It’s forty years this summer since Aerosmith wrote ‘Walk This Way’ – a song that eventually ended up breaking down the genre walls between hip-hop and rock when Run DMC and the band later reworked it. Since then, tonnes of guitar gods and rock singers have adventured into the world of rap – some more surprising than others. Here are some of the most unexpected…
Jack White: Who saw this coming? Rock ‘n’ roll flag-bearer Jack White teamed with hip-hop clowns Insane Clown Posse for the splendidly titled ‘Leck Mich Im Arsch’ (‘Lick Me In The Arse’) in 2011. Swapping Jack’s normal garage riffery for barked rhymes and Mozart samples, the collab was released on Third Man and promptly forgotten about.
Jimmy Page: Two icons collided for the soundtrack of 1990s blockbuster Godzilla, as rap mogul Puff Daddy pinched Led Zep legend Jimmy Page and his giant ‘Kashmir’ riff for the film’s ‘Come With Me’ theme. And if that weren’t enough rock-rap crossover star-power, Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello contributed bass to the track, too.
Brian Wilson: Beach Boys genius Wilson recorded a never-released rap album called ‘Sweet Insanity’. From what has since leaked online, probably for the best he canned the record: working with producer Matt Dike, one track ‘Smart Girls’ used clumsy samples from old Beach Boys classics as he rapped about “sexy ladies with high IQs!”
Phil Collins: An unlikely left-turn for Phil Collins, here, as the former Genesis man stepped out of his comfort zone for the track ‘Home’, released with Cleveland hip-hop group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. And don’t he look tough in the video!
Ozzy Osbourne: In 1998, Busta Rhymes decided to update Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ with a new twist. In addition to sampling and reworking the original, he recruited prince of darkness and classic metal kingpin Ozzy to contribute to his new version, titled ‘This Means War’. “Busta Rhymes is a trip,” gushed Osbourne after. “Nothing but a gentleman, a really good guy to be around.”
Sonic Youth: When Kim Gordon interviewed LL Cool J for Spin magazine, the pair clashed horribly – “The guy has to have control over his woman,” the rapper told her at one point. She and her bandmates used the awkward encounter as inspiration for their 1990 single ‘Kool Thing’, and called on Public Enemy’s Chuck D to lend a helping hand and a hip-hop tint to their post-punk sound.
Dave Grohl: Jimmy Page isn’t Puff Daddy’s only rock ‘n’ roll mate – in 1997 he asked Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl to help him produce a ‘Rock Remix’ of his single ‘It’s All About The Benjamins’. “It was a really wild thing,” said Grohl. “I’d never done anything like it.”
Black Keys: In 2009, garage rock duo The Black Keys worked with Roc-A-Fella records founder Damon Dash for a whole album of rock-rap crossover, including team-ups with Ludacris, RZA and more. ‘Ain’t Nothing Like You’, featuring Mos Def and Jim Jones, was one of the finest of a pretty great bunch of tracks.
Weezer: For their 2009 track ‘Can’t Stop Partying’, Weezer received a helping hand from two hip-hop artists: Lil’ Wayne provided vocals for the album track, while Chamillionaire featured on a remix of the song and stepped in to perform it live with the band after Wayne was imprisoned for gun possession.
Paul McCartney: Macca was so taken with Kanye after the pair’s recent writing sessions that he compared working with the rapper to the chemistry he’d enjoyed with old bandmate John Lennon. The pair duetted on the pummelling ‘All Day’, as well as more Beatlesy organ ballad ‘Only One’, both of which are likely to feature on Ye’s next album.
Linkin Park: Linkin Park have always had a rap element to their music, courtesy of emcee Mike Shinoda. That didn’t do much to dull our surprise, however, when in 2004, they teamed with Brooklyn’s finest, Hova himself, Jay-Z on ‘Collision Course: a curious live mash-up LP that crunched together several of their biggest tracks, including a hybrid of ‘Numb/Encore’.
Slash: In 2009, Guns N’ Roses’ guitarist Slash dusted off one of his best-known and best-loved riffs for a collaboration with rap group Cypress Hill and Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie. Their re-tooled take on ‘Paradise City’ was recorded for a Japanese-only release and good god Jesus Christ was terrible.
REM: Not as grand a departure into hip-hop as the others listed here – more a band of jangle-pop titans dipping their toes into it. As REM continued on their journey to becoming one of the planet’s biggest bands, they threw out a curveball, packing some dynamite backing raps from KRS-One on the opening track from 1991’s ‘Out Of Time’.
Trent Reznor: Before Run The Jewels became world-straddling behemoths, El-P made waves in 2007 with his underground track ‘Flyentology’ – a song which captures someone in the panic of a plane crash, turning to God in their last fleeting moments, and featured none other than Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, a dude who’s done it all but is more associated with big industrial rock grinds.
Dinosaur Jr: The soundtrack to 1993 film Judgement Night had a tonne of surprise rock-rap collabs – Ice T and Slayer, Helmet and House of Pain and Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill to name a few – but J Mascis’ track with Del tha Funkee Homosapien was the pick of the lot, wailing solos over the Oakland emcee’s white-knuckle rhymes.