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Metal and Rap: Why We Should Get Along...

Posted in: Forum Home >> Non-Metal Music Discussion >> Metal and Rap: Why We Should Get Along...

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Displaying 2 posts
Mar 23, 2012 7:03 PM ET #1 (permalink)

I got into Metal when I was about 14. I lived in the DC area, this was in the early 2000s, and the part I lived in was mostly black and latino. I was made fun of for not listening to rap but instead listening to "white boy music." The backlash I received wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't for the fact that I wasn't white (I'm biracial; black and Mexican). Obviously, me and urban youth weren't too fond of each other. And it was also annoying to hear, "Are you gothalic?" (ignorance and illiteracy tend to go hand in hand). Granted, I like a handful of rappers (Immortal Technique, Tech N9ne and of course Tupac), but I'm a die-hard Metalhead overall.

Fast-forward to mid 2008. I still wore band tees when I wasn't working. So I left out of the local mall and saw a group of dudes about my age wearing the usual sagging pants and oversized t-shirts (the kind of guys suburban kids would call "thugs"). One of them saw my shirt and yelled, "Hey yo man! I fucks with Cannibal Corpse! Fuckin' hammer smashed face nigga!" I walked over and talked to the guy and we've been cool since. That year I can recall two other moments where this happened. Another guy saw a band tee I was wearing and said he listened to that band when he'd get pissed off and want to shoot someone (which probably followed with someone getting shot).

One of my friends (to protect identity, lets call him 'Hit') was affiliated with a notorious street gang (that we've probably all heard of but I'm not saying shit). Me and Hit met in an alternative high school (the both of us having been kicked out of regular schools) and he saw my Mayhem t-shirt and told me he had "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas." In math class, Hit got me listening to Mobb Deep and Eazy-E but he also got me into Naglfar and Carpathian Forest.

I was indeed surprised and wondered what changed between the time when these types of people made fun of me as a kid, and when they got older and started listening to Metal (Even a Nile show I went to some time back had a group of, again, "thugs" that moshed with me). However, after doing some homework and looking on the histories of Rap and Metal, I now wonder why this acceptance didn't happen sooner.

THE BASICS IN DEPTH

Now fellow metalheads, I know most of you still hate rap/hip-hop. I get it, "they don't even play instruments, they don't actually make the music they just sample other people's music, they don't sing. BAAAAWWWWWW!" If you whittle it down to the basic similarities, Metal and Rap both use unconventional techniques. You can very well compare a DJ's record-scratching to a guitarist's artificial/pinch harmonics. Also, while in the early days of Metal, singing clean vocals were a primary factor, we later developed Extreme Metal where vocals range from yelling and screaming to growling and shrieking. That in theory makes a Death Metal artist's lyrics in a song quite similar to rapping over music if you really wanted to think about it.

For those of us who know of or listen to 80s Glam Metal (or you at least listen to Steel Panther), what were most of their songs about? Women, drinking, drugs, partying and/or their favorite vehicles. Listen to whats known as Crunk rap/Bling rap (Lil' Jon or pretty much anyone whose career in rap started in the early 2000s). I'm dry on this list of rappers because I don't care to listen to any artists whose only topics are: Bitches (women), drinking, drugs, partying or their vehicles (or more often, the rims on their vehicles)!

Now here's one thing most metalheads and rap fans can agree on: We love gratuitous violence and nudity! Some of the better known Metal artists such as Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth, Satyricon and Gorgoroth either have nude women (as well as men in Gorgoroth's case) in their live shows, their videos and on their album covers (And I sure as hell won't want to stop that). But on the other side, rappers (mostly bling, crunk and again, most rappers who started their career in the early 2000s) also are known for their video vixens (strippers mostly) doing things for their music videos that, believe me, you would want to see in Metal videos (obviously they'd be covered in blood, holding a python, chained up or some deliciously evil combination of the three). Picture a broad in a Satyricon video 'making it clap' or 'making it vibrate' to Frost's drumming. If you don't know what I'm talking about, stay up late, like around the same time you'd catch "Headbanger's Ball" and watch whatever videos end up on BET. And on the violent end, yes we're familiar with the numerous images/videos of various rappers holding various guns to promote the gangster image in the early 90s. Around the same time that these notable rappers were toting guns (and in some cases having to either use them or have them used on them), artists in Norway as well as other countries in Europe were also wielding [Medieval] weapons for promos (or in Varg Vikernes' case, using them).

Okay metalheads, quick question: What do Sodom and N.W.A. (Stands for "Niggas With Attitude") have in common? Both have songs titled "Fuck the Police"! Metalheads and Rap listeners both hate authority. Granted, most of us grew up, got jobs, got married and started families later. But we were both usually the ones in school vandalizing property, getting in fights, partying hard and living recklessly ("Breaking the law, breaking the law!"). And damnit if the school cops/security and the principals didn't know our names or ended up being the bane of our existence! The whole reason I even knew Hit was because we both got kicked out of two prior high schools before meeting at the Alternative High School for our diplomas.

My favorite artists have almost always been the most evil of their genre. Songs with Satanic references, songs about revenge, murder, death, war or some sick combination of the five. Thats why the artists I recommend to most people are Mobb Deep, Eazy-E, Bone Thugs 'n Harmony and [early] Three 6 Mafia (They even reference 666 in their rap group's name!). Early Three 6 Mafia was part of a genre of rap known as "horrorcore." They sampled and referenced our favorite slashers as well as talking about the gory details of murder. Eazy-E and Bone Thugs also referenced the desolate one in some of their songs (some fans even speculated that members of Bone Thugs were, in fact, Satanists). Fuck, Three 6 Mafia even have a few pictures taken of them wearing spiked bracelets occasionally.

Also, apart from imagery that comes to mind, there is no difference between "Keeping it real" and "being true." Rappers that claimed to be from a bad neighborhood just to have it proven otherwise later (Vanilla Ice) immediately lost credibility. When Eazy-E was feuding with Dr. Dre, the worst insult to be called was a "studio gangster" or to have people saying you weren't actually from South Central L.A. but instead from the suburbs. Some of the most notable rappers still live, or at least dwell in the neighborhoods they grew up in, even though they have money for the mansion they leased or bought. And then go to Europe, where some of the most notable Black Metal artists still live in their modest homes isolated in the forests and mountains, still using the most basic of recording tools for their music. That lack of production quality that has almost become a staple of black metal records.

...AND DEEPER STILL

Its interesting that the artists I gravitate to also tend to have criminal records. No, not just Tupac, DMX, Eminem, Immortal Technique and practically EVERY RAPPER SINCE THE 90s. Lets talk about Varg Vikernes of Burzum, who was locked up for arson and murder as well as the late Jon Nodtveidt of Dissection who did 8 years for killing a homosexual, or Gaahl who caught a charge for mutilating some guy (And then later came out as a gay man. But thats one thing thats definitely different between Metal and Rap: Metalheads are a little more accepting of gays in the scene. I don't even think there are any openly gay rappers out there, for fear that they'd lose credibility. But even in the early days, gays weren't accepted or at least just not acknowledged in Metal til Rob Halford came out).

FEUDS

Here's one definite commonality between Metal scenes and Rap scenes: Infighting. In the rap game, if you beef with someone, you're making diss tracks about the other guy. That rapper will then make a reply track about you, and it goes back and forth until actual fights happen. Or until, for some reason someone like Louis Farrakhan tries to mediate the discrepency. Beef between rappers is almost expected, a diss track gains more notoriety. I could write a list of all the rappers that have taken issue with each other: 50 cent and Ja Rule, Eminem and Benzino, Tupac and B.I.G., Eazy-E and Dr. Dre...How about Bathory and Celtic Frost? Or Mayhem and Beherit? Dave Mustaine and...almost everyone from Kerry King to the late Jon Nodtveidt

In an audio interview with the late Quorthon (Bathory), he talked about how when he first started out he didn't even listen to the artists he talked shit about (Voivod, Celtic Frost), but just that he wanted more notoriety.

"...I still hate [Celtic Frost]...but I respect them."

Beherit claimed that members of Mayhem called them on their phones threatening to kill them. Mayhem denied it. Feuding between the two bands caused a rivalry between Norwegian and Finnish black metal circles. So much so that at some point there was a Norwegian band called "Fuck Beherit" just to stick it to them.

FEUDS THAT TURNED DEADLY

In the mid-90s, the East coast/West coast rivalries were coming to a Boiling Point. Tupac was certain Notorious B.I.G. was behind the first shooting that ended up with Tupac recovering from 5 gunshot wounds to the body. The heat was on, both were exchanging diss tracks with each other. Sadly, both were eventually killed by gunmen that were never brought to justice. But a few years before that in Norway, tension between Varg (Burzum fame) and Euronymous (of Mayhem) also hit a violent point when Varg went to Euronymous' apartment with his knife and stabbed him to death. Varg claimed it was in self-defense (his statement read like O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It"), but nonetheless served time in prison for murdering Euronymous.

All that said, while a few people of both scenes may appreciate both genres for the most part, we're still two divided subcultures. Many may disagree with what I'm saying, but you still can't deny the accuracy of the facts as they are. I doubt many of you will do this, but I suggest listening to some of the artists mentioned. You'll be surprised who you can identify with. I was indeed surprised when I found out me and Hit had a lot in common, me and him became close friends and had a mutual respect for each other. We'd smoke and talk about bands, good rappers, philosophy and books like "The Art of War" and "Hakagure." But sadly, Hit will never get to read this. He was murdered during the blizzard of 2009...

Apr 3, 2012 9:53 PM ET #2 (permalink)

Dude, great read. All thumbs up.

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