the first album i ever bought: run-dmc – self-titled

hopscotch music festival: toon & the real laww

The First Album I Ever Bought is an occasional guest post series where friends, family, and strangers talk about, well, the first album they ever bought. A new piece runs every Wednesday, and sometimes more often. If you’d like to submit, please see the guidelines here.

I bought my first album around the time that music as I knew it was changing. Bought, however, is an inaccurate representation of this acquisition. One glorious afternoon in 1984 I walked into the Rose’s Department Store in High Point, North Carolina with my mother and emerged with Run-DMC’s self-titled first record stuffed in my corduroys. Cassette. Weird plastic holder and all. My grade school friends and I were in awe of the sounds that were emanating from North Carolina A&T’s WNAA at that time and I raced home to listen to this cassette in its entirety, especially “Hard Times” which I had heard so many times on late night college radio that year. Cassette in the deck and earphones on… I was disappointed. Why didn’t this music sound like when I listened to it on the radio? Was there a problem with the cassette, my father’s old stereo or had my ears suddenly become incapable of hearing this music. I was disappointed and thought my break dance dreams were over. They were over (before they started) but not because of the music. I realized what I was missing while listening to this record was the static. WNAA at the time was a 10-watt low power station and I was at the very edge of the footprint. I had heard “Hard Times” so many times on that station that it seemed almost off-putting to hear the music as clearly as Russell Simmons and Larry Smith intended. That experience led me to hear music with a critic’s skepticism and informs the way I listen to music to this day. In more important revelations, the experience with that cassette and listening to WNAA during that formative time also gave me a musical foundation that went beyond the country music that dominated my childhood. Music is powerful and WNAA and Run-DMC made me a better person by opening my young eyes to diversity that may not have existed for me in that time and place if not for it. Run-DMC’s first record will always be special to me and to this day, I still try to rap “Sucker M.C.’s” all the way through in the shower.”I cold chill at a party in a b-boy stance/ And rock on the mic and make the girls wanna dance”.

Micha Ward is a Director of the Chicago Independent Radio Project and runs Chicago-centric label Notes + Bolts.

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