The Hip-Hop/Rock Phenomenon It seems as though you can barely read a magazine or flip on the television without hearing about one of these new hip-hop/rock groups. Media outlets such as Rolling Stone and MTV treat these bands as though miraculously created this “new” genre of music. Acts such as Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock and Sugar Ray are treated though they are creative geniuses when in reality they are only doing things that have already been done before. True some of these new bands are very talented, but bands such Run DMC, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine, blended the seemingly mismatched flavors of rap and rock with brilliant results long before any of these bands had ever even seen a turntable. The earliest recorded example of this fusion of hip-hop and hard rock, came in 1985 with the release of Run DMCs “Rock Box”. The song featured a beat which sounded more like an AC/DC instrumental than what your average hip-hop consumer had grown accustomed to, nevertheless underneath the vocals of Run DMC the song was their first bonafied crossover hit. The single even landed them onto heavy rotation on MTV, making Run DMC the first hip-hop group to ever have their video played with the station.
The song was only the first of a long string of hits for the group to feature hard rock beats, of course with pumped up bass and the prerequisite turntable scratch. Their success carried over to their remake of Aerosmiths classic “Walk This Way”, which too became an instant classic. The record also marked the first direct collaboration between a rap group and a rock band. However while Run DMC was a hip-hop group with heavy rock influence, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a perfect example of the exact opposite, a rock band with distinct hip-hop overtones. From as early back to the mid-eighties the Chili Peppers were trendsetters, they were regularly sharing headline in Los Angeles clubs with hip-hop acts, which one must remember was at a time when rap music was frowned upon by the rock community.
Either way somewhere on their path they picked up on certain elements from hip-hop music and successfully incorporated them into their eclectic playing style. On recordings such as “Good Time Boys” from the bands critically acclaimed album Mothers Milk, it is not hard to see that he is indeed rapping to the beat as opposed to the usually singing which one would expect from an alternative band. But the genius lies in the fact that the song retains its original qualities keeping it from becoming a wannabe rap song, yet at the very same time it pushed the creative envelope for music as a whole and also pushing the Chili Peppers onto new creative ground. It was easy see that Run DMC and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were bands who while firmly rooted in one genre of music heavily borrowed elements from another genre. However Rage Against the Machine was much different than either one of these bands, it was the true brainchild of both hip-hop and hard rock.
It could be argued with that with the release of their first album in 1992, that they were the first rap/rock band to truly be split right down the middle. The band utilized definite hard rock beats that could in no way be confused with any sort of hip-hop beat, however their vocalist Zach De La Rocha could in no way be taken for anything other than a rapper. It was a sharp contrast to the previous attempts to fuse the two styles of music together and the band did it beautifully. De La Rocha, whose previous experience as a rapper in various Los Angeles hip-hop groups, fit perfectly over the hard rock beats provided by his band mates. Fortunately the music scene was finally ready for their sound, which led to the group gaining critical acclaim and modest video play. Despite what the media is trying to sell the public, do not believe the hype. Hip-hop/rock hybrids are nothing new to the music scene, it is just the latest trend beingused to sell magazines and fuel album sales.
Which is not necessarily wrong, it is only sad that many artists and fans do not know the origin of the music they love. Nevertheless some of these band are very talented and unfortunately some of them are not, but regardless of whether these bands are talented or not, bear in mind they did not create the artform. Let us hope however they choose to elevate the artform.