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Hip-hop for metalheads: a 21st century guide

A montage of hip hop musicians
(Image credit: Press/Getty Images)

Metal and hip-hop have a long, storied relationship that goes all the way back to the 80s. Despite their apparent differences, the two genres have plenty in common, and have crossed over in hundreds of different ways over the years. There have been guest appearances, collabs and tours – heck, even Slayer’s Reign In Blood came out on the legendary hip-hop label Def Jam Recordings. 

Run-DMC pairing up with Aerosmith, Public Enemy taking on Anthrax and the soundtrack to 1993 thriller Judgement Night are perhaps three of the biggest moments to come from the two genres colliding – besides nu-metal, of course – but where are we at now? For this mixtape, we've picked out some of the standout crossover tracks released since the turn of the century, showcasing how thrilling it can be when hip-hop goes heavy. 

Metal Hammer line break

Cypress Hill - Rise Up (2010)

In a bid to shake up their sound, Cypress Hill wanted 2010’s Rise Up to really blow the roof off when it was played live, and the title track doesn't disappoint. B-Real’s future Prophets Of Rage bandmate Tom Morello brings his signature guitar sound to this track, launching this rabble-rouser to the front of the picket line. 

Body Count - Black Hoodie (2017)

When Body Count returned from hiatus with Manslaughter in 2012, Ice-T was just getting warmed up. No one was ready for the scathing takedown of modern life that was to follow on 2017’s Bloodlust. Infamously calling out police brutality on Cop Killer in 1992, Black Hoodie is a follow up of sorts; taking aim at US police tactics and racial profiling, with a chilling call back to KRS-One’s Sound Of Da Police.

Run The Jewels - JU$T (2020)

Without question, Run The Jewels are one of the most important groups in modern hip-hop. The fourth effort from El-P and Killer Mike tackles 2020 head on, dealing with racism, corruption and police brutality. Longtime RTJ collaborator and Rage Against The Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha, along with Pharrell Williams, join the duo on JU$T, the standout track from the album, that wraps a hypnotic beat around topics of slavery, money and justice.

Saul Williams - Break (2007)

For his 2007 album, Saul Williams turned to Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor to produce, with creative partner Atticus Ross handling programming. A nod to the classic Ziggy Stardust album, The Inevitable Rise And Liberation Of NiggyTardust! is a hard hitting slab of industrial hip-hop exploring black identity. Break brings together that huge wall of sound that NIN were going for at the time to Williams’ poetic lyrics. A career highlight from all parties, and a definite precursor to the likes of clipping. and Death Grips.

Necro - Suffocated To Death By God’s Shadow (2007)

A lifelong metalhead and death metal obsessive, Necro has littered his hip-hop career with gore-tastic references to his beloved sub-genre. For this particular track on Death Rap, Necro assembled a supergroup featuring former Suffocation drummer Mike Smith, Death legend Steve DiGiorgio on bass, guitarist Mark Morton from Lamb Of God and Brian Fair of Shadows Fall fame on vocals. Quite frankly, it needs to be heard to be believed.

Sean Price & Cold World - How The Gods Chill (2011)

Cold World have always had a soft spot for hip-hop, so when the hardcore band from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania partnered up with the late Sean Price, it made total sense. In fact, it’s one of the best hardcore/hip-hop team-ups since Biohazard and Onyx got together for the Judgement Night soundtrack. Cold World is now in effect!

Post Malone - Take What You Want (2019)

When Post Malone dropped this collab with the Prince Of Darkness, Twitter exploded with hot takes like “Who’s Ozzy Osbourne?!” and “He’s about to be huge after Post Malone featured him”. Madness, right? Straight out of the gate, Ozzy sings the first verse on this track and it’s one of his standout moments in recent years. Osbourne even repaid that leg-up from Post with a guest appearance on 2020’s Ordinary Man. What a good lad.

Ill Bill - War Is My Destiny (2008)

Just like his brother Necro, Ill Bill is a dyed in the wool metal fan, even going as far as forming a group with Vinnie Paz (Jedi Mind Tricks) called Heavy Metal Kings. For his second solo album, 2008’s Hour Of Reprisal, Bill put together the unlikely pairing of revolutionary rapper-cum-activist Immortal Technique and Brazilian metal god Max Cavalera for this joint on how warfare is destroying society.

Tech N9ne - Wither (2015)

Before CMFT Must Be Stopped, there was Wither, the first mashup of Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor and fast-rhyming rapper Tech N9ne. The track shows both sides of Tech and Taylor, starting out with a more melodic flow, that builds up to an acerbic performance from Taylor harking back to Slipknot’s self-titled debut.

Stray From The Path - The House Always Wins (2017)

Originally released on the day of the 2016 US election, Stray From The Path re-upped The House Always Wins for their 2017 album Only Death Is Real. Jedi Mind Tricks main man Vinnie Paz joins them, adding his flare to this cut about the race to the White House. The song reflects on how the odds are alway stacked against the average citizen, regardless of who wins.