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''Led by God to Do Me''

I had the freedom to make a Run album, because God loves me that way... I had to be smart enough to know to just make a record that sounds like [Run-DMC’s] Raising Hell. After losing legendary DJ Jam Master Jay to a gunshot in 2002, Run-DMC’s Run (a.k.a. Joseph Simmons) is stepping out next month with a new solo album, Distortion, co-produced by an unknown beatnut named Whiteboy. Expect the patented thunderous drum loops and rap-rock hybrid that gave Run-DMC classics King of Rock and Raising Hell their genre-freaking spines. But context is everything, and times have changed — especially now that Run is the Reverend Run, a Pentecostal minister channeling Tha Lord on the regular. And he’s doing it everywhere these days: Distortion’s first single, “Mind on the Road,” is getting play from EA Sports’ newest Madden NFL installment, and the good Reverend has landed — with help from brother Russell Simmons and P. Diddy — MTV’s first hip-hop reality show, Run’s House, due later this year. L.A. WEEKLY:Word is Distortion recaptures the ferocity of Run-DMC. REVEREND RUN: Led by God to do me. I love to use that Anita Baker quote; I think about it all the time. That’s what I did on this album. I didn’t get any new producers — no Pharrell, no Timbaland, no trying to impress the youth or anything like that. Just Run rapping over beats, some scratches and guitar riffs. Don’t worry about the time difference, don’t worry about the generation gap. What’s the nature of the distortion you’re exploring? It starts off: “I got a rhyme for the users/Those they call losers/Those that got bruises/Those they call useless/Blown their last fuses/Fooled but not foolish/I got a rhyme for the homeless/Homes that’s called hopeless/Stoned and still dopeless/Broke like the brokers.” It’s a record that talks about how the world is pretty distorted, how things have gone on since 9/11. Not just tell you that it’s all gone crazy, but that it’s also still in order. It’s just distorted, and people don’t understand what’s going on. It’s a time of uncertainty, with tsunamis and bombings.The record is a psychedelic release filled with beats, guitars and craziness. It has no set patterns. Sometimes the vocals go through a machine that makes them sound funny. It’s crazy and full of creativity. It’s great you’re avoiding the polish that’s dominating hip-hop today. That’s why I’m Reverend Run. That’s why it’s eccentric, that’s why it’s weird. That’s why it’s different. I’m not afraid to be rejected. Do you think today’s cats are trying too hard to sound like each other? I don’t really get into that. If it’s Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” I’m in love. Jay-Z drops a smash? I’m happy. Or if Cassidy sounds like Jay-Z, but the record’s called “I’ma Hustla,” and it feels good, I’m like, “Wow, he pulled that off.” If you can pull off a record that sounds like Jay-Z and you feel good because it looks good on BET, MTV or wherever you get it, I’m like, “Wow, great, good for you.” Do you think today’s hip-hop scene has the same grassroots urgency? Did the game change? I don’t know. I think things gotta change. There were periods when Public Enemy was doing black-power records, and there was a time when Mos Def and Talib Kweli had a real run with a De La Soul–type vibe. There is a time when it’s bling and diamonds, and there’s a time when Kanye West sneaks through with a social message. And there’s a time when Run ends up on MTV with a reality show, and he’s a reverend and has a new album coming out.I just get on the ride at the amusement park called “Change.” Be involved, groove with it, watch the youth do what they do. And watch God let rain what he wants to rain for these four years or however long bling-bling will last. Better than saying I’m tired of it, like the old man who did the same thing to me. [Old people used to say:] “They’re not wearing shoestrings and they’re rude,” forgetting that they wore dashikis and had picks in the back of their hair when they were young. REV. RUN | Distortion (Russell Simmons Music Group)