Joseph Simmons, aka Rev Run of Run DMC, got his start in the rap business as a 12-year-old, handing out flyers to promote shows for Kurtis Blow. At the time, Blow, whose real name is Kurt Walker, was being managed by Russell Simmons, Run’s older brother and founder of Def Jam Records. Run soon began scratching for Walker—but then broke his arm. Unable to continue as a DJ, he hooked up with his friend, Darryl McDaniels, to form Run DMC. Russell got them a record deal, and the rest is history.
Simmons talked about his career, Run DMC’s big Aerosmith cover, his MTV reality show “Run’s House,” and the spiritual epiphany that led him to become a reverend Oct. 22-23 at Fellowship Church in Grapevine, part of the church’s “Run to the House” series. Simmons didn’t hold back—talking freely, for example, about his search in the early days for “primo weed,” and how he and McDaniels didn’t think “Walk This Way” would ever catch on.
Rev Run and the Fellowship’s senior pastor, Ed Young, first connected via Twitter. They’ve since become friends. “I’m such a fan of what he does,” Simmons said. “The church is always so full and people are allowed to dress how they want, and he gives them time to roll.”
Simmons has endorsed a new book coming out in January by Young and his wife, Lisa, called “Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy With Your Spouse.” It’s based on the controversial 2008 challenge Young issued to married couples—to have sex daily for a week. The rapper, whose strong marriage was showcased for eight seasons on MTV’s “Run’s House,” said others in the business often seek him out for advice, including Will Smith, “who’s trying to save his marriage,” and Jay-Z and Beyonce.
Following one of the Fellowship services in Grapevine (full disclosure: I’m a member), I had a chance to sit down and talk with Simmons and his wife, Justine. Together they wrote the book, “Take Back Your Family: A Challenge to America’s Parents.”
FrontRow: What do you hope people will learn from your book?
Justine: I hope people can see that we are like a normal family, like everyone else. Everyone who has children goes through the same things, whether you have money or don’t have money. And maybe some of the experiences we have been through can help others in some way, by seeing how we dealt with it, how we handled it.
Rev Run: It shows that fame and fortune don’t always cure every problem. We wanted to let people know through the book, here’s how we raised our children, here’s how we did it. Here are some of the struggles we’ve been through, and that celebrities are not exempt from what happens.
FrontRow: And the show? What was the vision for that?
Rev Run: First, of all, God put it on a crazy channel, MTV. He put it where the people don’t expect to see any church people. So our thing was just to show them what we’re like. I had a little ego in it, too; I wanted to show people that we had a nice family, that [a rapper’s] kids weren’t as bad as you might think. Why would a show on MTV about a nice, happy-go-lucky family attract so many [viewers]? It proves that kids are kids, they want love, they want to see parents together, they love a good story about how kids get along with younger brothers and sisters and mommy and daddy. It was just a nice family, and [its success] showed that kids are into that type of stuff.
FrontRow: What was it like to have the cameras invading your lives?
Justine. We were really fine with the cameras. I think the biggest challenge was when the passing of Victoria happened. (The couple’s third child, Victoria, died shortly after her birth in 2006.) But I think God prepared us. He let us know the show wasn’t about us, personally; it was about us helping others. I knew right away that this is God and other people are going to be helped through our experience. And then we adopted Miley, I knew she was the one who was supposed to be with us.
FrontRow: Do you get feedback from parents?
Rev Run: We get feedback all the time. A lot of people say their families have come closer together because of the show and book.
Justine: A lot of fathers, especially, tell us thank you, that it helped make them see what they had. I think a lot of men didn’t realize, “Wait a minute, I have that family.”
Rev Run: They say, “I can go to the zoo with my kids, like Rev. I see him having fun with his kids doing normal things that I can afford and I can do.”
Front Row: So what’s next for you both?
Rev Run: I have a book coming out called “Manology” that I’m writing with Tyrese Gibson. (Tyrese describes it in an interview as “a revealing, uncomfortable truth coming from a married man’s perspective as well as a single man’s perspective.” It’s a second book for him; in 2010 he released the acclaimed “How to Get Out of Your Own Way.”)
Justine: And I still do [jewelry for] the Home Shopping Network. I’m doing fashion jewelry, affordable, beautiful jewelry.
Rev Run: There are some other things in the works, too, but we can’t talk about it until the deals are done.