The Story of Pop: 1998 (Chapter 11)

Taking a weekly in-depth look back at all the biggest stories of the UK music charts as they sounded and looked a quarter of a century ago, this is The Story of Pop: 1998. This week: when one old school hip-hop classic was transformed into a chart slaying floorfiller…

  • Artist: Run DMC vs. Jason Nevins
  • Song: It’s Like That
  • Released: 09/03/1998
  • Writers / Producers: Darryl McDaniels / Joseph Simmons / Larry Smith / Russell Simmons / Jason Nevins
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 28

It says a lot about certain artists that, so influential are they, that their appeal continues to reach across generations. That is something that can definitely be said of Run DMC. Consisting of Joseph “Reverend Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell, these three titans of rap and hip-hop, all the way from Hollis in Queens, New York City, had first broken through in 1983.

Along with the likes of the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and LL Cool J, their sound was influential in ushering a new wave of hip hop, that was much harder, more minimalist, and had more of a streetwise sound, evidenced by their debut single, “It’s Like That”.

In their MCing, they were not afraid to tackle important messages in their songs about life in their area, about problems with unemployment, prices, deaths, society and politics, whilst also encouraging their audience to rise above these tough situations, work hard and have hope for a better future for all.

Fast forward fourteen years later, to late 1997, and the American DJ and remixer, Jason Nevins, picked up a copy of “It’s Like That” on a record trawl. He created a 10″ white label remix, which repositioned the song with an entirely different, yet uniquely brilliant, deep house element that turned it into a floorfilling smash.

It’s popularity in Europe quickly spread like wildfire, and it was clear that it was brewing into something big, solidified further when a new promo video was made, which depicted a face off in a disused warehouse between two rival breakdancing gangs, intercut with footage from the song’s original 1983 video, and thus set off a whole generation of people attempting to breakdance when at a school disco (as I was, back in 1998) or out clubbing (everyone else aged 17 and up back in 1998).

Charting for five weeks on sales of imported copies from the continent alone (it got as high as #63), when finally licensed for full UK release on the independent label Sm:)le Communications, on 9th March 1998, the pent up demand was quite extraordinary. Not less because of one other element surrounding it’s success in the UK, that has made it memorable for other reasons.

Up until this point, the Spice Girls had enjoyed an unbroken run of success, and from “Wannabe” topping the charts in July 1996, had seen all of their first six singles go straight to number one, and everything they touched seemed to turn to gold. But 1998 was, as we’ll discuss in more depth later on in the series, to be the moment they started to experience a wobble.

For despite being one of the most popular singles in their back catalogue, and selling a none too shabby 115,000 copies in its first week – enough for it to have been number one most other weeks that year – the Motown influenced “Stop” quite literally bought to an end their consecutive run of chart toppers.

It’s misfortune to come out the same week as “It’s Like That” meant it was the only single of their original run to miss out on the top spot, instead peaking at #2. But if there was any consolation for the Spices, then it was, at the very least, missing out to an absolute genuine monster.

First week sales of over 242,796 copies meant Run DMC and Jason Nevins debuted emphatically at number one. Staying there for six consecutive weeks, and selling over a million copies, it was also the third biggest selling single of 1998, and “It’s Like That” remains one of the 90s’ finest examples of how to take a classic and continue to make it fresh for new audiences.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 1998. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop1998.

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