Last week, Big Boi unexpectedly revealed that he’s been working together with Modest Mouse on the band’s forthcoming record. This will add the heralded Atlantan rapper to the list of recent hip-hop artists like Kanye West, The Roots and Kid Cudi who’ve collaborated with rock groups. But the cross-genre collaboration trend dates back to the early ‘80s. Here’s a look back at some of our favorite hip-hop/rock collaborations throughout the past several decades.
20. “Right On”
Rappers: The Roots
Rocker: Joanna Newsom
Since joining Jimmy Fallon’s show as his house band back in 2009, The Roots have accompanied countless artists on the late-night TV set. That’s carried over into their own studio work, including this effort with Joanna Newsom from their 2010 record How I Got Over.
Rockers: Linkin Park
While we rarely vouch for rap-rockers Linkin Park, their partnership with Jay-Z is one cut that’s worth a listen.
Rocker: Trent Reznor
The Nine Inch Nail frontman makes a compelling appearance on former Def Jux founder El-P’s masterful 2007 album I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead.
17. “Who Knows Who”
Rappers: The Streets
British rap meets British arena rock on this surprising single.
16. “The Drop I Hold”
Rockers: The Black Lips
Long before the Lips were drinking champagne out of Mark Ronson’s Grammy, they worked with Wu-Tang member GZA for a track off their 2009 record 200 Million Thousand.
15. “Real Thing”
Rappers: Cypress Hill
Rockers: Pearl Jam
Around the time that Pearl Jam rose to fame in the mid-’90s, the Seattle rockers recorded “Real Thing” with hard-hitting rap outfit Cypress Hill.
14. “Missing Link”
Rapper: Del tha Funkee Homosapien
Rockers: Dinosaur Jr.
These two influential acts in their own respective genres teamed up in the mid-’90s to record “Missing Link.”
13. “Bring The Noise”
As one of the early prominent rap-rock collaborations, Public Enemy and Anthrax found common ground with their intensity despite coming from drastically different musical backgrounds.
12. “Pursuit of Happiness”
Rockers: MGMT, Ratatat
Kid Cudi recruited MGMT on vocals and Ratatat as producers for his cut off of Man On The Moon: The End Of Day.
Rocker: Janelle Monáe
While Monáe isn’t exactly a rocker in the purest sense of the word, we don’t know how else to classify her, and this track was too good to leave off the list list. Adding in Big Boi for a verse doesn’t hurt the cause either.
10. “The Kids”
Rockers: Janelle Monáe, Vampire Weekend
Monáe appears on this list again, but it’s B.o.B.’s liberal use of Vampire Weekend’s music that makes this track worthwhile.
9. “Benzie Box”
Rapper: MF Doom
Rockers: Danger Mouse, Cee Lo Green
Long before Danger Mouse was a world-renowned producer, he worked with MF Doom under the name Danger Doom. Also on this track, you can find one of the first collaborative efforts between Danger Mouse and Cee Lo Green, coming right before they formed Gnarls Barkley.
8. “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)”
Rappers: The Roots
Rockers: Monsters of Folk
The Roots prominently kick off last year’s How I Got Over with this laid-back effort featuring folk-rock supergroup Monsters of Folk.
7. ”Radio Song”
Peter Buck on this collaboration with KRS-One: “”When we wrote it out we only had acoustic guitar, bongos, bass, organ, and a 12-string over the chorus. When we got to the studio we added drums, and I put down some funk guitars and we thought, ‘Well, gee, now it’s kind of a funk song.’ And Michael suggested bringing in KRS, since he’d worked with him before (KRS-One appeared in a public service announcement for Stipe’s C-Hundred film production company). It blows people’s mind, and gets them thinking, ‘Woah, what’s the rest of the record going to be like?’ But then we go into ‘Losing My Religion,’ which is probably the most typical R.E.M.-sounding song on the record.”
6. “Lost In The World”
One of two tracks that Justin Vernon and Kanye West teamed up on for the rapper’s latest record, “Lost In The World” prominently features portions of Bon Iver’s “Woods.”
5. “Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)”
Rappers: Mos Def and Jim Jones
Rockers: The Black Keys
It’s quite difficult to choose the best track from the entire Blakroc LP, but we opted to highlight the work of Mos Def and Jim Jones here.
4. “ Fallin’”
De La Soul
Rockers: Teenage Fanclub
On the rap-rock-centric soundtrack for the mid-90’s action film Judgment Day, Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul are the clear collaborative standouts.
3. “Kool Thing”
Rapper: Chuck D
Rockers: Sonic Youth
“Kool Thing” was originally inspired by a heated interview Kim Gordon had with LL Cool J. The song, which features an appearance by Chuck D, emerges as a continuous jab at LL Cool J.
2. “Walk This Way”
Rappers: Run D.M.C.
Although sounding somewhat outdated over 25 years after its release, Aerosmith and Run D.M.C. are largely responsible for the popularization of rap-rock in the years to follow this song’s release.
1. “Clint Eastwood”
Rapper: Del tha Funkee Homosapien
The intersection of hip-hop and rock is undoubtedly a hit or miss affair. There are plenty of bad fusion attempts out there. On Gorillaz’s debut record, however, the lead single “Clint Eastwood” exemplifies how masterful and seamless a blend of these two genres can be.