In theory, during the heyday of pop groups and alternative rock bands, if someone said they wanted to make a rap-metal group, they would have been laughed out of town.
But pioneers stand out in music history for the wrong or the right reasons. They either flop and have to recover their reputation from a failed experiment. Or they achieve immortal status among a mainstream audience.
Luckily, Linkin Park broke boundaries with their experimental blend of nu metal and rap in their debut album ‘Hybrid Theory’. The album was a roaring success in 2000 with authoritative vocals and hip hop choruses set to the raw power of a heavy metal rock band.
Nu metal and rap never previously achieved serious mainstream success in the charts. So, combining the two, unleashing it on to an unexpecting audience and achieving unrivalled success was unprecedented.
The blend somehow worked and Linkin Park wrote themselves into legendary status with Hybrid Theory.
Beneath the heavy rock and fast-paced rap, songs like, ‘One Step Closer’, ‘Points of Authority’ and ‘Papercut’ all open up an internal wrestle that many would be unwilling to reveal in their lives. But Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington had the perfect way of cutting through to his darkest thoughts and feelings whilst also carrying his sentiment with the perfect voice for a rap metal band.
His outward expression of haunting thoughts and raw pain comes out in well-crafted lyrics and the screaming of a man releasing his inner daemons.
Of course, Bennington’s craft wouldn’t work on its own. His metal persona combined perfectly with the rhythmic flow of Mike Shinoda’s rap solos and contrast is perfectly demonstrated on one of Linkin Park’s best-ever singles, ‘In the End’ which has over 1 billion plays on Spotify.
Bennington’s timing to speak out on issues of violence, abuse, depression and anxiety also came at the right time for the right audience. In the 2000s, music shifted from the bright, airy, easy 1990s of rock bands and pop groups to a more angsty, edgy crowd. While bands who previously took this approach struggled for mainstream success, co-founders of Linkin Park Bennington and Shinoda were the icons to deliver the music of a generation dealing with change as the world entered a new millennium.
Ultimately, what Bennington and Shinoda shared in Hybrid Theory has stayed relevant for the last two decades. As of 2020, Hybrid Theory sold 25 million copies and tracks from the breakthrough album still receive playtime on radio stations worldwide.