The Artists That Blurred The Lines Between Rap and Rock

The Artists That Blurred The Lines Between Rap and Rock

CREDIT: Jonn Leffmann under CC BY 3.0 License – No changes were made to the image.

Nowadays, we have plenty of genre-hopping magicians like Kendrick Lamar, MGK, and Lil Nas X who continue to show the world how rap can stand alongside any genre. But combining genres wasn’t always this easy. While many of us are already familiar with how Run DMC and Aerosmith collaborated on the first rap-rock song in 1986’s Walk This Way, there are many other artists who paved the road for the uneasy and ever-evolving peace between two of the world’s biggest and baddest music genres.

Anthrax and Public Enemy


During the early ‘90s, hip hop was entering its golden age while bands like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax – also known as The Big Four – were leading the aggressive charge of the thrash metal scene. The guitarists from these bands are known for popularizing the overdrive pedal, a now-staple gritty, crunchy, gain-heavy sound in the modern metal genre. And it was during this era that the legendary Scott Ian, Anthrax’s rhythm guitarist, lent his overdrive chops to one of the greatest rap groups in history. Today, the 1991 Anthrax and Public Enemy song Bring The Noise is widely recognized as the first rap-metal song in history.

Rage Against the Machine


During the same year that Bring The Noise was released, Rage Against the Machine (RATM) was formed. And from 1992 onwards, the band has released a slew of some of the most important rap-rock albums of all time. There’s no doubt that the driving force of this political rap-rock machine is vocalist Zach de la Rocha, who spits verses and sings with one of the most recognizable voices in ‘90s alternative rock. Meanwhile, the wild rock guitar riffs that RATM is also known for were supplied by Tom Morello, a known hogger of distortion pedals and other effects, which allowed him to become one of the most influential experimental electric guitarists of all time. RATM didn’t just blur the lines of rap and rock. They’re what happens when you completely ignore the line and do whatever you want.

The Black Keys


These blues-rock legends made the list for one huge reason: the 2009 album Blackroc. Roc-A-Fella records co-founder Damon Dash worked with The Black Keys to produce arguably the greatest collection of blues-driven rap rock songs in history. Collaborators include the rapper formerly known as Mos Def, Jim Jones, Q-Tip, RZA, Raekwon, Nicole Wray, Pharoah Monch, the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and other rappers and rnb singers. While RATM drew from the aggressive similarities between rap and rock, the artists who worked on Blakroc tapped the soulful connections between blues, rock, rnb, and hip hop.



Fronted by Illaman, London’s ‘hardest working emcee,’ PENGSHUi is a proto-punk, dubstep-driven hip hop group that was formed in 2018. The band’s dubstep drops and hard rock melodies are care of multi-instrumentalist and pedal hogging bassist Chris Hargreaves, while DJ Pravvy Prav supplies the aggressively technical drumming. PENGSHUi is a taste of how rap-rock has evolved over the years, a contemporary rickety bridge between the age-old alliance of punk and hip hop.

Beastie Boys


Speaking of punk, many forget that the Beastie Boys have been blending rap-rock, hip hop, funk, and hardcore punk since 1986’s Licensed to Ill. In 1996’s The In Sound From Way Out, the rapping trio stretched their instrumental chops to create a funky, boom bap-inspired collection of some of the stickiest beats in hip hop history. Today, albums like 1989’s Paul’s Boutique and 2004’s To the 5 Boroughs still make it to contemporary ‘best-of’ lists.

Linkin Park


Talented rapper-singers Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda, along with Joe Hahn’s DJ chops, were undoubtedly the main driving forces behind the most commercially successful rap-rock group in history. Whether you love or hate Linkin Park, the fact is that their emo and alternative rock-driven music was what allowed rap-rock to be truly appreciated by mainstream audiences. Although hardcore fans may argue that their best work continues to be their first album, 2000’s Hybrid Theory, later albums like 2003’s Meteora and 2010’s A Thousand Suns are passionate, technical masterpieces in their own right.

While there are many other artists that deserve at least a mention on this list, these are the ones that have paved the way for the rest. In the future, rap, hip hop, and rnb will continue to rapidly evolve with the many sub-genres of rock. The next mind-melting rap-rock album could be just around the corner.

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By Jae Bree

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