Similarities Between Rock and Rap Music

By Ryan Heiser
Rock and rap music occupy much of the same space on the landscape of modern music.

On the surface, rock and rap music could not seem more dissimilar. Rock music places a heavy emphasis on melodies, guitar hooks and booming choruses, while rap artists utilize a combination of bravado and wordplay to weave dense stories buoyed by thumping electronic and sampled beats. However, both have similar origin stories, and the line between these distinct genres has blurred over the last 20 years.

Common History

Both rap and rock music were created by African-American musicians as a means of highlighting their struggle to be accepted in America. The music of Chuck Berry, often referred to as "The Father of Rock & Roll," struck a chord with both white and black audiences. Rap music has similarly moved outside of the African-American communities where it was first created, and has evolved into a successful, widely accepted mainstream music genre.

Shared Instrumentation

Two decades ago, almost all rap music was made by pairing sampled music with drum machines such as the Roland TR-808 and 909. Today, it is just as common for a hip hop group to record and perform with a live band as it is for a rock band to incorporate DJs, samples and drum machines into performances. Artists such as Kanye West and the Beastie Boys blur the line between rock and rap star.

Rhythm-centric

Drums and bass form the backbone for a high percentage of the hit songs produced by either genre. The combination of bass and drum rhythms dictate the momentum of the song, whether propelling forward at a hurried pace or settling into a slow, easy groove. A good rhythm section is widely regarded as a critical element to success in both rock and rap. It is common for a hip-hop song be composed of nothing but a repeating four-bar drum beat and a simple bass line. Rock music is similarly simplistic, while adding guitars to the mix.

Crossover Projects

It is common for rap and rock musicians to collaborate on projects, further blurring the line between the genres. Some of the more famous rock/rap collaborations are "Bring the Noise" by Anthrax and Public Enemy, "Iron Man (This Is War)" by Busta Rhymes featuring Ozzy Osbourne, and "Radio Song" by REM and KRS One. In 2004, Jay-Z and Linkin Park collaborated on an entire live performance, which was released in the form of an EP. Today, bands such as Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and Rage Against The Machine are identified as "Rock/Rap" artists.

About the Author

Ryan Heiser began writing promotional materials for touring musicians in 2005. He is currently a live audio engineer and freelance technical writer specializing in digital audio applications and consumer electronics. Heiser graduated from West Virginia University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.