "They was like, 'We don't know if we want to release the commercial,' and I said, 'No, people would love to see Jay and what he did.' That helps me go, 'All right, he's not dead,' because they'll say, 'Where's Jay?,' and I'll say, 'Right there on TV, DJing.' He's alive, but not physically. It's all about the spirit and the soul, so he has eternal life."


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