The Rev. Run calls on youth to reach for their dreams

Hip-hop artist speaks to students on inspiration

February 24, 2011

Find your passion and follow it. That is the message the Rev. Run instilled in hundreds of students and guests Tuesday, Feb. 22, at the PE Event Center on the Auraria Campus.

“When you dream, you’re the only one in the dream. Nobody’s in the bed with you,” he says. “There are dream killers out there. . . . When you’re a pioneer; that means it’s never been done before and nobody’s going to know what you’re doing.”

The Rev. Run has been inspiring youth for decades, first in his music as the “Run” in the revolutionary rap group Run-DMC, then by example as a reverend, a father, a rapper and a sage. “I don’t talk the talk; I walk the walk,” he explains. “I’m set up to show people the way. People give more respect to what you do than what you say.”

Believing in yourself and your passion is crucial. “When you love yourself, people have to accept that,” he stressed, adding that you can’t go half way and you can’t just take a stab at it, “You have to do it with conviction.”

The Rev. Run was on campus as part of the Student Activities Office of the University of Colorado Denver’s distinguished lecture series. Omar Montgomery, director of Black Student Services, conducted an interview and Q&A session highlighting the reverend’s journey and how it relates to the path of today’s youth. “God doesn’t show you the staircase, He shows you one step,” the Rev. Run stressed. “And you’ve got to keep walking.”

In discussing his evolution from rapper to reverend, the Rev. Run noted he was influenced by young, spiritual leaders in his community. “I saw this could work. I saw this was fly. I was under good teachers doing all the right things,” he said. “I was so confident in what I was doing, I knew I could meet the masses. . . . Being holy comes out of being whole.”

He challenged the students to do the same. “Mentorship…what you see, you become. Find someone you look up to…be fascinated and emulate those principals and you will have success.

Born Joseph Simmons in Queens, N.Y., the Rev. Run started out as a disc jockey. His brother, Russell Simmons, formed the hip-hop management company, Rush Productions, in the early 1980s. By the mid-1980s, Simmons had formed the pioneering record label Def Jam with Rick Rubin. Encouraged by his brother, the Rev. Run and his friend Darryl McDaniels formed the rap group Run-DMC. DJ Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) completed the group’s lineup in 1982 and the act went on to sell millions of albums, open numerous doors for hip hop and blend rock into the mix with their hit cover of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” in 1986.

More than 20 years later, the Rev. Run continues to promote positive messages through his website, through Twitter as well as through television. In late 2005, the Rev. Run signed a deal with MTV for the reality show Run’s House, a look into the daily life of his family.

As a father and a rapper, he stresses that rap artists need to take responsibility for their lyrics and their influence. However, the Rev. Run remains optimistic about the youth of today. “It’s not rap that influences youth; it’s rough out there and rap comes out of that,” he said. “The youth, they’ll figure out what’s good and what’s not good.”