Published October 09, 2009
Rivers Cuomo is getting hip-hop religion. Last week, MTV broke the news that Weezer drafted pothead rapper Lil Wayne for their new album, "Raditude." Cuomo said he wanted to add some "edge" to the project by doing more than just rapping, "Yay, we're partying! Let's drink and have fun." No doubt, Lil Wayne will rap about more than drinking and having fun.
The Weezer/Lil Wayne collaboration has to be one of the oddest rock-rap pairings in memory. On one hand is Cuomo: vegetarian, Harvard graduate, and meditation practitioner. At the other end of the studio is Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.: codeine cough syrup lover, gun enthusiast, and part-time fugitive. I'm sure the conversations were fascinating.
That's the story of rock and rap: unlikely bedfellows (or partners in forced marriages), who more often than not wind up creating real sparks. It seems obvious that the two genres would come together. Both are born out of rebellion and a desire for agitation. Yet there are surprisingly few rock-rap collaborations — mash-ups excluded. There are even fewer good ones (Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg, I'm talking to you).
Rock-rap partnerships often include an artist who is dangerously close to jumping the shark or slipping irrevocably into irrelevance. A strong dose of beats and rhymes can give a rock act some needed cred as well as edge.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Weezer and Lil Wayne recordings are filled with magic. I'm also hoping that Cuomo was able to introduce Lil Wayne to the wonders of meditation. It's changed my life; I'm sure it would chill Wayne out as well. Here are some of the famous collaborations that paved the way:
Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith
The 1986 single "Walk This Way," from Run-D.M.C.'s "Raising Hell" album, gave the Hollis hip-hop trio their career breakthrough. The remake of Aerosmith's '75 classic rock staple also rescued the Boston band from obscurity and jump-started a career revival that would last through the next decade.
Say what you will about John Mayer, the hip-hop community digs him. Between appearances with The Roots (on the old "Chappelle's Show") and props from Jay-Z, Mayer has hip-hop cred. Still, he's aware of his undeniable "whiteness," which he admitted to MTV while discussing his collaboration "Bittersweet Poetry" on Kayne's 2007 "Graduation" album.
Anthrax and Public Enemy
Both bands were winners on the '91 remake of Public Enemy's 1981 rap opus "Bring Tha Noise." Chuck D was apparently reluctant to participate in the recording at first. However, the track was so strong that the two bands ended up touring together. Head-banging and rhymes are close cousins. This pairing opened the door for metalheads and rappers to get loud.
Eminem and Elton John
Theirs is the oddest rock-rap pairing of recent memory. Admittedly, John has long since stopped being a rock artist, but his musicianship — and gayness — were both needed by Eminem, who was under fire from gays rights groups in the run-up to his 2001 Grammy appearance. Their performance of "Stan" was stirring and started a friendship that lasts to this day.
Linkin Park and Jay-Z
After famously being mashed up with the Beatles on Danger Mouse's "Grey Album" (never commercially released) earlier that year, Jay-Z decided to get in on the action. His pairing with Linkin Park resulted in a six-song EP called "Collision Course," which was released along with a DVD. The single "Numb/Encore" topped the Billboard chart and won the team a Grammy.
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