Five Examples of Rap-Rock Done Right

Jan. 27, 2009
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News that Rebirth, Lil Wayne’s rap-rock album, will actually see the light of day has the blogosphere uniformly horrified, and with good reason. Its first single, “Prom Queen,” plays like an 11-year-old 311 song, complete to the outdated, tuneless riffs. Count me among the minority who doesn’t think Rebirth has to be a total train wreck, though. If a savvy producer can convince Weezy to reconsider his preference for generically thrashing electric guitars, the album could turn out pretty interesting.

And maligned as it is, rap-rock doesn’t have to be totally awful if it’s done right. Let’s take a look at the rare examples of rap-rock that don’t leave the listener needing a shower:

1. Linkin Park
With all due respect to Fort Minor, nobody would mistake Mike Shinoda as one of the great rappers of all time, but he’s passable enough, and his easy-to-rap-along-with verses make a great complement to Linkin Park’s easy-to-scream-along-with choruses. Hate them if you will, but Linkin Park were always in separate league from their misogynistic, shocker-flashing nu-metal peers, and their hooks stick like little else on alternative radio.

2. Run DMC
They proved that rock, not funk, could be the foundation of hip-hop. Now if only they had had better taste in rock. They made their fortune on big-haired ’80s rock, so when grunge and alternative rendered power-metal obsolete, Run DMC were unlikely causalities, as out of touch with ’90s hip-hop as they were ’90s rock.

3. Faith No More
Mike Patton couldn’t rap, but even that didn’t stop him from making great rap-rock. I still feel bad for that poor fish, though.

4. The Judgment Night Soundtrack
Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill? Dinosaur Jr. And Del tha Funkee Homosapien? Bizarre pairings, yes, but they worked. I’m still waiting for a full-length Teenage Fanclub/De La Soul collaboration.

5. That one Limp Bizkit song with DJ Premier and Method Man
Replace Fred Durst with Redman and you’d have an all-time classic cut.

And, well, that's about it, unless you want to include Rage Against the Machine and that first N.E.R.D. album on the list (which I suppose I should). Rap-rock doesn't have the best track record by any means, but that doesn't mean it can't work given the right talent. Lil Wayne has enough banked good will that I'll give him the benefit of the doubt here—remember, Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak sounded almost intentionally awful on paper, too.


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