During my tenure at Interscope, Geffen A & M records, rap-metal became the fastest selling genre in rock. Korn, Limp Bizkit and many others combined sounds and techniques that previously had been relegated to one audience and mashed them together to create a new category. However, they were far from the first to take seemingly contrasting key elements from songs and artistic forms and throw them together.
Looking back to the late 70s, we have the ‘first’ rap to be shown on MTV- no, not by Run-DMC or other well noted founders of commercial hip-hop- but by Blondie, when Debbie Harry performs her now infamous break down in the middle of the funk disco classic, ‘Rapture.’
The aforementioned Run DMC, one of the godfathers of chartable hip-hop, experienced their debut crossover when they asked classic rockers Aerosmith to not only let them use the riff from their 1975 classic, ‘Walk this Way’ in the rappers cut, but to also appear on their version, both on wax and in the video. Suddenly two things that seemed so far apart- the emerging sound of hip-hop and the long beloved by middle America rock n roll tune- merged perfectly into something at once familiar and new. The Aerosmith/Run DMC version of ‘Walk This Way’ acted like the ‘gateway’ for many people into discovering rap music and hip-hop culture. It was an accessible entry point into another musical world.
This is almost impossible to think about now, how far apart two different styles of music could be just ten or more years ago. In a world where we can now just jump on Spotify, and hear back-to-back the new Drake then go to a Fleetwood Mac tune, the meaning between each kind of music’s subculture and back story shrinks, and becomes less important.
Yet when a band like Skindred come along and is internationally successful for almost two decades, you realise how important each kind of music is to the other, how nothing ever truly lived in isolation, musically speaking.
It’s this musical gumbo, a bit of this with a sprinkle of that, which makes it such an exciting group to listen to. While many in the music business are always on the look out for the ‘new,’ maybe a more clever and equally exciting spin to finding new artists would be to see what unexpected combinations todays innovators are pairing together.
Listen to the full interview with Mikey Demus, guitarist in Skindred, here…
You can also subscribe on Itunes, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!