Rap metal! Remember that? Good, wasn’t it? OK, lots of it was pretty dreadful. For every Rage Against The Machine, there were 10 to 15 baggy-trousered goons prancing about and throwing some of the worst ‘bars’ imaginable. But occasionally these generally dreadful bands could come up with something half decent. We know… we’ve had to dig through the crap to find 10 of them.
Sugar Ray – Mean Machine (1995)
"Sugar Ray?", you ask? The band who are most known for the lilting radio pop song Every Morning? Before Sugar Ray turned into cuddly MTV darlings, they were in fact a fairly aggro rap rock band on their 1995 debut album Lemonade And Brownies. That debut and its 1997 follow-up Floored are actually worth investing a little bit of your time to, but it’s really the excellent Mean Machine that remains their high point. An amazing drum fill opens before we get a killer chugging riff and some pissed up, snarling vocals from frontman Mark McGrath. When we get the breakdown in the middle, Mean Machine goes from good to great. We get why they “sold out”, but damn, we could have done with more of this before they went for the big pay day.
Stuck Mojo – Pigwalk (1996)
It would be wrong to say that Stuck Mojo were, or are, a bad band. They have put out some ludicrous music (see the bewildering Rape Whistle on 2016’s Here Come The Infidels album for evidence of them at their absolute worst), and they have been fairly inconsistent over the years, but they aren’t a terrible band. 1996’s Pigwalk is probably as close as they ever got to releasing a good record, and the title track from said record is actually really great. The pummelling rhythm actually sounds like the sort of thing that a band like Ministry would deal in, and the vocal delivery of frontman Bonz is frenzied and frantic enough to make Stuck Mojo sound genuinely heavy. They are a step above many of the bands on this list, and this is definitely their finest moment.
Clawfinger – Biggest & The Best (1997)
Want three words that just don’t belong together? Swedish rap and metal. For the majority of their career Clawfinger managed to combine those hugely unwanted elements and actually make it worse than the horrors in your head could have imagined. Chinstrap bearded goons with massive trousers, thrusting their crotches at you from all angles, with seemingly no idea of what made either rap or metal successful. They’ve got a song called N****r (Which intends to be anti-racist rhetoric but forgoes any sense of the nuance actually needed to accurately tackle such a weighty subject and replaces it with barking the N-word over and over instead. Not the best.), for fuck’s sake! They were bad. But the lead single from their self-titled album has a genuinely massive chorus and no racial slurs in it at all. So... that’s progress, isn’t it?
One Minute Silence – Stuck Between A Rock And A White Face (1998)
One Minute Silence were meant to be the UK’s answer to Rage Against The Machine, but hearing frontman Brian ‘Yap’ Barry’s thick Irish drawl struggling to keep up with the ideas in his head over some very lumpen riffs was some way from the genius of Tom Morello and co. A great live band they undoubtedly were, but on record OMS were consistently and frustratingly uninspiring. But, for just over three wonderful minutes, they got it right on the awkwardly titled Stuck Between A Rock And A White Face. Now, you could argue that Yap was maybe not the guy to be tackling the complex and inflammatory situation of the 1992 LA riots, but there are enough good intentions here to make it work. Combine that with some quite excellent rubbery bass and call and response backing vocals, and you’ve got some evidence of their potential being recognised.
Kid Rock – Bawitdaba (1998)
Admittedly, this isn’t the only good Kid Rock song. We could have gone for a few tracks from 1998’s breakthrough album Devil Without A Cause, and his borrowing of Metallica’s Sad But True on American Badass is a legit stroke of genius. But the thing is – how can we put this sensitively? Actually, we can’t: Kid Rock’s just a dickhead, isn’t he? And he’s made so much tired, dire, terrible music since the release of this record that it feels right to include him here. Despite his terrible music and punchable face there really is no denying that as soon as we hear that ‘Bawitdaba, da dang, da dang, diddy diddy diddy, said the boogie / said up jump the boogie’ we’re on our feet doing some dance moves that would have us arrested for cultural appropriation. Sorry, not sorry. Actually... maybe just a little sorry.
Methods Of Mayhem – Anger Management (1999)
Has there ever been a worse idea in the history of this planet than Tommy Lee from Motley Crue fronting a rap metal band? Surely Methods Of Mayhem could never have worked, and – what a shock – it didn’t. Two truly horrific records, featuring a cast list of huge names like Mixmaster Mike, George Clinton, Snoop Dogg, Stephen Perkins and more. All of whom should really have known better. When you’re getting schooled in the rap game by a guesting Fred Durst, then maybe it’s time to get back behind that drumkit, eh, Tommy lad? Amazingly though, in amongst all of the deeply terrible music, there actually is a decent Methods Of Mayhem song: Anger Management might be dumb, it might be lyrically childish and it might be very simple, but the groove, tone and riff of the song are all incredibly seductive and catchy, and when that chorus comes in, we have to admit, Methods Of Mayhem have nailed it. And then they go back to shouting about Tommy’s cock for the rest of their career. Awesome.
The Workhorse Movement – Keep The Sabbath Dream Alive (2000)
It feels a little harsh to be including The Workhorse Movement in this list. After all, they only managed one record, 2000’s Sons Of The Pioneers, in their relatively short career, and it isn’t a dreadful record. It’s just an unbelievably dated one. Listening back to it now, you’re unlikely to find an album that encapsulates goatee beards, baggy pants, SunnyD and going “Whassssssuuuuupppppp!!!” more than Sons Of The Pioneers. Also, the lofty intensions of the group, who insisted that they belonged onstage “with Led Zeppelin in 1969 as much as we do Limp Bizkit today” upon the release of this album, and who said The Doors, Cypress Hill, Motown and Monster Magnet were all part of their sonic melting pot, look pretty silly today. Despite all of this, the opening track of the album, Keep The Sabbath Dream Alive, is still an absolute rager, despite all of its early 00s... er... charms.
Wicked Wisdom – Bleed All Over Me (2006)
We’ve all seen the footage of Hollywood A-lister Will Smith watching his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith from the side of the stage at Download Festival in 2006. While watching the band, even he, an Oscar-nominated actor watching his actual wife performing, couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to pretend like he was enjoying their set. It’s because Wicked Wisdom were an objectively terrible band. Pinkett-Smith has spoken since about how she never felt like she was accepted by the metal crowd due to being a black woman in a predominately white and male-centric scene. There is likely to be a great deal of truth in that – there are plenty of groups of white men for whom having terrible music was no barrier to wild popularity – but releasing a record as poor as their self-titled 2006 album can't have helped. There is one big(ish) song from the record, Bleed All Over Me, which sensibly swaps out the ham-fisted and one-dimensional riffs, and awkward-sounding, grunted raps for something a bit more melodic and subtle. More of this, and Wicked Wisdom would surely have had more success.
Falling In Reverse – Alone (2013)
Sure, it's true that Falling In Reverse are not a rap metal band. In fact, you could even argue that Alone isn’t a full-on rap metal song. Still, what is undeniable is that Falling In Reverse are terrible. A truly dislikable and obnoxious group they might be, but there’s something about Ronnie Radke upsetting purists and elitists that is massively entertaining – and we can’t help but smile when we think back to the furore they unleashed when they dropped Alone back in 2013. Released on legendary punk label Epitaph, featuring a video of Radke in a white suit surrounded by sports cars, and adding actual rapping to a modern metalcore genre that is scared of any kind of deviation from its tedious formula, it caused all kinds of trouble from all quarters of the scene. And, to be fair to Alone, it’s incredibly catchy, very idiosyncratic and pretty unique for the style of music that it is.
Prophets Of Rage – Radical Eyes (2017)
It might be considered scandalous and blasphemous to say it in rap metal circles, but, here’s the truth; Prophets Of Rage were absolute shite. Yeah, seeing the musicians in RATM being fronted by two of the greatest hip-hop MCs of all time is a great idea on paper, and live those old songs still killed. But the original material the band released was not only not as good as their previous bands, but actually embarrassing for the most part. Check out Take Me Higher from their self-titled debut album, where Chuck D moans about drones like a grumpy old uncle who has been down one too many Facebook conspiracy theory rabbit holes. Luckily, the opening song on the record, Radical Eyes, plays to the band's strengths, with a slower blues riff from Morello, a decent groove and some actual vocal tag teaming from Chuck and B-Real. The bar is exceptionally low, but this is the best POR song by some distance.