It took both parties a while to realise it, but rap and metal make the perfect pairing. Early experiments such as Run DMC and Aerosmith’s collaboration on Walk This Way and Anthrax’s spoof hip hop track I’m The Man gave way to a fully fledged musical revolution in the early 1990s.
Bands such as Rage Against The Machine and Body Count lit Molotov cocktails and lobbed them at polite society, corrupt politicians and anyone else that provoked their ire, setting their musical insurgency to the ultimate mosh-pit soundtrack.
If politicking gave way to party vibes as the 90s progressed, the music remained as impactful as ever – though a wave of current bands have restored the idea of bringing down the orthodoxy as one of rap metal’s central pillars. Here are 10 rap metal albums guaranteed to get parties and riots started alike…
Body Count – Body Count (1992)
Never a man afraid of a challenge, Ice-T formed Body Count at the peak of his hip-hop fame and went for it like a man possessed. Notorious for the LAPD-baiting Cop Killer (replaced on later pressings by a collaboration with Jello Biafra), Body Count were occasionally shambolic but colossally entertaining, as Ice’s verbal skills erupted over brutish street-metal riffing. Fans of socially-conscious lyrics might wish to venture elsewhere, mind you.
Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine (1992)
They may not have been the first, but they certainly nailed the rap metal formula with the greatest power and verve: Rage Against The Machine made virtually everybody’s hair stand on end when they exploded into our world in 1992. Their debut album is still stupidly exciting and despite being brutally overplayed, Killing In The Name still rules. The band’s follow-up, Evil Empire, is every bit as good, but this is the rap metal mothership.
311 – Music (1993)
Far more popular in the US than in the UK, 311 have been blending hip-hop, reggae and metal together for 28 years, providing a sunny and melodic counterpoint to Rage Against The Machine’s hardcore minimalism. Music was the band’s official debut and it’s a masterful riot of loose-limbed grooves, thunderous bass, anthemic choruses and rapid-fire flow.
Various Artists – Judgment Night (1993)
Few people actually watched Judgment Night, but its soundtrack has passed into rap metal legend. An all-star meeting of rap and rock minds, it brought together Slayer and Ice-T, Helmet and House Of Pain, Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill and Biohazard with Onyx. Perhaps surprisingly, the results were genuinely brilliant, particularly when Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. joined forces for the scabrous Another Body Murdered.
Biohazard – State Of The World Address (1994)
No one would dare to question Biohazard’s roots in New York hardcore, but by their third album the Brooklyn bruisers were increasingly absorbing hip-hop influences too. Songs like Down For Life, Tales From The Hard Side and How It Is (featuring a guest appearance by Cypress Hill’s Sen Dog) brought tough street-metal grit to bear upon flagrant boom-bap grooves. Rap metal by default rather than design, it was a natural and neat fit for a band that deserves more credit for their pioneering nous.
Senser – Stacked Up (1995)
Most truly notable rap metal acts have come from the US, but Senser defied the odds and conjured their own wild hybrid of hip-hop and heaviness that gloried in its own multicultural Britishness. Led by rapper Heitham, the band’s furious political edge and fervent embracing of electronic music and skull-crushing bass made them a UK alternative festival staple in the ‘90s. Their debut album, Stacked Up beautifully encapsulates their explosive brilliance. Listen to Eject and try not to backflip off the sofa, we dare you.
Limp Bizkit – Three Dollar Bill, Y’All
Before the bullshit, before the overexposure, before everyone pretended to hate them, Limp Bizkit were a brilliant rap metal band churning out raw, primitive music that kicked arse. It doesn’t have the same swagger or blockbusting hits as Significant Other or Chocolate Starfish, but Limp Bizkit’s debut oozes venom and invention. And yeah, their cover of Faith rocks like a bastard.
(Hed) P.E. – Broke (2000)
While Limp Bizkit were rapidly conquering the world, (Hed)P.E. were in a somewhat different boat. Broke should have made the band massive: it’s rammed with memorable hooks, MC Jared has the maddest of lyrical skills (albeit with occasional descents into gurning misogyny) and an atmosphere of genuine menace makes the whole thing seem so much more convincing than Fred Durst. As an added bonus, Serj Tankian pops up on the infectious Feel Good.
Cypress Hill – Skull & Bones (2000)
Always a band with strong links to rock and metal – check out the Black Sabbath samples on 1994’s classic Black Sunday album for proof – Cypress Hill are one of the few hip-hop acts to dabble in heavy music and come out smelling of roses (and weed, obvs). Skull And Bones’ first half was a full-on rap joint, but its second half was an epic crossover knees-up, as members of Fear Factory and Rage Against The Machine backed B Real’s crew on pummelling anthems like Valley Of Chrome and the brilliant (Rock) Superstar.
Backxwash - God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It (2020)
Zambian-Canadian rapper Backxwash - real name Ashanti Mutinta - announced herself to the world with 2020 breakout album God Has Nothing To Do With This.... Weaving heavy metal, industrial and hip hop through her dark, introspective lyrics documenting her journey as a trans woman, it confirmed Mutinta as one of heavy music's most exciting, innovative new voices. The album's title track even cleverly inverted Black Sabbath's Black Sabbath to make it more terrifying than ever.
Bob Vylan - We Live Here (2020)
Incendiary and venomous, the London duo’s 2020 debut We Live Here strikes right at the cancer festering in the heart of modern society, pouring gasoline on topics ranging from racism and political corruption to xenophobia and police brutality. 10 tracks of unadulterated fury refracted through a prism of hardcore punk, alt-metal and grime, We LIve Here is as much a political manifesto as it is a musical release, utterly essential listening for the disenfranchised.