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Rap and Metal, Like Peanut Butter and Jelly: The Genre and Culturally Defying Collaborations

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Rap and hard rock were two music genres polarizing the music industry back in the 1980’s. MTV and other media platforms wanted to push for something “cleaner” and denounced the two genres as outliers to society.

In 1986, Aerosmith and Run DMC released the genre-defying collaboration “Walk this Way.” Anthrax and Public Enemy followed in 1991 with their collaboration “Bring the Noise” which featured more politically charged lyrics.

The combination of these two genres unlocked a new era of rap metal leading into the new genre of NuMetal in the mid-90’s. Cultural fluidity bloomed from these collaborations which allowed hard rock/metal and its fans to become less whitewashed.

When Aerosmith and Run DMC finished recording the song in early 1986, they needed to jump the next hurdle of getting the music video on MTV. The music channel at the time refused to play music from black artists until they were sued, but after the lawsuit, MTV made up excuses on why they didn’t air black artists.

You can find any goddamn excuse for it, but it was industry-wide racism. To keep it all separated. They wanted a white channel. They didn’t want to muddy it up with black music.

Carolyn Baker, MTV Talent and Acquisition Head

It’s interesting to read the accounts of the MTV executives who work(ed) for MTV at the time the collaboration was submitted to MTV. Some state there was “no racism” in MTV while others say they “never heard rap music” before the collaboration.

Once the music video aired on MTV, though, it opened the door to cultural fluidity in the music industry due to the genres merging. The Beastie Boys were inspired from the collaboration and became one of the first rap/metal hybrid groups despite being an all-white group. Rage Against the Machine followed, combining rock and rap with their political messages.

The next major collaboration featured thrash metal band Anthrax and Public Enemy. The members of Anthrax enjoyed listening to rap, so they decided to collaborate together on Public Enemy’s previously released song, “Bring the Noise,” by adding a heavy metal sound to it.

Even in the 90’s, there was continued stigma against MTV for not allowing rap onto the channel. Other black artists like Michael Jackson thrived in the music industry, but there was a heavy stigma against rap specifically. It would take another collaboration with Anthrax and Public Enemy to get the ball rolling toward further cultural fluidity. Going off the success of the “Walk this Way” collaboration, Anthrax and Public Enemy created something amazing.

Anthrax and Public Enemy
Anthrax and Public Enemy

From the moment they shot the video to Bring The Noise in downtown Chicago – inviting an equal split of black and white teenagers to play the crowd without violence erupting – the hybrid group knew they were onto something. ‘Nobody even had an idea that stuff could happen, and the next thing you know, we’re doing it,’ says Belladonna. ‘It was a cool surprise. I loved that. That song was strong, it was heavy, it had a neat vibe, and it sure took off.’

Henry Yates

After the success of the collaboration, more hybrid groups formed. Faith no More is coined with starting the NuMetal movement of the 90’s and early 00’s which combined rap, hard rock, and metal. Korn and Slipknot popularized the distorted style of NuMetal with their polarizing lyrics and unique musical style.

The controversial side of cultural fluidity moving across the music industry is the amount of cultural appropriation. Non-black artists wore culturally appropriated hair styles which in turn made themselves bad role models for their non-black fans to copy their already stolen style. It wasn’t until the mid-00’s when NuMetal began to fade amongst the rise of emo and progressive metal. Linkin Park continued to use a hybridization of rap and metal in their music into the 2010’s.

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