A brief history of rap rock

Nowadays, nobody flinches when artists like Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti and Travis Scott sample rock music or use guitar distortion on their vocals, and many people are fine with their favorite rock artist rapping a verse or two (even though it's often pretty painful to listen to).

However, there was a time when MTV went out of their way to make sure rap and rock didn't mix.

Of course rock has it's history in black music, evolving as it did from the blues of black musicians of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard. However, when black artists started to popularize rap music in the early 80s, a lot of the people in power in the music industry didn't want anything to do with it.

Luckily, artists like Run-D.M.C. and Chuck D broke down the wall, single handedly bringing rap rock into existence and changing the course of both genres.

Run-D.M.C. - King Of Rock

Run-D.M.C. came out of the gate hard with what's still one of their best known tracks, their 1983 debut single "It's Like That" - but it was third single, 1994's "Rock Box", that got the rap rock ball rolling.

Featuring the band's standard DMX drum machine alongside searing guitar courtesy of Eddie Martinez (who also featured on David Lee Roth's "California Girls"), the song's video went on heavy rotation on MTV.

Up to that point the network had found hip hop videos to be too "threatening", but with familiar guitar sounds and the band's easy style, MTV decided to finally take a chance and expose their audience to hip hop.

The following year, Run-D.M.C. followed up with King Of Rock, again featuring Eddie Martinez. This time the video started with the band being refused entry to the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame before reminding them (in a roundabout way) that rock and roll started with black artists - "I'm the King Of Rock, there is none higher - sucka MCs should call me sire!"

Indeed the band was finally recognized in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2009, becoming the first rap group added to the museum.

Public Enemy And Anthrax - Bring The Noise

In the years after King Of Rock, there were a huge number of rap rock releases, from the Beastie Boys ganging up with Slayer's Kerry King for No Sleep Til Brooklyn to LL Cool J sampling AC-DC on Rock The Bells, but the next leap forward, and probably one of the best loved rap rock songs of all time, came after Public Enemy's Chuck D saw his first metal show in 1987.

Impressed by headline act Anthrax, who he felt had a "hip hop feel", Chuck namec hecked the band in his 1987 single Bring The Noise. Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, himself a huge hip hop fan, reached out to Chuck and suggested they find a way to work together.

While the band was in the studio working on their fifth record Persistence Of Time, they came up with what they felt was a killer metal approach to the song and pitched it to Public Enemy.

Chuck had originally thought the idea was goofy, but after hearing the track the band was putting forward, he was all in. Not only did the song include Anthrax's trademark "blast" metal beat, but Scott Ian took over on the last few verses of the song.

The single was a hit (even reaching the top 20 in the UK and New Zealand), and subsequently appeared on Anthrax's b-sides compilation "Attack Of The Killer B's" as well as on the end of Public Enemy's 1991 record "Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black".

The inclusion of the song on releases by both bands meant PE audiences were exposed to metal and Anthrax's to hip hop - and to hammer the point home the bands went on a hugely successful tour together.

To many the record was just the next in a line of rap rock singles - but to a young generation of metal fans, it was an awakening, and influenced the sound of the late 90s.

Limp Bizkit - My Way

Jacksonville Florida isn't really the place you think of when someone mentions pioneering musical acts, but from the swamps came Limp Bizkit - kids who grew up on rap and metal so intertwined that it made sense to do both, but heavier.

The band's secret weapon was guitarist Wes Borland, who took a variety of super low 7 string guitar tunings to make simple but incredibly effective riffs, on top of which Fred Durst rapped about the kind of things that suburban white kids could relate to.

Within a few years the band was playing arenas - and notoriously lighting the match to a riot at Woodstock 99 - and influencing the next generation of rap rock bands, now called Nu Metal, covering everything from boy band metal (Linkin Park) to mall goth extreme metal (Slipknot).


This brings us right up to present day. Turn on rock radio and you won't go more than ten minutes without hearing someone rapping, and while rap and hip hop haven't been effected to the same degree, many of the current breed of young rap artists are kids who again grew up listening to as much rock as hip hop, and it comes out in their music.

The melding of the two genres is such that "rap rock" as a genre doesn't really exist anymore - and that goes all the way back to Run-D.M.C., paving the way as the kings of rock.