In the high school cafeteria of musical genres, rap and rock almost always sit at different tables. But once in a while, musicians take it upon themselves to fuse both styles, birthing grunge rap, nu metal, and whatever name rap-rock’s newest iteration would be.
Most recently, BTS member J-Hope’s solo work “More” probes the sometimes thin line that separates the genres—both have roots in subversion and are now often seen as aggressive expressions of emotional moments—belting out a grunge-influenced chorus between verses that echo old-school hip-hop. In years past, rappers like Lil Wayne have also picked up what remained of rap-rock’s remnants from Run DMC and Limp Bizkit, placing the fusion in the spotlight once again.
From then on, “emo rappers” have arrived on the charts, with Lil Peep sampling bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Thirty Seconds to Mars, or Juice WRLD once citing Black Sabbath and Fall Out Boy as some of his influences. Whether smooth-sailing or uh, rocky, rap and rock may just be one of music’s longest on-and-off relationships—and judging from these past few decades, don’t be too shocked if it’ll pop out every now and then.
Looking to kickstart your rap-rock know-how? Take a peek at some artists who’ve mixed and matched both styles below.
When Post Malone was Pre-Malone, the musician was once a guitarist of metalcore band Ashley’s Arrival. He then tried out for another group called Crown the Empire, but ultimately didn’t pass because of a broken guitar string.
Obviously, things still went well for him as a hip-hop artist, but Posty hasn’t forgotten his rock roots. Aside from jamming alongside Red Hot Chili Peppers and Aerosmith, his 2019 album “Hollywood’s Bleeding” dabbled in different genres—one of them being an emo-alt-rock tune. (Who hasn’t heard of “Circles”?)
The Grammys know it and we do, too. The solo track of SB19’s Ken—a.k.a. FELIP—delivers contemporary rock and hip-hop influences, backed with the overall motif of Philippine myths and visuals as epic as its anthemic soundtrack. You can read all our thoughts about it here, but it’s safe to say that these genre-benders are getting us hyped.
Dubbed as “the punkest rapper alive,” JPEGMAFIA proves that punk rock ain’t dead—sometimes it just reincarnates in other forms. The American rapper keeps the vibes of the genre alive from a hip-hop standpoint, from aggressive musicality down to the political discourse tightly wrapped in his lyrics. (And if you need more convincing, take it from Massiah.)
A quick listen to the City Morgue discography will show you how the New York City hip-hop trio of ZillaKami, SosMula, and Thraxx takes the sounds of metal and hard rock, and meshes them with hip-hop verses bound to keep speakers booming. Some call it “hardcore trap,” and if you’re listening to their collab with fellow rock-influenced rapper Denzel Curry, then yeah, it’s hardcore indeed.
Run the Jewels
Rage Against the Machine’s frequent collaborator is all about heavy music—“heavy rock, heavy metal, heavy everything.” The hip-hop duo is no-holds-barred in its essence, whether lyrically or sonically—but if you’re looking for a starter, take a listen to “Legend Has It,” a Gentle Giant-sampled piece that made its way to the “Black Panther” trailer.
The rapper’s heavy metal-infused tracklist is best played with the bass boosted as you sort out imaginary beef in your head. “Mercury,” for example, will have you up for a while with its roaring bars. What is caffeine, anyway? Ghostemane isn’t called a “trap-metal” trailblazer for nothing.
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Photo of Post Malone and JPEGMAFIA from their official Instagram pages
Photo of FELIP from “Bulan” single cover