Normally, reviewing Linkin Park in these hallowed walls would be like Clint Black inducting Public Enemy into the country music hall of fame. Although I like a few of Park’s songs, the genre from which they are sprung (sometimes called “rap rock” or “metal rap”) seems to me like a scary attempt for the white power structure to co-opt black music. Since very few white lyricists save for Eminem have any credibility, rap rock is an easy way for whites to bust rhymes and not be subject to rigorous hip-hop scrutiny. Nobody ever puts 311 or Limp Bizkit under the microscope, and artists like Fred Durst constantly inch themselves closer to credibility by sneaking in remixes with Method Man & Redman without ever having paid the dues most dyed-in-the-wool hip-hoppers have. In fact, it’s not Eminem’s shock-therapy rapping that gives him cred, it’s his years Michigan’s underground scene and his “battle anywhere, anytime” attitude that gives him true props.
As such I’m always leary of people like Linkin Park’s own Mike Shinoda, people who seem to respect hip-hop on a musical level but don’t really create rap music. Fusing rap and rock is not an insult though. A lot of hip-hop’s all time great songs in Run-D.M.C.’s catalogue mesh the two, as well as songs from “Dope Beat” by Boogie Down Productions to “Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” by Cypress Hill (sampling AC/DC and Black Sabbath respectively). While rap artists bring rock into hip-hop and take it back to it’s culturally black roots (forget not Chuck Berry and his predecessors) rock artists seem to be doing the reverse – putting rap in their songs and pulling hip-hop away from it’s core. Nobody’s questioning the cultural power shift though, and certainly not the rappers and producers who appear on “Reanimation.”
What’s odd about this reconceived selection of Linkin Park’s songs is to what lengths it goes to pull rock rap back INTO hip-hop music and culture instead of away from it, which to me is a pleasant surprise. “In the End” is remade by Kutmasta Kurt and Motion Man, “Paperkut” has a new twist that brings in Rasco and Planet Asia, “X-Ecutioner Style” features Black Thought, and “Hi Voltage” is an Evidence track with a rousing Pharoahe Monch rap inspired by BOTH groups of X-Men:
“Who’s the man demandin you hand over your Land Rover
No man’s bolder than Pharoahe when he jams your plan’s over
I inflict sclerosis; the most ferocious
When I spy my third eye’s extremely high voltage
That’s why I need ruby quartz glasses
Cause when I glance there’s a chance I might blast the masses
Subliminals, transmitted through piano
Integrated in flow, calculated in nano”
While Shinoda might not be recognized as an MC in most rap circles, rock fans will certainly recognize his remake of “Forgotten” featuring Chali 2na from Jurassic 5, or the more mainstream Park smash hit “One Step Closer” redone with Korn alumnus Johnathan Davis. The new versions of Park’s songs are well chosen on “Reanimation,” whether they feature rap producers and MC’s or not. What may be surprising to the open-minded listener is how many of the songs with no hip-hop slam anyway, such as “Krawling” revisted with Aaron Lewis; a song whose tinkling beat and pre-chorus rap refrains always made it a little edgier than fellow groups who used rhymes as a gimmick or hip-hop style as a non-too-subtle attempt to cross over. For those rap heads for whom System of a Down’s “Chop Suey” didn’t seem like an insult, there’s no reason to be mad at an updated “By Myself” by Shinoda and Josh Abraham either.
While Fred Durst often seems desperate to be given rap credibility, Linkin Park’s frontman is content to earn props by working with MC’s who are less recognized in pop culture and far more deserving of the mic time. The best result of this fusion album would be a fair exchange of rock fans who check out underground rap and hip-hop heads who give worthy hardcore rock a few spins of appreciation. Both can walk away from “Reanimation” feeling that their core values have been respected, without either trying to use the other or front like something that they’re not.