As Run-DMC was on the journey to becoming the celebrated, pioneering Hip Hop group they are today, they had an ample amount of help from the people they grew up with in Hollis, Queens.
Runny Ray, who was part of the Hollis Crew, would handle a host of duties for Rev Run, DMC and Jam Master Jay while they were on the road — from carrying JMJ’s turntables to protecting their famous black bowler hats. He was also integral to the plot of Run-DMC’s 1988 film Tougher Than Leather.
Sadly, Runny Ray recently passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, a massive blow to Run-DMC and all those who loved him.
“Runny Ray is personification of the good, powerful, wonderful essence of our communities and culture!” DMC tells HipHopDX. “The hip, humorous, caring, awkward and perfect nature of the hood, ghetto or streets. The no conflict, no beef, no problem with anyone.
“The ‘we all can eat, participate and bring that something special everybody has.’ Every nation, state, city, neighborhood and street has a ‘Runny Ray,’ but there’s no Runny Ray like our Runny Ray! He was the star of Tougher Than Leather.”
DMC continued, “I’m so, so, so sad to say —’Who killed Runny Ray?’ [The tagline of Tougher Than Leather] Cancer did! And that cancer has killed, and continues to kill many, many, many of our loved ones. Let’s take that happiness, that goodness and blessing which is a magical power called love and spread it across the universe. That’s what Ray and all the other good souls we’ve lost represent.”
Famed music executive Lyor Cohen, who was Run-DMC’s tour manager during the 1980s, spent countless hours with Runny Ray and stayed close to him while he was in hospice. He, DMC and former Def Jam publicist Bill Adler were among the many who attended his funeral.
In the wake of his death, Cohen has penned a tribute to his late friend, painting a portrait of a kindhearted and selfless man who was always down for the cause.
Read the statement in full below.
Let’s all pay tribute to the roadies, production managers, road managers, lighting designers, sound engineers and all the people who help make artists successful….
Runny Ray was my friend. We worked together for three-and-a-half straight years. That’s almost 1300 days. From 1984 to 1987, I was Run-DMC’s road manager, and Ray carried the turntables and kept the needle safe. If a show happened to be within a certain radius of New York, we’d be joined by the Hollis Crew, but more than 95 percent of the time, it was just the five of us. We believed in speed. Before the curtain came down on any given show, we were in the car to the next town. Sometimes we played five gigs in one day. Once the gigs were in three different states. We crissed and crossed the globe, playing LiveAid in Philly, the jazz fest in Montreux, Switzerland, and everywhere in between.
Ray did his job his way. Oftentimes, he wore four hats on his head at once – his, Run’s, D’s, and Jay’s – while his hands were occupied by the guys’ turntable and records and a cigarette dangled dangerously from the tip of his lips.
Ray made all of us feel positive and happy. Like his sister Patty, he was always smiling. He was uncomplicated, and I never heard a bad word about anyone come out of his mouth.
Those were the days!!! We had no clear idea of the impact of our work, but we did know that it was ginormus. Uncomplicated by knowledge, boy, ignorance was bliss, and we just made it up as we went along. I blinked and the Eighties disappeared, and then the Nineties. Jay was murdered — may his soul rest in peace — the millennium arrived, and suddenly the world is full of rappers. And now, inconceivably, it’s 2020.
Ray lost his son a couple years back and a piece of him was lost with him. He always spoke to me about his best friend and ex wife, Lenore, and his daughter, Naomi. My God, he is so proud of her and he is convinced that she will do important things.
When Ray got sick, his homeboys rallied around him. They meant the world to him. He had dreams and his homeboys and family were all a part of it!!!! Ray was amazingly generous, and he planned for no one to be left behind. He used to come over to my house to watch football on Sundays and always brought my wife a gift.
Ray was a great man and loving man. When he first sought help for his pain, the problem was misdiagnosed and – baow! – he was hit by a vicious cancer. On the flip side, there’s another theory about what happened. His dear friend Jam Master Jay, who has a lot of gigs in heaven, was tired of carrying his own records and turntables, and he wanted Ray to join him.
God bless you, Ray.