x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Rock 'n' rap: a sound pairing

As Eddie Van Halen teams up with LL Cool J on the rapper's new album, we look at five of the best rock and rap crossovers.

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 14: LL Cool J performs during the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at the Doritos Bold Stage on March 14, 2013 in Austin, Texas. Michael Buckner/Getty Images for SXSW/AFP
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 14: LL Cool J performs during the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at the Doritos Bold Stage on March 14, 2013 in Austin, Texas. Michael Buckner/Getty Images for SXSW/AFP

Eddie Van Halen, famously the soloist on Michael Jackson’s Beat It, has just announced another high-profile guest slot. The guitarist plays on LL Cool J’s forthcoming album Authentic, out on April 30. “I got Van Halen – I don’t need a bass-line,” boasts LL Cool J on We’re the Greatest, one of two new songs to feature Van Halen. In celebration of the pair’s union, we’ve listed five of the best rock / rap crossovers.

Walk This Way – Run-D.M.C. featuring Aerosmith

Originally from Aerosmith’s 1975 album Toys in the Attic, this became a huge crossover hit when Run-D.M.C. covered it in 1986. They did so at the behest of the producer Rick Rubin, who was overseeing the rap trio’s Raising Hell album at the time. A stuttering sample of Joe Perry’s choice guitar riff breathed new life into the song and Aerosmith’s then ailing career, while a fun accompanying video ensured heavy rotation on MTV. Depicting Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. having a volume battle in adjacent rehearsal rooms, the clip was later parodied to promote a Girls Aloud versus Sugababes version recorded for charity.

(Rock) Superstar – Cypress Hill

Cypress Hill’s 2000 double album Skull & Bones was bipolar. Disc one, Skull, comprised more gothic-flavoured hip-hop, but disc two, Bones, was a rap-metal affair with contributions from Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk and Fear Factory’s Dino Cazeras and Christian Olde Wolbers. Patchy as it was, Bones had a standout track in (Rock) Superstar, a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of fame. When Cypress Hill performed it live with Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum of Velvet Revolver, the full, awesome power of the song was finally unleashed.

Come with Me – Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page

This suitably gargantuan merger featured in Roland Emmerich’s 1998 film Godzilla, its retooling of the stomping riff from Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir helping to evoke the approach of the titular monster. Less spectacularly, it’s also the song that the French football club Olympic Marseille play over the PA system when they score a home goal. Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello also plays on Come With Me, but it was Page who got it in the neck from stuffy rock purists who thought his collaboration with Puffy errant. Not that Page or Puffy cared – the song reached No 2 in the UK and No 4 in the US.

Bring the Noise – Anthrax featuring Chuck D

When Anthrax first mooted a collaborative version of Public Enemy’s 1987 single Bring the Noise, the latter act’s leader Chuck D reportedly thought they were joking. The Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian had long worn Public Enemy T-shirts while performing, however, and soon his NYC-formed thrash metal band were singing from the same hymn sheet as D’s politically charged rappers. Much mayhem and fun ensued and the seemingly disparate acts later toured together. Bring the Noise was an en masse showstopper every night.

Rhymin’ & Stealin’ – Beastie Boys

This hefty opener from Beasties’ 1986 album Licensed to Ill was at the forefront of rap/rock crossovers, albeit via flagrant sampling. Pilfering from both Black Sabbath’s Sweet Leaf and Led Zeppelin’s When The Levee Breaks, it was proof positive that hard rock textures could be inspirational bedrock for snotty, irreverent rhyming. Or as Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D put it: “Because mutiny on the bounty’s what we’re all about / I’m gonna board your ship and turn it all out”.

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