On the night when
His sartorial style inspired by his heroes, from the black leather jacket, shirt and pants, to the black fedora tilted on his head, Eminem bounded onto the stage with a pimping swagger and crossed his arms in a Run-DMC style as he leaned into the microphone.
"Two turntables and a microphone, that's all it took to change the world," the reclusive Detroit MC began. "Three kings from Queens made rap music in the b-boy stance a global phenomenon," he said of the group's members, rappers Joseph "Reverend Run" Simmons and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, and late DJ Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell. (Head to the MTV Newsroom to read the e-mail JMJ's close friend Eric "Shake" James sent to MTV News while he witnessed the ceremony.)
After the first time he heard the group's "hard beats and bold rhymes," at age 11, Eminem recalled that "something about the big drums and the strong raps that grabbed hold of my ears and changed my life." Clearly humbled by the honor, Slim Shady's speech had a lyrical groove as he added, "Something fresh, something tough. Something dangerous. Something beautiful and something unique. Two turntables and a microphone," staring out at the crowd and rubbing his hands together as if savoring the treat of setting up his heroes for the glory they so richly deserve.
Recalling how their 1985 video for "King of Rock" had them crashing a fictional Rock and Roll Museum and being told they didn't belong in such a museum, Eminem said, "And 25 years later, man, here we are. They didn't take no for an answer, much the same way as they didn't give up when much of the world refused to recognize rap as real music. They were the first rock stars of rap. They were the first movie stars of rap. They were the first rap group played on MTV. ... They were the baddest of the bad, the coolest of the cool. Two turntables and a microphone."
Em talked about not knowing what he wanted to do in life while growing up in Detroit and then hearing Run-DMC and realizing "that you could write your own rules, which is something that still inspires me, as well as every rap other artist, constantly." And then the crowd finally caught on to the rhythm of Slim's callback refrain and repeated along with him, "Two turntables and a microphone."
"I remember being in ninth grade when Raising Hell came out," he recalled, and wryly added, "Two years later, I still remember being in ninth grade when Tougher Than Leather came out. I had skipped school, if you can believe that, to go buy Tougher Than Leather on cassette the day it came out. As soon as I heard 'Run's House,' man, it was pretty much a rap for me. Marshall Mathers became Eminem. It was the first time Run-DMC had changed my life, but it wouldn't be the last. Two turntables and a microphone."
Bringing the group's indelible career into the present, Em paid tribute to late DJ Mizell's mentorship of Slim's protégé, 50 Cent. "Jay shaped the way 50 wrote, the way he rapped and the way he thought," Em said of Fif, whose early works were overseen by Mizell. "Again, Run-DMC changed my life. Without them I wouldn't have met one of my closest friends."
Eminem closed by saying that the group's impact can be felt everywhere. Echoing one of the group's most famous couplets from "King of Rock," Em concluded, "There's three of them, and if you grew up on hip-hop like I did, they are the Beatles."
With their friends and family surrounding them onstage, Rev Run first thanked Mizell's mother for always allowing the young trio to practice at her home and never asking them to turn down the volume. He also thanked his brother, hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, who convinced the group to change their name from the Sure Shot Three and to mash rock with their rap.
Paying touching homage to his adoptive parents, DMC urged the crowd to give love to foster children. "If my birth mother never gave me up, my real mother would have never came and got me," he said, hitting on one of the topics that has become his abiding passion since the group broke up in 2002 following Jay's still unsolved murder. "There would be no Run-DMC; there would be no rap music the way it is today. ... But forget about all that celebrity stuff, y'all. This little boy, Darryl McDaniels, wouldn't be standing here tonight telling y'all that. The best thing y'all can do is give love to a kid, because that kid may grow up and be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one day."
Mizell's mother, Connie Mizell, also reminisced lovingly about how her late son tore up every one of her turntables learning how to scratch, and she didn't mind. And how "the boys" would be tearing it up in the next room as she studied in the adjoining room, and she didn't mind. "Nothing happens before time," she said. "It wasn't time when Jason was living. It was time after he'd gone. Because you see the blessings is still going on. He is not forgotten."
The group did not perform at the ceremony, in keeping with their pledge not to play live again following Mizell's death.