Limp Bizkit were everywhere in the early 00s. Like, everywhere. Performing on Top Of The Pops. Bagging number one albums and singles. Soundtracking Wrestlemanias. You could barely move for Fred Durst bouncing around your television screen from around 2000-2003. While Bizkit were already a major deal come the end of the 90s, the obscene success of Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavoured Water - which sold, wait for it, a million copies in its first week - not only helped confirm nu metal as the biggest thing in music (Hybrid Theory landing just a week later certainly helped), but installed Jacksonville's finest as its proud, obnoxious poster boys.
These days, it often feels like we have to rely on Eurovision and, um, Doja Cat to get metal represented on the big stage, but in that era, rock really was dominating the mainstream. The singles charts were stacked with heavy bands (seriously, head over to the Official Charts Company site and look up any given week from 2001), nu metal fashion had become a pop culture phenomenon and even Staind somehow got a number one album in the UK. Staind!
Until Linkin Park truly began to take off, however, it was unquestionably Limp Bizkit that reaped the richest rewards from nu metal's unstoppable rise - so much so that it seems to be a forgotten footnote in their bonkers career that Fred Durst once got up on stage at a major awards show and duetted with Christina Aguilera. Yep, that Christina Aguilera.
The singer was a year on from the release of her debut album and a ways off her iconic (and controversial) makeover into 'Xtina' for the Stripped era. At this point, she was still portrayed by the media as a true 'pop princess' - a sugar-sweet teen idol a world away from those nasty, grubby metallers clogging up the charts. So, imagine everyone's surprise when, during Aguilera's performance of Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You) at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, Fred Durst suddenly rose from his seat in the VIP area of the crowd, swaggered onstage and began rapping the bridge from Chocolate Starfish banger Livin' It Up.
No, it wasn't an unplanned, Kanye-style stage invasion; it was a legit team-up between two of the most unlikely collaborators in modern music, and yet more evidence of Limp Bizkit's status as one of the most in-vogue bands on the planet.
Interestingly, the whole thing was by no means Aguilera's first encounter with Durst. At the start of the year, in an interview with Rolling Stone ahead of the Grammys, Aguilera had revealed that the Limp Bizkit man had actually asked her to accompany him to the previous year's VMAs in September '99.
"He wanted me to be his date for the MTV Video Music Awards,” she explained in January, confirming that it was in fact her record company RCA that nixed the whole idea, seemingly not wanting Christina's sugar-sweet image to be undermined by a nu metal bad boy over a decade her senior. "They were like, ‘No! No!'” she claimed, "but in the future, I’ll probably do something like that.”
Durst and Aguilera would never ultimately get their red carpet moment, but their paths did cross just a few weeks after that Rolling Stone interview, when MTV gathered a star-studded guestlist of that year's Grammy nominees for a special photoshoot. Durst revealed in a pre-shoot interview that he was hoping to meet Aguilera, and the two were soon seen sitting together once the shoot had begun, following some apparent coaxing from the rapper.
"I know you must be thinking I'm an idiot," he could be heard saying to the singer once they were together. "But I'm not."
Clearly, Aguilera couldn't have thought Durst was much of an idiot: the two would eventually come together a few months later on the big stage for that iconic VMAs collaboration, consolidating their curious place in awards history forevermore. While it may have appeared that the duo had formed an unlikely bond by this point, some aggravating remarks made by Durst towards Aguilera in an interview with Playboy in July 2001 suggested that he was furious with her over her lack of preparation for the performance, and stung by the backlash from Bizkit fans that the duet provoked.
“She didn’t even show up for the fucking rehearsal," he seethed. "I’m sitting in the hotel room with my managers the day of the rehearsals and she ain’t coming. She’s fixing her hair. So I storm into her room, going, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ She goes, ‘Calm down.’ I go, 'No, fuck you! I ain’t fucking doing this damn song.’ So she starts crying hysterically, freaking out. I go, ‘OK, I’ll fucking do it.’ I did her a fucking favor, and all I got was a bunch of shit from my fans, like, ‘What the fuck did you do that for?'”
Durst would later distance himself from those comments, stating in a post on Limp Bizkit's website: "I was really feeling negative about a lot of things back then.
"It's amazing how, over time, a person's perspective can be altered," he added. "I've somehow been able to let myself move on from the feelings I had back then."
While Durst regretted his comments about Aguilera, the negative reaction Bizkit's fanbase had to the performance itself evidently stayed with him. In an interview with Metal Hammer in 2014, Durst lamented the narrow-mindedness of fans unable to accept metal mixing it up with other genres.
"What’s the problem?" he asked. "Because they make a type of music we aren’t allowed to like? Or you think they are the nemesis of what our music is about? Why segregate? Why be so musically fuckin’ racist? What do you mean, I can’t hang out with these types of people? Clearly I didn’t give a fuck, which fed a lot of it, too. I mean, someone that’s not going to give in and apologise… it’s gonna make people carry on talking."
While Bizkit's star would begin to wane as the 2000s progressed, Durst's performance with Aguilera marked a moment in time where nu metal had brought rock music to the masses like never before or since. Even if the relationship between the two seemingly soured soon after, it was certainly a moment we'll never forget.