Rap and rock are two seemingly disparate genres, yet the two have from time to time coalesced seamlessly. It is for this reason that choosing the 5 best rap/rock crossover songs of all time proved quite difficult, as some classics – each with a legitimate claim to be included – had to be omitted.
“Body Count” by Body Count
In the early 1990s, Ice T formed Body Count, his own group of South Central rockers that included lead guitarist Ernie C and the now deceased trio of Mooseman on bass, Beatmaster V on drums and D-Roc the Executioner on rhythm guitar. The collaboration was well received, with “Body Count” — a feature track on Ice T’s 1991 O.G.: Original Gangster album and later, on the band’s own self-titled LP in 1992— ultimately emerging as one of the band’s all-time classics. Fittingly, Ice T prefaced the song in typical OG fashion: “I don’t think about it as rock, R&B or all of that, I just think of it as music. And I feel sorry for anyone who only listens to one form of music.”
“Walk This Way” by Run-DMC ft. Aerosmith
This single was touted by The Guardian as having changed pop, and change pop it did. “Walk This Way” pretty much introduced hip-hop to the mainstream, raised the profile of Run-DMC several notches higher, and revitalised the then sagging career of the rock band Aerosmith. The catchy ditty eventually became the first rap single on Billboard’s Top 10, its parent album —Raising Hell — became rap’s first platinum LP, and Run-DMC became the first rap act to be on the cover of Rolling Stone.
“99 Problems” by Jay-Z
Jay-Z is rap royalty, and he proved in “99 Problems” that he, too, could ace the rap/rock fusion. This all-timer is the complete package: lyrical mastery, epic rapping, and catchy, steel-slamming beats. Churning out hits is, of course, the norm for Jay-Z, whose induction to the Songwriters Hall of Fame was covered by Yo! Raps previously.
“Clint Eastwood” by Gorillaz ft. Del tha Funkee Homosapien
The lead single from Gorillaz’s self-titled debut record is clear proof that rap and rock can, indeed, meld, if done right. This feel-good song is an easygoing track devoid of intense rapid-fire rhyming and head-banging riffs and solos, to be surprisingly mesmerising.
“Know Your Enemy” by Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine are one of the first acts to fully fuse rap and rock, with Zach dela Rocha’s intense, rapid-fire rapping blending perfectly with the head-banging music of guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk. Morello, in particular, was praised by BBC Music for creating a generation’s guitar-playing template. Now, the overtly political “Killing in the Name” will forever be the band’s signature track, as it is RATM at their profane, unfiltered best, with the song openly criticising institutional racism in the US, according to Lottoland’s in-depth feature on rock music. But in the annals of rap/rock crossover hits, the electric “Know Your Enemy,” is hard to top, as everything great about the band — dela Rocha’s mic skills, Morello’s guitar virtuosity, Commerford’s sublime bass lines, and Wilk’s intensity on drums — is here.
But again, there are other songs that deserve a slot in this list. Last year’s “May I Have This Dance (Remix) by Francis and the Lights featuring Chance the Rapper comes to mind, as does “Awnaw” by Nappy Roots and P.O.D and “Bring Tha Noize” by Public Enemy and Anthrax.
So, which songs are on your list, anyway? Send us your thoughts!
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