The year rap music broke on the Billboard charts.

Def Jams Edition: The Year Rap Broke on the Charts

Def Jams Edition: The Year Rap Broke on the Charts

Half a century of pop-chart history.
Feb. 23 2018 6:21 PM

Hit Parade: The Def Jams Edition

Today, rap is ubiquitous on pop radio. But the genre’s first crossover hit required a little help from some out-of-favor rock stars.

Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Joseph “Run” Simmons, Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell, and Joe Perry of Aerosmith.

Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

Listen to Episode 10 of Slate’s Hit Parade:

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Watching this year’s Grammy Awards, it’s clear hip-hop is the dominant genre in popular music. But back in the 1980s, it was an influential but still underground style looking for a place on the charts—and some mainstream respect. That is, until Run-D.M.C. met Aerosmith. This month, how some out-of-favor ’70s rockers teamed up with the top crew in rap to remake an old hit—in the process, opening lanes for a trio of punks-turned-emcees and a witty hip-hop Lothario. We’re still feeling the reverberations today.

Podcast production by Chris Berube.