Rap rock is a music genre fusing vocal and instrumental elements of hip hop with various forms of rock. Rap rock is often confused with rap metal and rapcore, subgenres that include heavy metal-oriented and hardcore punk-oriented bands, respectively. These styles became the basis for nu metal.
Proceeding the development of rap rock, some rock bands had experimented with old school hip hop influences, such as Blondie and The Clash. In 1986, Run-D.M.C. collaborated with Aerosmith on a remake of the latter's earlier song, "Walk This Way", first released in 1975. The success of the remake helped bring hip hop into popularity with a mainstream white audience. Beastie Boys, formerly a hardcore punk group, began working in the hip hop genre. Their debut album, Licensed to Ill, largely featured a rock-based sound. Detroit rapper Esham became known for his "acid rap" style, which fused rapped death metal-influenced lyrics with a sound that was often rock and heavy metal-based, and is considered to be an influence on the development of rap rock and rap metal. Rappers who sampled rock songs included Ice-T, The Fat Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Whodini.
Rap rock began to enter the mainstream arena in the 1990s. Rock bands such as 24-7 Spyz, Faith No More, Living Colour, Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers fused rock and hip hop influences. The soundtrack album for the 1993 film Judgment Night featured 11 collaborations between hip hop and rock musicians. Urban Dance Squad mixed funk, heavy metal, hip hop and punk. Biohazard is also considered to be a pioneering act in the genre. Cypress Hill's Black Sunday featured a rock-based sound and artwork which, according to Allmusic reviewer Steve Huey, resembled that of heavy metal bands. Beck's successful 1994 single "Loser" incorporated hip hop influences, including an imitation of Chuck D's rapping style.
Rap rock gained mainstream popularity in the late-90s. Among the first wave of performers to gain mainstream success were 311, Bloodhound Gang, and Kid Rock. Rap rock would become the basis for the nu metal genre, and some bands in this genre are known for rapping, including Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit. Although the popularity of these styles is believed to be declining, some believe that rap rock may regain popularity, with younger music fans discovering bands in the genre.
Rap rock is varied in sound, with performers incorporating influences from various genres, including alternative rock, funk, hardcore punk, hard rock, heavy metal, or pop. In The Violent World of Moshpit Culture, Joe Ambrose describes rapcore as "a mixture of white rap and hardcore". Allmusic describes rap metal as having "big, lurching beats and heavy, heavy riffs" that "occasionally [...] [sound] as if the riffs were merely overdubbed over scratching and beat box beats", and described rap rock as having a more organic sound,characterizing many songs in the genre as rock songs in which the vocals were rapped rather than sung. Allmusic also states that the rhythms of rap rock are rooted in that of hip hop, with more funk influences than normal hard rock.
Hed PE, which fuses punk rock with hip hop, sometimes incorporates reggae and heavy metal influences. According to Rolling Stone writer Rob Kemp, Incubus' 1997 album S.C.I.E.N.C.E. "links funk metal to the rap metal". Kottonmouth Kings perform a style which they refer to as "psychedelic hip-hop punk rock". Kid Rock incorporates country and Southern rock influences, and is backed by a 10 piece band, while Everlast fuses blues and rock with hip hop, performing with a live band that includes a DJ.
The lyrical themes of rap rock vary. According to Allmusic, "most rap-metal bands during the mid- to late '90s blended an ultra-aggressive, testosterone-heavy theatricality with either juvenile humor or an introspective angst learned through alternative metal". Although some alternative metal and nu metal bands incorporate hip hop beats, rap rock bands were always fronted by rappers. Rap metal vocalists mix rapping and screaming.
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