I WAS THERE: KDAY’s Greg Mack Recalls the Run-DMC “Raising Hell” Tour Riot at Long Beach Arena (1986).
In the summer of 1986, Run-D.M.C. were on the latter leg of their Raising Hell Tour with the Beastie Boys, Whodini, LL Cool J, and the Timex Social Club when they arrived in Cali on August 17th to perform at the Long Beach Arena. That night’s show would live in infamy as a wide-scale melee between rival gangs in and out of the venue left 42 concertgoers injured. In the aftermath of the mini-riot, live rap concerts also took a hit as they developed an unwanted notoriety of being unsafe events. During that time, Greg Mack was operations manager/program director for Los Angeles’ KDAY 1580 AM — the first 24 hour rap station on the air. Also an on-air personality, “Mack Attack” witnessed firsthand the event that became a stain on hip-hop for years to come. The following is an excerpt from an interview with Greg Mack that originally appeared in our Book of Rap Lists, in which he recalls the mayhem that ensued…
Greg Mack: A bad memory was when (KDAY) hosted the Raising Hell Tour in 1986, at the Long Beach Arena. Run-D.M.C. was headlining and right in the middle of Whodini’s performance, a body comes flying over the rail and onto the stage. Some of the gangs had thrown somebody over the rail. All of a sudden, everybody’s fighting. While all hell was breaking loose, I was backstage talking with Vanessa Williams and she was like, “I’m not gonna let it ruin my evening. I’m just gonna sit here and talk.” I was like, “Hey, I got people out there!”—’cause the Mixmasters, a group that I was working with at the time, was out in the audience. So I told the security guys, “Help me get out there and get ’em!” And one guy was like, “Look dude, they pay me minimum wage. I ain’t riskin’ my ass for you or nobody to go out there in that audience.” See, the gangs were signaling out the security first. So if you had a security uniform on, you automatically had an ass-whipping coming. So the security guys actually were pullin’ off their security shirts just so they wouldn’t be identified.
So I ran out there, pushin’ and shovin’. I found the Mixmasters, ran through backstage and out to the car. And there’s a gangbanger parked next to me in a big ol’ Cadillac whippin’ out his shotgun, sayin’ “Let’s go get ’em, Cuz!” Man, we jumped in the car and I lowered down so low, I could barely see over the steering wheel, just in case those guys shot. I was just hauling. And, unfortunately, the people that were inside couldn’t get out as quickly as I did because they had to go through the regular doors. As you can imagine, there was mass hysteria. It was the last rap concert Long Beach ever had. It was a real sad time for rap, period.