It will never be: Rock and rap



Yesterday I found myself watching Lil Wayne Unplugged on MTv. This was Lil Wayne , in all his shirtless glory, rockin’ out with a live band behind him. The result was exactly what it sounded like. It was fucking terrible and completely missed the mark. But , it’s not totally Wayne’s fault. No, the mixture of Rock and Rap has long been a complete mess. In fact, I can honestly say it’s never worked on any level. Let’s take a brief look back and pick apart the pieces of the horrific fusion…shall we?

The first song that I can think of that SORT OF used this would be Blondie’s Rapture.

Now, this song is awesome. There is no denying it. So, the fact that one of the first fusions of these two musical genre’s works would work strongly against any argument I could have, right? Well, no. Cause this is as much a “Rock” song as it is a “reggae” song. This is not what I’m talking about. It’s also a drugged out Debbie Harry just doing whatever the fuck she wants cause he was chilling with Basqiat and Fab Five Freddy all the time. To me , this doesn’t count.

Now, this song, is the real beginning of it all…

When this came out, people we’re in fucking awe. Personally, I loved it. I was also a kid who didn’t know shit about anything. Hearing it now, it’s incredibly corny and pretty embarrassing for both artists involved (that says a lot considering Aerosmith is responsible for some of the worst music ever made). But still, as cheap as this song was, it didn’t really exploit how bad the mixture of the two genre’s could be.
You could say the Beastie boys touched on the rock/rap but I always felt they veered more towards the funk end of things (not counting most of “License to Ill” just because, well, they were white and them using rock was expected). Even when they did do rock tinged things, it felt natural. I think that’s a key word here:natural. Rock/rap has always sounded forced. Like two guys who know nothing about each other but decide to move in together anyway.

Anyway, with the success of “Walk this way”, other groups touched on the mixture…Then, along came Rage Against the Machine.

Now…I realize that a bunch of you are probably big Rage fans. That’s fine. But, coming from the hip hop side of things, there is no music I like less than this kinda shit. I know they had a message and stood for important things (or whatever), but this shit was just Nu-metal before Nu-metal existed. To me, it didn’t matter what Zack De La Rocha was saying cause the way he said it was making my ears bleed. Musically, they were fine for what they were. A hard rock band. Again, this is the rap viewpoint of things. I could perfectly see how a rock person could find the value in this. But, to me, if you told me you liked hip hop AND Rage in 1997, I would roll my eyes at you. Purist snobbery? definitely, but I still can’t stand that shit when I hear it now so I must have been on to something.

Next up, was the Judgement Night soundtrack. This was the soundtrack to a shitty movie that no one saw. The premise of this soundtrack was taking the hottest rappers of that time and meshing them with the hottest rock bands. What came out of it was a debacle (excluding the genuinely dope Teenage fanclub/de la soul song). Truly awful shit that I will occasionally hear people stand up for.But the fact remains it came across as either THIS (a hardcore band blasting their music while some rappers pitifully tried to keep up with the energy by screaming his half-baked lyrics) OR THIS (some wishy-washy jam band sounding crap that just happened to have a rapper on it. The kind of thing you might hear at a frat party with a live band in Vermont).
The unfortunate thing about this soundtrack is that it opened the flood gates. In no time, every suburban dude with a public enemy album and a guitar thought it was their time to show how versatile and eclectic they could be. This led to all sorts of terrible bedroom productions that no one ever heard , as well as, Nu-metal. Yes, the Limp Bizkit and Linkin park era. The same era that inspired that Party fun action Committee classic “Whatchu know now” (clip unavailable on youtube). By all accounts this shit is some of the worst music ever created. Just pure crap on every level. This mainly because it was a slap in the face to both genre’s. It was simultaneously terrible rap AND rock. The fucked up thing is that some rap dudes sort of embraced a few of these acts. Method Man , Dj Premier and Jay-z did songs with them and gave them way more cred then they should have ever had. I don’t know how it happened (yes i do. it’s green and rhymes with bunny) cause there was a time when a bunch of Whiny whigz from so-cal suburbs would get curbed for even trying to rap…let alone raps kicked over Fat albert’s junkyard band level death metal riffs played by dudes with dolphin tattoos and septum pierces.

Luckily, this genre died out fairly quick but it left its mark. There are still people trying to find that perfect balance between rap and rock that will simply never exist. I don’t understand people’s need to try to force together two separate things that have nothing to do with each other. There’s no fault in taking aspects of another genre and sprinkling it in to whatever you do, but , when dealing with rapping, full on mashing that shit together like you’re trying to make some sort of musical jambalaya is just a bad look. Now, I understand how it happens. It’s in the nature musicians to want to expand their sound. Stepping outside of genre’s is often an easy way to achieve this. Unfortunately, when rap is involved, it would appear all bets are off.

Oh, and just to clarify, it can work when done in good taste and sparingly. Before you all flip you wigs on some “But EL-P worked with Trent Reznor!” shit, recognize that it NOT what I’m talking about. You know damn well what I’m talking about it but some people feel the need to knit pick about shit like this just to be contrary. So, yeah, save that shit.

On a final note, allow me to leave you with this:

If that whole studio got hit with a missile, the world would be an infinitely better place. I can’t help but imagine what Metallica must have been thinking while they sat there watching that clown ass motherfucker Swizz Beats pretend to know what he’s talking about. I mean, as terrible as Metallica has gotten, they’re still Metallica. Swizz Beats just figured out how to not use casio demo settings to make his beats. Stick to club bangers, bro. I sure as hell can’t make them.

But I digress, regardless of my feelings towards these artists, it’s just time we, as musicians (I use that word loosely, including myself) just stop trying to make this happen. The bottom line is, as simple as hip hop is to make, you do have to understand it on a certain level to make it successfully. Same goes for rock. Just going off of what you’ve heard in passing over the years is not enough. Just because you owned a Run DMC and a Tribe Called Quest album does not mean you know what makes good hip hop. Ever wonder why when (famous) rappers talk about the music they like that’s not rap, it’s shit like Coldplay, Linkin Park and John Mayer? It’s because they have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about. Conversely, I bet any of those dudes could write a novel on why Rakim was one of the best rappers ever. Basically, go with what you know. Otherwise, we’ll just have a bunch of ill-informed assholes making music they have no clue about just to do it…oh wait…too late.

73 thoughts on “It will never be: Rock and rap

  1. You’re an idiot. You put up three videos and left out numerous examples of when the fusion of genres has worked. Like maybe Anthrax doing “Bring the Noise” with Public Enemy. Or any of Jay-Z’s live show’s from the last three years when he has a full band

    • PLEASE indulge me.
      First off that PE anthrax combo was fucking terrible. Just cause it happened at the pinnacle of Public Enemy doesn’t mean it worked. I didn’t know asingle person who was a hip hop head at that time that was into that bullshit.
      Secondly, the Jay-z and roots combo s not at all what I’m talking about. YOU MUST KNOW that. The roots are a hip hop band you fucking moron. And if it wasn’t the roots backing him up on that tour, it was a band playing his beats for him, not some hard rock shit.
      OR you’re talking about Jay-z and Linkin Park, in which case, LOL at you liking that crap.
      AGAIN, please alert me to the great rap/rock fusion. Not Rappers using live instruments, cause that’s wildly different than what I’m talking about her.

  2. Good call on this atrocity. And yes, rappers generally have the worst taste in music. Likely because they have their heads so far up their own asses they don’t have time to develop good taste.

    • Best comment here so far. Others can’t seem to understand the shit they read.

      Always hated the rock/rap mash up shit and always hated Swizz Beats, that smarmy little bastard.

  3. Rapper getting on tracks have always made me laugh. They be be saying some of the most serious and relevant stuff on it, but it always made me laugh. I’d like to think it’s a 1:5 success ratio though. I’m not gonna lie, I think Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park made stuff that worked. But it’s when rappers who were hip-hop rappers first that try to go hard on a metal track or something, that’s when it’s hilarious. Cypress Hill made a metal album…all my friends ate that ish up! I laughed.

    What’s even more funny though is when rappers these day do it and think they’re on some groundbreaking new turf.

  4. Yeah I have to say the Judgement Night Soundtrack did not really stand the test of time, but I still have that De La track on my ipod. It was funny how in the 90s when people found out you liked rap the immediate follow up was “do you like rage”. So if this is how you feel about rap and metal, how do you feel about hip hop over folk? I mean I like the track Aesop putout with Kimya, but everyone else I have played it for says its terrible. Maybe I am too loyal a fan to accept that its wac.

    • Well, I’m a fan of both aes and Kimya so it works for me. I could see how people would not be into it but i feel like it works cause they’re both just doing their own thing naturally. The difference with bringing hard rock into rap is that it’s just a completely different energy. Sure, Onyx and biohazard mesh in that sense but you also gotta remember that , from a rap music perspective, Biohazard kinda sucks.

  5. Good book (even if you hate books) is The Big Payback. It’s a history of just about everything ever in hip hop. Anyways, the story with “Walk this Way” was that Run DMC wanted to use just the guitar riff from the beginning in one of their own tracks. Rick rubin persuaded them to instead cover the Aerosmith song. Since Aerosmith was doing incredibly poorly at the time and everything thought they were done, they were more than happy to do the crossover. Run told Rick he had absolutely no idea what the song was about. Which makes sense, because Stephen Tyler is fucking insane.

  6. Also, what do you think about jazz bands that have rappers as front men? I’ve heard one local group that was really exciting, and one that was really embarrassing. But the embarrassing one was fronted by a whig, so that doesn’t really count.

  7. I know you go out of your way to distance yourself from DJ Shadow, but what are your thoughts on UNKLE Psycience Fiction. There are some pretty okay harder tracks (one with your boy Kool G Rap. And what about rock heads singing over hip hop tracks?

    • Oh, there are some dope cuts on that album. And, again, that’s not really what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about rappers with live hard rock bands. The blending of those two genres. What shadow did, El-p has done , the Black keys did ect…It’s a different thing that what I’m referring to.

  8. i remember when “walk this way” came out, my brother said he and the fellas were always playing the original by aerosmith in the parks ‘back in the day’, because of the break beats, etc…so it was a popular record for them to cut-up. so when this mesh came out with them and run-dmc, it got him and the others reminiscing. but i still don’t think he thought it lived up to what it could and should have been.

  9. What did you think of that rock song KRS did on I Got Next? It’s not a great song but when it came out I thought it worked better than most of that kind of shit.

    • I mena, I didn’t even like “i got next” as an album so that rock song didn’t even have a chance. To be honest though, I have no recollection of it.

  10. Music is obviously your passion and career so it’s no surprise you have such a strong opinion on the topic. You came across steaming mad and I was thoroughly entertained!! Any chance you could do a piece on fat chicks or nazis?? Anything that really gets under your skin.

    • I will see your fat chicks and nazi’s and raise you “dudes who walk in public places playing their music on portable speakers.”

      C’mon!

      • Now that is something i can work with…and have in the past. I dunno where it is in the archives but dickheads who play music in public out of little stereos have not been overlooked.

  11. “Just cause it happened at the pinnacle of Public Enemy doesn’t mean it worked. I didn’t know asingle person who was a hip hop head at that time that was into that bullshit.”

    Isn’t that expected? Why would a hip-hop head be into it. By the nature of the label you applied to them of course they wouldn’t be into a ROCK/rap fusion.

    I think “Bring the Noise” worked because it could have stood on its own as a very good metal song even without Chuck D rapping over it, and I think that’s why it worked. When you have two different bands working together they are able to put any pretensions aside (pretension, by the way is something you seem to be full of, at least from reading your blog) which is why it worked. It wasn’t a blatant attempt to cross over into a genre to make that stuff that rhymes with bunny. Also, spare me the vitriol if you actually bother to read and reply to this.

    Also, I can’t really take you seriously when you discuss a genre other than hip-hop and then say you’re a fan of Kimya Dawson. She’s the fucking worst.

    • “Isn’t that expected? Why would a hip-hop head be into it. By the nature of the label you applied to them of course they wouldn’t be into a ROCK/rap fusion.”

      THAT’S MY ENTIRE POINT!!!!!!! I’m a rap dude. Not a rock dude. So, FOR ME, this mixing of genre’s will never work. Is this really that complicated?
      Obviously, you disagree with me. That’s fine. But trying to convince me that PE/anthrax song wasn’t terrible just isn’t happening.
      ALSO, LOL at you bringing “pretentiousness” into an argument about rock/rap fusion. That’s like calling someone a snob for not liking fried twinkies.
      Oops, forgot spare the vitriol, bro!

      • I do apologize. I tend to forget that you are talking about YOUR feelings on these issues. I also respect the fact that you are open to dissenting opinions. I do agree with you 99.99% of the time and your blog is one of the 3 or 4 websites I visit on a regular basis. If you’re not into rock it feels like a slap in the face of hip hop music. I get that. Anyway, keep up the good work.

      • Word man. I appreciate your mature response to my pithy comments. To be honest, I’ve never been even remotely into hard rock so when it mixes with hip hop, it makes me sad.

  12. well put

    why are so many of you challenging this? no exceptions

    also, I appreciate the rage against the machine comments. they suck farts

  13. i think M.O.P. rock album Mash Out Posse had some pretty decent high points. It’s more natural for a group that sounds like M.O.P. though.

    I wouldn’t mind hearing somebody slow down and chop up some death metal and blend it with some acapellas from Mob Deep the Infamous but that could wither work or not work.

    • Kinda. I mean, I love that song but it isn’t rock and roll and all. It’s more them rocking over some electronica shit. I get where you’re coming from with that though.

  14. “Ever wonder why when (famous) rappers talk about the music they like that’s not rap, it’s shit like Coldplay, Linkin Park and John Mayer? It’s because they have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about.”

    Thank you, THANK YOU, for confirming my suspicions.

    • That’s a recent thing with mainstream rappers though. You also have KRS One randomly showing up on a Sick of it All record or Chuck D on a Sonic Youth song or RZA talking about The Fall and so forth. Rappers and producers nowadays grew up listening to rap whereas rappers and producers of yesteryear grew up listening to random and that was reflected in the music.

      • I feel like, nowadays, it’s more likely that the artists doing these genre meshing songs might actually like one and other’s music. But I have a hard time imagining KRs bumping some Sick of it all.

  15. For some reason you don’t need the “e” when you make a judgment. Or on Judgment Day. Or when you’re the white girl in Jerry Springer’s audience…

  16. what about fort minor they had a Rock and rap feel to it and there album was one of the best album rap i have listened to in my opinion.

  17. Wow this has a lot of comments haha.

    I get what you’re talking about meshing things that shouldn’t go together and people forcing them to go together.

    I think rage was a lot like the beastie boys in the manner that they were just making punk rock basically but they were music head type people and that’s just what came out. No force just kind of what their area in California spawned.

    Also I think there are music heads in the world who know their hip hop in and out and indie rock etc

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