Like the bobbing Mark Wahlberg at the conclusion of The Perfect Storm, anyone venturing into the ill-tempered waters of Loud Rocks will find themselves at the mercy of two colliding tempests. In this case, the uncontrollable forces are hip-hop and rap-metal. The premise couldn’t be more zeitgeist: Rock and metal bands of the hardcore variety cover songs by hip-hop acts from the Loud Records roster (hence the album title). The rappers who originally performed the songs also join in, making the album both a salute and a self-tribute.
Given the bonds that have long existed between these two rebel music cultures — and that solidified in the last few years thanks to Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit, and their ilk — a collection like Loud Rocks seemed inevitable. But rap-metal mergers have often been more enticing on paper than on record. Think back to the earliest coalitions: Anthrax’s 1991 remake of Public Enemy’s ”Bring the Noise,” with PE participating, or the soundtrack to 1993’s Judgment Night, which featured rockers like Sonic Youth and Slayer joining forces with rappers like Cypress Hill and Ice-T, respectively. The collaborations were historic, but they were also stiff and clunky; the alt-rockers especially seemed out of synch with hip-hop beats and flows.
In stark contrast, Loud Rocks reflects the impact hip-hop has had on rock in the years since the heyday of Lollapalooza. The album opens with ”Shame,” System of a Down’s version of the Wu-Tang Clan’s insane boast posse ”Shame on a Nigga,” with Method Man and RZA rapping along. As expected, System of a Down infuse the song with their smackdown roar, but it’s clear they’re also much more adept at incorporating rap into their music than their alternative predecessors. It’s part of their language, which may be the most telling example yet that hip-hop is ground zero for the post-grunge generation.
For most of its duration, Loud Rocks pounds down this same path. The remakes aren’t mere novelties; rather, they’re seamless, and often extremely potent, interpolations of the two genres. Assorted Wu-Tangers are also on hand to remake ”Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing to F— Wit” beside Rage guitarist Tom Morello and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. As Morello and Smith shout out the chorus, the song becomes a maniacal cheerleader chant. Dead Prez and Static-X transform the slinky murk of the rappers’ ”Hip Hop” — with its prideful stand against both cops and the ”monotonous material” of lame MCs — into a freakout with an Uzi-attack rhythm. MOP and Garbage drummer Butch Vig (billing himself, amusingly, as Grunge Is Dead) remake the rapper’s ”How Bout Some Hardcore” into a wailing slice of industrial, with Vig’s new-wavey synthesizers adding a delicious hook. Everlast digs into the urban apocalyptica of Mobb Deep’s ”Shook Ones Part II” (one of several songs here that equates Los Angeles with Vietnam, and the razor’s-edge guitars and drums make the case as much as the lyrics). As Everlast’s track demonstrates, one of the album’s most fascinating qualities is how respectful the white rockers are to the material; they replicate the rhymes and inflections of the originals in the same way reverent folkies covered Dylan in the ’60s.
It’s telling that one of the least convincing tracks is a Wu-Tang remake featuring two rock veterans: Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi. Iommi lathers on guitar riffs that would kill buffalo at 50 paces, but the track feels cut-and-pasted, and Ozzy’s pinched-nose style rubs against the material rather than slipping into it. That’s not to say that the young guns don’t also stumble at times: Incubus’ cover of Big Pun’s ”Still Not a Player,” featuring a sample of the late Hispanic rapper, replaces the big-poppa flow of the original with generic rap-metal, and Sevendust singer Lajon Witherspoon hams it up with white-R&B mannerisms on their version of Xzibit’s ”What U See Is What U Get.” Nevertheless, Loud Rocks is more than a rage-culture soundtrack. Once, rock and rap coexisted on the same field but on different sides of the fence. Loud Rocks brings rock over to the rap side, uniting the two genres in a stare-down of anything even remotely pop. And rock looks like it’s there to stay for a long while. B+