Only Hip-Hop Can Keep Rock Alive

Only Hip-Hop Can Keep Rock Alive

Hot97 Staff
07/28/2021 12:00 AM EDT
Rock-N-Roll is dead, but will hip-hop save it?Rap and rock have had a complicated relationship through time. At times, the genres are partners in crime battling against sensitive parents and audience members who decry foul lyrics and mature themes, but at other times they are head to head rivals in a national culture war. Rap-rock combos have come a long way since Run DMC & Aerosmith broke ground with “Walk This Way.”

Rap and Rock Influence

From Lil Wayne’s Rock album to the noticeable metal influences in Ski Mask the Slump God songs, rock-n-roll’s influence on hip-hop is undeniable. The very nature of hip-hop is to borrow and adopt from other artforms. The genesis of rap music came from two turntables and a microphone, literally rapping over disco beats and dance records. Artists like Willow Smith and Machine Gun Kelly who were mainstream hip-hop acts just five or ten years ago are now reviving the rock sounds of the early 2000’s. Overall pop culture has become more ironic and nostalgic which has gone on to stunt the genre of traditional rock music. Whereas hip-hop functions as a more malleable genre, which has been able to adapt to irony and utilize the audiences craving for nostalgia. An entire younger generation of rappers such as Juice Wrld, XXXtentacion, Teezo Touchdown, Lil Skies, and Trippie Redd rely heavily on guitar sounds and rock influences. From A Boogie Wit a Hoodie’s newest hit “Me and My Guitar,” to Travis $cott co-opting the traditional metal aesthetic, to the biggest rap song of 2020 being “ROCKSTAR'' by DaBaby and Roddy Ricch - rappers have recently been more successful at using rock music than rock artists.

The State of Rock

According to Billboard, the current most popular rock songs in the world are by The Kid LAROI, an Australian rapper and pop artist, and Billie Eillish. According to Apple Music, the most popular Rock songs on earth are Beggin by Maneskin - followed by Dreams by Fleetwood Mac, The Killers - Mr. Brightside, and Back in Black by ACDC. Most of those songs are more than a decade old and none of them were released in the last three years.Rock music as a whole has been on the decline for years. Through the early 2010’s it appeared that bands like Tame Impala, the Black Keys, and the Arctic Monkeys could save the genre - but if anything their styles have been swallowed up by pop music and hip-hop. Few rock bands have captured the hearts of hip-hop audiences the way that Tame Impala has, the band collaborated with Miguel, Kali Uchis, Kendrick Lamar, and Theophilus London. Not quite a rapper, but vocalist Syd - who grew out of the LA-scene and was a member of Odd Future fused the sounds of rock from the early 2010's masterfully with her unique voice for the band, The Internet. No two The Internet songs are the same, they're often lengthy and winding but entertaining nonetheless. Syd blends what would traditionally be R&B with funk-inspired rock music to make something brand new.

Rap-Rock Royalty

For years the genres coexisted in fusions like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Hollywood Undead and even Cypress Hill, but those days have faded down to just Twenty One Pilots and Zero 9:36. There were a few legends that dominated the fusion of rap and rock like the Beastie Boys, Insane Clown Posse, and Gorillaz - but those acts ultimately stood out from the crowd because of their ability to innovate. Gorillaz were able to tap into new-wave alt-rock, ICP invented it’s own subculture, and the Beastie Boys were in a lane of their own. Of all rappers and rockers, no one has perfected living in both worlds better than one man. The king of the rap-rock crossover just so happens to also be the longest running police officer in television history, Ice-T. For those who don’t know, Ice-T is not just a prolific rapper, but he’s also the lead singer of a metal group known as “Body Count.” The band “Body Count” has been active since 1990 and won the Grammy for best metal performance in 2018 and 2021, few bands achieve that longevity. enough, Travis Barker of Blink 182 fame has collaborated with a number of rappers and even is connected to both Willow Smith and Machine Gun Kelly’s emergence in the rock scene. Barker has worked with LL Cool J, XXXtentacion, Lil Wayne, Post Malone, and a number of hip-hop artists. Drums are crucial to both genres, so Barker’s talents carry over with ease.


In 2021, the biggest rock stars in the world are rap artists. The emerging class of popular rock is being led by people who were hip-hop artists. Hip-hop currently reigns supreme on a mainstream level, while also fostering an equally important subculture of underground music. Rock currently has little to no appeal in the mainstream, and even rock's thriving subcultures are simply too niche to create a traditional rock star. In closing, Rock-n-Roll is dead and the only thing that can preserve it until it becomes cool again is hip-hop.