Ever since Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. hooked up for a different take on the rock band's ‘Walk This Way’ in 1986, there have, as recently as the 2017 unleashing of U2’s songs with Kendrick Lamar, been many marriages of rock and rap. Subgenres such as metal were irreversibly altered by such fusion that progressed through the Nineties and onwards, with many surprises and fruitful collaborations along the way. Some didn’t just push the envelope -- they tore it apart. Jump aboard with reckless disregard for boundaries. This is an eclectic brew containing major and influential players from the two titanic genres. As the rap-metal crew Limp Bizkit once declared, Results May Vary.
One of the godfathers of the beat-backed wordsmith’s game, Queensbridge emcee Rakim rose to prominence in a duo with his DJ, Eric B., back in 1987 with the excellent album Paid In Full, where his words adorned bare-bones instrumentals with impressive flows. Such ability is showcased on the weighty ‘Guilty All the Same’, a metallic track from Linkin Park’s self-produced, rough-around-the-edges LP The Hunting Party, during which Rakim declares, ”I’m still me.”
Q-Tip and KRS-One
One of the most laidback songs referenced herein, ‘The Outsiders’ (from 2004’s Around The Sun album) sees the coming together of two hugely influential standard-bearers for their respective genres: rock band R.E.M. and A Tribe Called Quest’s main man Q-Tip, both of whom had mixed up genres in their music prior to joining forces. Tip had Korn (who also collaborated with Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst) on his album Amplified. As early as 1991, Tip’s pioneering peer K.R.S. One (Boogie Down Productions’ emcee and the subject of a song by the reggae/rock group Sublime) opened Out of Time’s ‘Radio Song’ with R.E.M.
The man they call Marshall Mathers (A.K.A. Slim Shady) possessed at the turn of the century much crossover appeal to fans of rock and rap. Consequently there beckoned a remix of ‘The Way I Am’ featuring fellow offender of the masses, Marilyn Manson, as well as a performance of the hit ‘Stan’ at the Grammy Awards with the Seventies rocker and evergreen songwriter, Sir Elton John. Later, Eminem created The Marshall Mathers LP2 with celebrated rock and rap producer, genre-blender Rick Rubin who worked with Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith on the ‘Walk This Way’ remake and acquainted Public Enemy and their producers with the music of thrash outfit Slayer.
Chuck D and B-Real
The lyrical talisman for Public Enemy, Chuck D, has also appeared alongside members of Rage Against The Machine, three of whom who also form the instrumental backbone of Audioslave. Chuck was heard with them not only in the Nineties, but additionally as part of another group, Prophets Of Rage, also featuring B-Real. The latter emcee’s group Cypress Hill have collaborated with several rock artists including Prophets Of Rage guitarist Tom Morello, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda and System Of A Down’s Daron Malakian, all of whom are on the 2010 LP Rise Up.
Method Man and RZA
A strange, Portishead-esque remix of Texas’ pop/rock hit ‘Say What You Want’— produced by Wu-Tang’s wizardly beatmaker and rapper, the RZA (AKA Prince Rakeem), and featuring Method Man’s vocals — can be found on Texas’ Greatest Hits. That song stands in stark contrast to the skull-bashing takes on classic Wu – featuring such rock royalty as Tom Morello, Chad Smith, Incubus and System Of A Down – that are showcased on the compilation Loud Rocks (alongside heavy interpretations of hip-hop tracks including Mobb Deep’s ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ and Big Pun’s ‘Still Not A Player’).
Having worked, as a rapper, with Chris Martin on a single from Graduation, ‘Homecoming’, West has also collaborated with Paul McCartney (on ‘The Only One’ and ‘FourFive Seconds’, the latter with Rihanna as well). In addition to collaborating with 30 Seconds To Mars, singing on ‘Hurricane 2.0’, West has also joined forces with Mr. Hudson and Bon Iver, two acts that arguably played a kind of ‘soft rock’ earlier in their respective careers.
“I told Jay[-Z] I did a song with Coldplay. Next thing I know, he got a song with Coldplay,” says Kanye West on 2007’s ‘Big Brother’. In fact, eventually Jay remixed one song by the pop/rock band, with results showcased on ‘Lost+’, after crafting a new composition with the British quartet’s frontman Chris Martin entitled ‘Beach Chair’. However, these adventures were not Jay-Hova’s first foray into rock circles. In 2004 he appeared on the Collision Course mashup project with Linkin Park, an excursion that yielded ‘Numb/Encore’ amongst other tracks.
Pop/rock band OneRepublic, fronted by the great songwriter Ryan Tedder, got their big break as a collective thanks to the massive exposure given to Timbaland’s remix of their song ‘Apologize’. But OneRepublic were not the only rock band to work with Timbaland. On the same album from which their debut smash was taken appeared a shedload of guest stars, amongst them Fall Out Boy, The Hives, Elton John. The producer would go on to work with the frontman of both Soundgarden and Audioslave, the late Chris Cornell, as well as The Fray.
Jean could well be a contender for the title, Most Eclectic Hip-Hopper Prior to Kendrick Lamar. As a member of the Fugees, he takes the lead on a cover of ‘No Woman, No Cry’, its live version by Bob Marley And The Wailers’ being as much a contender for greatest ever soft rock song as it is a reggae classic. Surely the most unexpected element in hip-hop history, Kenny Rogers, the country and rock artist, appears on Jean’s The Ecleftic album singing a sample from ‘The Gambler’.