Down With The Sickness: The Best Nu Metal-Rap Collaborations

Amidst the nu-metal revival, Pete Hunt dives into the nine best nu-metal x hip-hop collaborations.
By    August 2, 2023

Image via y2kdaily/Instagram

The Rap-Up is the only weekly round-up providing you with the best rap songs you need to hear. Support real, independent music journalism by subscribing to Passion of the Weiss on Patreon.

Pete Hunt is still trying to figure out a justification for posting a link to Celly Cel & UGK’s “Pop the Trunk” on LinkedIn.

Brace yourselves, we’re in the middle of a certified nu-metal revival. Teens with facial piercings are once more draping themselves in baggy Slipknot t-shirts. TikTokers are doing acoustic “Be Quiet and Drive” covers. And there’s a Twitter account with 126k followers documenting the scene like a soul-patched Ken Burns.

Maybe this isn’t the vibe switch you were waiting for, but it’s the vibe switch we deserve. After all, in Greek nostalgia literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart, a down-tuned bass guitar pummeling your subconscious, something more powerful than memory alone. And as all these retrospective pieces argue, the music wasn’t quite as bad as you remember.

Nu-metal ripped down rock’s edifice of gatekeeping and instead encouraged polygamous genre-blending. That inclusiveness meant the scene was more demographically diverse than the metal and alternative scenes that preceded it. And while the poetry slam lyrics could be cringey, the unfiltered emotional vulnerability of songs like “Daddy,” “In the End,” and “Bring Me To Life” clearly connected with teenage fans.

But wait, you’re asking, what about the rap collaborations? Even the most contrarian of critics won’t bother defending the rap collaborations…. right?

Reader, I’m going to try my best to do just that. This isn’t my favorite music, and it may not be yours either, but if we dig around we can find some inspired moments of creative alchemy. And no cheating either. We’re not going to stretch the timeline to include Anthrax & Public Enemy or Run The Jewels & Zack de la Rocha or whatever. We’re talking Anger Management tour-era nü metal—the real shit.

Deftones feat. B-Real – “Black Moon”

According to the liner notes of the B-Sides & Rarities compilation, this track was recorded during the White Pony sessions in reciprocation for Chino Moreno contributing vocals to Cypress Hill’s “(Rock) Superstar.” And because it’s the Deftones, the soundscape is restrained and haunted—more trip-hop than nu-metal. Credit is probably due to keyboardist and turntablist Frank Delgado, whose subtle texturing (see “Digital Bath”) has always been a core component of the band’s sound. B-Real is also predictably great, and “Black Moon” easily could have landed on any Cypress Hill album from that period.

Korn featuring Ice Cube – “Children of the Korn” / Ice Cube featuring Korn – “F*ck Dying”

With an assist from Chino Moreno, Korn covered Cube’s “Wicked” on 1996’s Life Is Peachy—and there was nothing gimmicky or tongue-in-cheek about their interpretation of the song. This wasn’t Dynamite Hack doing “Boyz In The Hood.” The band was simply signaling that Ice Cube was as much an influence on their sound as Faith No More and Pantera.

Of course, Cube had his own rock credentials having previously headlined the Lollapalooza tour with the Chilli Peppers, Ministry, and Soundgarden. While the then-recently released Westside Connection track “The Gangsta, The Killa, and the Dope Dealer” sampled Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”

All of which is to say, it shouldn’t have been surprising that he sounded so at home on “Children of the Korn” from 1998’s Follow the Leader, the first of several collaborations between the artists. These certainly aren’t the best Ice Cube or Korn songs, but they feel organic in a way that other collaborations from that era don’t – largely due to Cube’s versatility as a performer and vocalist. (Compare these tracks to the strained Nas / Korn joint “Play Me.”)

Dead Prez & Static-X – “Hip Hop”

The 2000 Loud Rocks compilation contains some of the era’s absolute worst rock and rap collaborations (looking at you, Incubus and Big Pun), but buried within is this pantheon LimeWire download. Granted, this isn’t a collaboration at all, it’s just a mash-up of both acts’ biggest hits (“Hip Hop” and “Push It,” respectively). But that’s exactly why it works. You’ve got and M-1’s vocals from “Hip Hop,” plus that song’s infectious pitch-modulated bass line—and then all the manic industrial energy from “Push It” sprinkled on top like a crushed-up Adderall pill. It’s no wonder this song was a college dorm file-sharing staple.

DMX featuring Marilyn Manson – “The Omen”

“Damien” was a theatrical track from X’s first album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, in which the narrator made a deal with (spoiler alert) the devil. Manson was thus a natural choice to lend his Prince of Darkness vibe to the sequel. Alas, the chorus here isn’t the best fit for his vocal stylings. “The snake, the rat, the cat, the dog” might sound menacing with DMX’s staccato delivery, but Manson struggles to make this list of baby’s first animal words sound melodic. Still, points for trying something different.

(Also… I’m aware that Manson debuted before nu-metal was a “thing” and thus largely dodged that label, but for the purposes of this list it seems reasonable to include him. And yes, I’m also aware that he collaborated with Gucci Mane on a legally and morally ill-advised song called “Fancy Bitch.”)

System of a Down & P. Diddy, Lil’ Kim, and Mase – “Will They Die 4 You”

This is the second wildest song on Chef Aid: The South Park Album. The top spot is reserved for “Nowhere to Run” featuring… [dramatic pause]… Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ozzy Osbourne, the Crystal Method, and Fuzzbubble. And an honorable mention goes to Master P’s legitimately great “Kenny’s Dead,” which reframes that character’s recurring death as a sort of scared straight PSA (“He knew one day that the rats would come / But he didn’t know they was gonna scream ‘bout it ’bout it’ / And hit him with a shotgun”).

But back to “Will They Die 4 You”—like some of the other songs on this list, the track isn’t a true collaboration, it’s just System of a Down remixing an acapella version of the Harlem World posse cut. The whole thing could easily have been phoned in, so it’s pleasantly surprising that the band delivers maximum riffage and inspired vocal accompaniment (“why must they killllllllllllll””). SOAD produced a similarly deranged take on Wu-Tang’s “Shame” on the aforementioned Loud Rock compilation, but the choice to scream along with the chorus on that one seems kind of questionable.

Q-Tip featuring Korn – “End of Time”

Before Justin Vernon showed up, Jonathan Davis was the crooner rappers went to when they wanted to add gravitas to their songs. This is the penultimate track on 1999’s vibe-heavy Amplified (which really holds up), and Tip clearly wanted to tack some socio-political commentary to the end of the proceedings. So Dilla cooks up this brooding, guitar-driven beat, Tip drops some introspective musings, and then Davis comes along like a haggard street preacher imploring listeners to repent.

Linkin Park featuring Aceyalone – “WthᐳYou (Chairman Hahn Reanimation)”

The obvious Linkin Park choice here would be “Numb/Encore” from Collision Course, especially since that song plays such an important scene-setting role in Michael Mann’s Miami Vice movie (seriously). But here’s the thing: Collision Course always felt like a lazy attempt at monetizing the far-superior Grey Album, and we’re not going to reward cash grabs here. The Reanimation remix album is far more creative, and the Dust Brothers and Aceyalone-supported “WthᐳYou” is a clear highlight.

Limp Bizkit featuring Method Man – “N 2 Gether Now”

Look, I didn’t want to end this list with the Limp Bizkit song. I didn’t even want to include it. But at the end of the day, this is a top-shelf Premier beat, Meth is in vintage form, and Durst… honestly acquits himself pretty well, especially compared to his later attempts at rapping. There’s really nothing “nu-metal” about this track, so you have to tip your backward baseball cap toward the band (and the label) for releasing it as the third single. Significant Other sold over 7 million copies, and at least a few of those listeners likely went on to pick up the Full Clip Gang Starr compilation at Sam Goody because of this collaboration.

We rely on your support to keep POW alive. Please take a second to donate on Patreon!