By the late 1980s, heavy metal and hip hop were graduating from the underground to the mainstream. Over the course of the decade, these burgeoning youth movements were reaching sonic maturity and social relevance. Different as they are on a musical and aesthetic level, the two genres share a quest to document the dark undercurrents of modern life. As harbingers of truth, metal and rap are spiritual cousins.
Producer Rick Rubin took a huge risk when he paired Run DMC. with a burnt out group of ‘70s rockers called Aerosmith. The gamble paid off, catapulting Run DMC. to new heights and entirely revitalizing Aerosmith’s career. The writing was on the wall: As good as rap and rock were on their own, blending the genres together was a recipe for success.
For years, musicians and producers tried to replicate the commercial magic of Run DMC. and Aerosmith. Although Rick Rubin would have success when he got Slayer‘’s Kerry King to play on a Beastie Boys album, most of these sonic experiments were confined to Yo! MTV Raps and Headbangers Ball. It would be a decade before the advent of nü-metal pushed the style into conventional hours.
During this incubation period, a young rapper from Seattle named Sir Mix-A-Lot tried his hand at the formula. Getting together with his headbanging neighbors in Metal Church, the groups set about creating a new interpretation of Black Sabbath’s classic anthem, “Iron Man.” Appearing on Sir Mix-A-Lot’s debut album, Swass, the track is as much of a sonic success as Anthrax and Public Enemy’s collaboration or anything on the Judgement Night soundtrack (in which the rapper joined forces with another Seattle band, Mudhoney).
When asked by The Onion about “Iron Man” and how it was perceived by the Seattle scene at the time, Sir Mix-A-Lot said: “Well, they didn’t like it. In retrospect, I really don’t like that song, and I’m very honest about why: It was an obvious attempt at trying to capitalize on what Run DMC was doing. When things are that obvious, they’re kind of cheesy, and I wish I hadn’t done it. But you learn from it. I love rock, though. Now, more so than then. I’m going to do a rock album, but it won’t be that kind of shit. It’ll be a rock-remix album.
“‘King Of Rock’ was a big deal, but I wanted to do something harder, metal stuff. I love heavy metal, hard shit. I’m the guy you see at Ozzfest. I wanted to do something a lot harder, but at that time, I think it was a little disrespectful to hip-hop, and a little disrespectful to rock. Run DMC could do it, but I don’t think anybody else at that time should have been doing it.”
Check out the video for “Iron Man” below!