The first time I remember hearing a crossover from a rock band with rap elements was when Blondie released the song "Rapture" in 1980, in fact, that was the first ‘rap’ song to be aired on MTV. So did they know what they were doing, or was it just a one-off that happened to embed the ideas into heavier bands heads?
Maybe, but the idea had been floating around for a while...
Here we look at the timeline of songs and artists that combined the two genres as they developed into the mainstream.
The Stooges release "I Wanna Be Your Dog", one of the earliest songs to feature rap like vocals over a 3 chord progression of a punk/proto/psychedelic 3-minute song that was just as weird as it was experimental. So whilst I can’t totally discredit this, we have to jump forward over a decade to see the real beginnings of cross-overs.
LL Cool J releases Rock The Bells which fuses together rapping over a distorted guitar sample, however, it’s not really a cross-over with a metal or rock band per se, none the less, the ideas were getting tossed around as rap artists looked for new sounds.
1985 also delivered us the unmistakable and instantly recognisable style of Red Hot Chili Peppers who combined funk and punk with rap style vocals from Anthony Kiedis. This style is still evident in RHCP sound today, and few have imitated.
Aerosmith’s career was given a solid shot in the arm when they re-recorded their 1975 hit "Walk This Way" with RUN-DMC, and that seems to be the most famous jump off point for the melding of rap with rock to create something unique. This was definitely a track that opened up rap to a wider market.
1986 also gave us the debut album from The Beastie Boys, Licenced To Ill, on which the band most certainly crossed rap with metal on songs like "Fight For Your Right" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn", the latter featuring Kerry King from Slayer wailing on a solo.
Anthrax record their cheesy crowd favourite "I’m The Man". Widely considered to be the first ACTUAL rap metal song, it’s a novelty song that parodies the style of RUN-DMC (with their blessing of course).
Ice T creates Body Count, a heavy metal rap band, and whilst performing at Lollapalooza does a set with half his rap songs and half heavy metal songs. The crowd goes wild.
1990 was also when Faith No More released Epic, and this new genre of rap metal started to get legs. Even though the band isn’t defined as a rap metal band, the song found it’s way to number 9 on the Billboards charts and the interest in what could be done with the genre was growing faster and faster.
Anthrax were at it again, this time with Public Enemy for a new take on their song "Bring The Noise". Initially, Chuck D said when he heard of the request from Anthrax, he "didn't take them wholehearted seriously", but after the collaboration was done, "it made too much sense". Damn straight it did.
Rage Against The Machine created a whole new world of sounds with their debut album. Politically charged rap verses spat viciously by front-man Zach de la Rocha and backed up with a fusion of metal funk was a huge injection of fresh sound.
The hugely successful Judgement Night Soundtrack put the most unsuspecting of artists together to form an absolutely incredible soundtrack for the film. The pairing of Helmet with House Of Pain, Slayer with Ice-T, Cypress Hill and Pearl Jam to name just a few on the tracklist, made for pure adrenalin.
Biohazard, (who’d been around for quite some time at this stage) were getting noticed for their 3rd album, State Of The World Address, and whilst they had been mixing genres in earlier years, it was their song "Tales From The Hard Side" that capitalised on the rap metal movement.
We were introduced to Limp Bizkit and their debut album Three Dollar Bill Y’all, the single "Counterfeit" got them noticed, and (this is where the lines blur) they crossed over from rap/metal, and nu-metal. However, their stronger hip hop vibes separate them from a band like Korn.
Hip Hop group Cypress Hill release Skull And Bones, a 2 disc set with pure hip hop on one disc, and rap metal on the other (featuring members of Fear Factory and RATM). Cypress Hill had fused their version of rap and rock since the mid-90s.
We’ve hit peak cross-over times by now, and even Australian band, 28 Days was being noticed for their fusion between heavy punk and rap, especially with their hit "Rip It Up".
This was a heady time for the genre, and before we knew what was happening, Linkin Park released their debut, Hybrid Theory, the highest selling debut album of any band in the 21st century. An album that mixed nu-metal with rap metal, and like 28 Days, featured a DJ to incorporate scratching, breakdowns and samples. Definitely an album worth a revisit.