You’ve gotta hand it to him, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon sure knows how to keep fans on their toes. Fresh from wowing audiences during his Australian tour last month, the bearded folkster is back in the spotlight – but for something a little different. Vernon is getting together a brand new hip hop outfit featuring Minneapolis rapper Astronautalis along with Bon Iver drummer S. Carey and producer Ryan Olson. Betcha didn’t see that one coming. Sure, he’s collaborated with Yeezy, but this is still one artistic curveball hurled straight outta left field.
But that 'guy with a beard'
who toppled Nicki Minaj and Skrillex to nab two Grammys earlier this year is not the first to pull off such a genre-defying stunt. There are a whole lot of others who’ve made an Evel Knievel leap from one genre over to hip hop and rap, with varying degrees of success. Some flew, others stumbled; here are some of our favourites.
Run DMC & Areosmith - 'Walk This Way’
The original and probably still the best rock/rap mash-up. Areosmith had a hit on their hands to begin with, but when Run DMC got involved, the song soared to a whole other level of awesomeness. It’s got that riff. It’s got groove. And when Steve Tyler’s head busts through the wall in the video, it’s like watching the birth of rap rock in all its glory. When it comes to Aerosmith, Run DMC once again proved if you book them, they will come
Damon Albarn & Gorillaz
Damon Albarn is the voice of Britpop. He fronted Blur. Fact. But when they went on hiatus he did what so many great artists do: completely reinvented himself with the animated, hip hop project Gorillaz. Unfortunately, he’s recently let slip that new material from the primates is 'unlikely'.
But don’t shed a tear he’s putting together a whole new side-project in Doctor Dee
. In the meantime, let’s remember the good times.
Everyone thought a dishevelled Joaquin Phoenix had lost the plot when he showed up on Letterman claiming he was throwing in acting for a hip hop career
. Turned out it was a media stunt for the mockumentary I’m Still Here
. Well played Joaquin, well played.
Madonna – 'American Life'
Madge has even tried her hand at hip hop on occasions. Check the old lass have a crack at rapping around the 2:40 mark ("I'm drinkin' a soy latte/I get a double shottie
/It goes right through my body/And you know I'm satisfied"). LOL. She ain’t no Deborah Harry
Set Your Goals - 'Put Yo Hood Up’ (Lil Jon Cover)
Skinny white boys from suburbia are always trying to be more gangsta. They don the headwear, the loose fitting clothes and even speak like they were raised in the ghetto. But honestly, who are they kidding? The most dangerous part of their daily grind is probably trying not to spill their latte on the way to the polo club. American punk rockers Set Your Goals belong in this pile, given this Lil Jon cover. What do you think? Does it up their street cred or leave ‘em hanging? What’s the deal with the Yoda voice too? Cannot get over their dance moves.
All Time Low – 'Umbrella’ (Rihanna Cover)
Another cut from the Punk Goes Crump compilation. American pop punks All Time Low injecting a little teen angst into the RiRi hit. Check out the album for more questionable covers including My American Heart’s take on Tupac, Say Anything laying down Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Hot Rod Circuit dropping some Snoop Dogg.
Wu-Tang Clan jamming with the Black Keys? GTFO. Did that really happen?! Sometimes mixing the unlikely together makes for pleasing results (peanut butter and jam sandwich anyone? Vegemite and avocado toast?). Blakroc is a case in point. Combine the Black Keys with some big name hip-hop and R&B stars and you have a recipe for success. Check this collaboration with Mos Def and Jim Jones. Dope. Dare we say, even 'swag'?
The Kickdrums - 'Ridin’ (feat. Lana Del Rey & A$AP Rocky)
Pop princess Lana Del Rey is oh-so-hot-right-now. The sweet voice behind 'Video Games’ and 'Born To Die’ sent us into a spin when she announced an Australian tour, and then broke our hearts when she pulled the pin. She’s also a self-styled 'gangsta Nancy Sinatra' and teamed up with hip hopper A$AP Rocky for a choon called 'Ridin’ recently. It was due to appear on the Kickdrums’ mixtape Follow the Leaders but was yanked at the last minute. Bugger.
Paul Banks - DJ Fancypants
Paul Banks' day job is fronting straight-as-an-arrow melancholy indie rockers Interpol. But when the sun goes, his alter ego comes out to play: hip hop DJ 'Fancypants'. Guess there's a Yin to every Yang.