Music has always been inviting of different genres and artists to collaborate with one another. Many bands and singers will explore different musical avenues or create something new amongst fellow artists. Music has blessed audiences with a number of high profile collaborations. There was Queen and David Bowie, Pac and Dre, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, and many others. Some artists just click so naturally that the audience needs to hear what they can concoct together. While the more known teamups produced some solid material, some of the lesser known ones resulted in mixed feelings from audiences. What were some of these obscure hookups in music history? Well, let’s take a gander. Some may shock you, some may not but these partnerships actually did take place.
Metallica’s frontman, James Hetfield, is known for his distinct voice and trademark “yeah!”. During his tenure as part of the metal legends, he also contributed work to several other artists.
One of Metallica’s biggest influences are storied punk group, The Misfits, so when singer, Glenn Danzig, broke away from them and founded his own group, Hetfield stepped in to help. Though he isn’t credited on Danzig’s self-titled debut, Hetfield contributed vocals to the album trademarks, Twist of Cain and Possession. Both of which are still performed live by the horror-punk icon today.
A decade later, Hetfield worked with South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, to cut a tune for the South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut soundtrack. The odd pairing produced the track Hell Isn’t Good which showcases Hetfield’s pounding voice. This wouldn’t be the only unorthodox collaboration Hetfield and his band made during their career. Which now brings us to…
While Metallica may very well be the most popular name in heavy metal history, with any big artist comes a career full of criticisms. After the band was accused of “selling out” in the 90s by adopting a more accessible sound and cutting their long hair, they subsequently took MP3 sharing kings, Napster, to court for copyright infringement which upset fans everywhere. With their public stock at an all time low, the band made another controversial decision. One that everybody loves to forget. Yes, Metallica collaborated on a track with rapper, Ja Rule.
Now, rock and hip-hop have been mashed up together for decades. In addition to bands like Faith No More and Rage Against The Machine, there was Walk this Way by Aerosmith and Run DMC and Bring the Noise by Anthrax and Public Enemy. Metallica teaming up with a hip-hop artist wasn’t the problem. The problem was Ja Rule. The song in question was We Did It Again which appeared on the soundtrack to the crappy motorcycle flick, Biker Boyz. This still was not the most embarrassing thing Laurence Fishburne has been associated with.
Swizz Beatz produced it and audiences everywhere hated it. Ja Rule has always been the butt of jokes in the rap community so Metallica teaming with him made them seem even more lame and out of touch than they already were. Couldn’t Metallica team up with, I don’t know…KRS-One? Atmosphere?
Before I Kissed a Girl and California Gurls, mulch-platinum recording artist, Katy Perry, tried to score recognition in any way imaginable. Right before her musical breakout, she sang backup on a track from California rock group, P.O.D in 2005. Credited under the moniker, Katy Hudson, she was featured on the lead single, Goodbye for Now off their album Testify. She appeared in the song’s music video as well. Virtually an unknown at the time, Perry would become one of the biggest names in music just a few short years later.
Another musician who was featured on that record before his breakthrough was reggae singer, Matisyahu, who actually appeared on the LP’s opener, Roots in Stereo, and another track, Strength of My Life.
After the dissolution of the Smashing Pumpkins, frontman, Billy Corgan lent his songwriting talents to a variety of artists. One of the more obscure and unorthodox bands he helped write songs for were Taproot.
Taproot were a band who were discovered by Limp Bizkit vocalist, Fred Durst. They planned to sign with Durst’s label, Interscope Records before subsequently going behind his back and signing with Atlantic Records. This prompted Durst to leave a scathing message on their answering machine. The recording eventually surfaced online. They experienced moderate success in the early 2000s due to the nu-metal boom that was dominating the rock market. By 2005, nu-metal had been long gone so they looked to someone credible to help keep them relevant.
Corgan co-wrote a few songs from their third record, Blue Sky Research. Hey music hardcores, Far’s Jonah Mantranga appeared on the album as well!
Corgan also co-wrote some songs for Breaking Benjamin and even cut vocals for Marilyn Manson and New Order tunes.
The most surprising to me though was Corgan working with 80s hair metal band, Scorpions, for their 2007 record, Humanity: Hour 1, singing on the song, The Cross. I actually like Scorpions quite a bit so this association actually makes me happy.
Pearl Jam singer, Eddie Vedder worked with the west coast punk outfit, Bad Religion, on their 1992 album, Recipe For Hate, singing backup on one of the band’s signature tunes, American Jesus. This started a relationship between the two entities that resulted in Bad Religion opening for Pearl Jam on select dates during their Vitalogy tour in 1995.
The two bands reunited in 2009, when Bad Religion took up the opening slot for four dates on Pearl Jam on their Backspacer tour.
In the early 90s, heavy metal had an unexpected visitor in the form of Green Jellÿ, a satire group that blended hard-hitting riffs, growled vocals, and humorous themes. This was especially evident on their 1992 re-imagining of the classic tale, Three Little Pigs. The ridiculousness of the song combined with the claymation video created an image for the group that no rock fan will soon forget. Who stepped in to help the band out with the song? None other than Tool/A Perfect Circle singer, Maynard James Keenan. Before the release of their LP, Undertow, Keenan voiced the Piggies in the video giving audiences a feel of what to expect once Tool breaks out.
Keenan also lent vocals to a Rage Against The Machine track off their eponymous debut. I wondered for years whether the voice on the interlude of Know Your Enemy was Zack De La Rocha or not. Turns out, it was Keenan. Great song and album, by the way.
Slayer were one of the Big Four of American thrash metal and helped bring it to the forefront in the 80s. A lot of that can be attributed to Rick Rubin, who produced the band’s most successful records. Slayer guitarist, Kerry King has always been the most prominently featured member of the band and worked with two bands you probably didn’t recognize him on.
King performed solos on two popular songs by hip-hop trio, Beastie Boys, Fight For Your Right (To Party) and No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn, even making a cameo in the video for the latter. Both of which were also produced by Rubin.
The axeman appeared in a head-scratching moment by way of Sum 41’s video for What We’re All About from the Spider-Man film soundtrack. The clip features the burly King stealing the show with a earth-shattering guitar solo.
Nowadays, people either know Ice-T for his smoking hot wife, Cocoa, or his role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit but the man has had ties to heavy metal for over 20 years. In addition to fronting his own metal band, Body Count, Ice-T worked with Slayer on the soundtrack to the 1993 cult film, Judgement Night. But the more obscure collaboration that a lot of people don’t know of was when T worked with heavy metal innovators, Black Sabbath. By the mid 90s, Black Sabbath were far removed from their heyday and were just spinning their wheels waiting until Ozzy Osbourne rejoined them. This led to a lot of directionless work with one notable example being the opening song to their 1995 album, Forbidden. Ice-T lent his voice to The Illusion of Power, the opening groove off the record that contains T’s recognizable voice as well as vocalist, Tony Martin’s. Sadly, not even the greatness of Tony Iommi can save this horrible song and album.
Brian May, the famed Queen guitar player, is not known to collaborate with other artists much but an exception was made for, of all things, the soundtrack to the failed sequel, Mission: Impossible 2. Dave Grohl, who is a professed Queen fan got the chance to work with one of his heroes for a cover of Pink Floyd’s Have A Cigar. I’ve mentioned it before but the MI2 soundtrack had a surprisingly decent number of gems despite being tied to a bland action film. Foo Fighters and an original Queen member? Can’t go wrong there.
Rivers Cuomo is one quirky individual who cares passionately about his musical output. His band, Weezer released two of the greatest albums of the 1990s (and even a decent third, comeback record) before steadily going downhill quality wise. Contributing to the industry in other ways, Cuomo lent his talents to help a few fledgling rock bands in the early 2000s.
In 2003, when the nu metal era of rock was dead, two groups were on life support, Crazy Town and Cold. You may remember Crazy Town for their ear bleeding 2000 single, Butterfly or the fact that one of their singers, Shifty Shellshock, is a legit crackhead who’s appeared on Celebrity Rehab. Cold weren’t a horrible group but were pretty much stagnant by this time. Cuomo actually wrote and performed the opening riff to Cold’s Stupid Girl and performed a guitar solo on Crazy Town’s Hurt You So Bad. It was at this time where Cuomo’s career clearly jumped the shark.