10 Hip-Hop Acts for People Who Only Like Rock Music
Although they come from similar roots, rock music and hip-hop differ in their ethos and execution. Both tend to thrive on a certain machismo, but rock’s greatest moments come from performers who lose themselves, whereas hip-hop is more about control. Rock is wild aggression; rap is flowing and steady aggression. Recently, there’s been a shift in hip-hop, with more rappers adopting a rock ‘n’ roll ethos. It’s the reason rappers like Lil Wayne and Young Thug are classified by the hip-hop media as “weird.” It’s all about their approach, and the same goes for all of the MCs on our list of 10 Hip-Hop Acts for People Who Only Like Rock Music. Even guitar-worshipping purists will hear in these artists something they can get behind.
Even people who don't love hip-hop can see the merit in A Tribe Called Quest. They drew from countless genres of music other than hip-hop and made a significant impact on a vibrant era. Joey Bada$$ has picked up where Tribe left off.
Sticky Fingaz (Onyx)
Sure, you know Onyx from their hit 'Slam,' but the group -- and member Sticky Fingaz in particular -- had a lot more going for them than that one song. It’s hard to say why, but Onyx and Sticky Fingaz have never really received the respect they deserve. Ultimately, Sticky has had a more successful career as an actor then as a rapper, but there’s something about his voice and flow that are infectious. Listening to him, you can tell he’s giving it his all. He’s willing to unravel for the sake of the music, and that rocks.
Rone differs from the rest of the pack because he brings a different element of rock into the hip-hop world. The more laid-back, folky or even college rock influence in Rone’s style makes for the perfect soundtrack to a cozy soiree. His debut album, 'The First Story,' was produced by Dice Raw from the Roots and has made the rounds on the iTunes hip-hop charts. Rone is also a well-known competitor in the world of battle rap -- another aspect of hip-hop rock fans might enjoy. The battle world is exploding right now and features many of the most talented lyricists alive. Check out Rone’s bout with Okwerdz for a taste.
Of all the groups on this list, none blurs the line between hip-hop and rock 'n' roll more than Why?. Yoni Wolf had been going by the Why? moniker for a while before his brother Josiah joined up, turning Why? into an all-out band rather than an experimental solo project. Why? take hip-hop vocalization and mix it with rock-style hooks -- all against a backdrop of indie and electro rock. Usually, the combination of this many genres makes for a mess, but Why? pull it off. Maybe it's because Yoni experimented for years before hitting his stride, performing in groups such as Clouddead, who were signed to the infamous Anticon hip-hop label. Rockist rap haters should check out the Anticon roster for even more MCs they may like.
Action Bronson isn't a wild screamy rapper, and he certainly isn’t some revolutionary. So why did he make this list? He's a certified character. In a genre obsessed with image and opulence, Action Bronson seems to care only about hedonistic, sometimes even artisan pleasures. The guy loves food: bone marrow on the rosemary toast, steaks and cold cuts of all sorts. Better still, the rap world has accepted him with open arms. From a musical standpoint, his flow is out of the box. He switches it up and stretches his bars to snapping the point. Take what hipsters love about Ghostface Killah and combine it with the best of Big Pun and give it a punk sensibility, and you’ve got Action Bronson.
Admittedly, rap-core is awful, and it never should have existed, but this is slightly different. E-Town Concrete came from Elizabeth, N.J., out of a scene that fused the rap-style vocals of New York City hardcore bands like Cro Mags and Gorilla Biscuits and took it up a notch. This band did what the rest of the artists on this list do, only backwards. Having grown up in the hood, E-Town brings the ethos of hip-hop into hardcore music. Other bands like V.O.D and Danny Diablo tried, but E-Town Concrete tapped into something that no one’s been able to since, and so they deserve a spot on this list.
It’s all about the revolution. At times, Dead Prez espouses the kind of values you’d expect from an anarchist punk band, only from a completely different standpoint. A whole genre should have sprouted from RBG camp, but unfortunately, nobody’s been able to emulate what Dead Prez created. Even if you're a white boy who's been robbed a gunpoint, it’s impossible not to enjoy the rob-the-white-boy-at-gunpoint verse in 'Hell Yeah.'
Another well-kept secret, Andy Bothwell, aka Astronautalis, paid plenty of dues in the underground hip-hop world before emerging with the album 'Pomegranate.' The thing is, the album attracted more fans from the indie rock world than it did “hip-hop heads.” Bothwell’s voice has the rasp of Joe Cocker, the melancholy of Leonard Cohen and the sensibility of Bob Dylan, and yet he’s a rapper through and through. Astronautalis and P.O.S have a forthcoming collaboration collaboration called the Four Fists inspired by the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Sole is controversial and experimental. He’s like the Crass of the hip-hop world. Sometimes, he doesn’t even rhyme when he raps. He creates sounds and wordscapes that lull you into near-hypnosis, and that’s just his first album. Sole reinvents himself with each record, and on the Nuclear Winter mixtapes, he used the most mainstream hip-hop beats to get his message out there. The result sounded like your favorite club banger, with lyrics that Phil Ochs would have respected.
Though he remains one of the best-kept secrets in hip-hop, P.O.S is completely deserving of the top spot on this list. After all, he grew up punk and somewhere along the line decided to bring that energy into hip-hop. When it comes down to it, there’s no better rapper for people that like rock, especially punk rock. He's sampled everyone from Serge Gainbourg to Fugazi and Isis, referenced 'The Big Lebowski' and even featured guest vocals from Craig Finn of the Hold Steady and Greg Attonito from the Bouncing Souls. P.O.S songs evoke that make-you-wanna-mosh-or-break-a-window energy that only the best rock songs can.