Monster Magnet's "Space Lord": Rock and Rap's Missing Link?
Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet
Tomorrow at House of Blues, stoner-rock heroes Monster Magnet perform.
Their biggest hit was 1998's "Space Lord." While the song has since served as an ironic music cue in movies like Talladega Nights -- it's also quite possibly the missing link bridging the gap from traditional rock to the rock-rap explosion of the late '90s.
While plenty of rock-rap hybrids predate the song, namely the Anthrax collaboration with Public Enemy, Biohazard's Onyx remix and the Judgment Night soundtrack, such crossovers were somewhat of a passing fad.
Going back even further, as much as Aerosmith helped usher Run-DMC (and rap as a whole) into the MTV generation's collective consciousness, there wasn't then a whole lot of cross-genre overlap. Even though the '90s had music festivals slotting token rap artists and acts like like Ross Robinson and Korn incorporating elements of hip-hop production (as well as Puffy signing rock band Fuzzbubble to his Bad Boy imprint in effort), the two worlds were still lacking that first visual cross-over. Enter: Monster Magnet.
Rock music was largely thought to be fading in 1998; of the 10 best selling albums that year, the rocking-est was the City of Angels soundtrack. For Monster Magnet lead singer Dave Wyndorf, there were no more "rock stars" in rock. As he told Vibe in November of that year, the only real rock stars he saw were in rap. While witnessing the excess of rappers in Las Vegas at the height of the shiny suit era, he penned "Space Lord." When it came time to shoot a video (above), he had only one stipulation: he wanted to make it a rap video in Las Vegas.
Eager to please, video director Joseph Kahn (who'd shot a video for Bad Boy rapper Ma$e a few weeks prior) tracked down the actual locations Ma$e used in his Hype Williams directed "Feel So Good" video and, unbeknownst to Wyndorf, recreated more than a handful of scenes shot-for-shot.
Once Wyndorf discovered how much of the "Space Lord" clip was a direct reference, he feared Ma$e wouldn't be happy. Fortunately, Ma$e seemed to enjoy the video, as he told MTV during a celebration of hip-hop's 25th anniversary the following year, he thought it was a trip.
While the video opens as an homage to Metallica's iconic "Enter Sandman" video, the first bombastic chorus transforms the visuals into one '98 rap trope after another. From the bright colors to the synchronized dancers to how a cameo from then-Marilyn Manson guitarist Twiggy Ramirez was shot, Wyndorf got his wish. And "Space Lord" found its way into regular MTV rotation.
What Wyndorf may not have anticipated was how viewers were interpreting the video and the song as a full-blown rock/rap combination. While Wyndorf's confrontational vocals may have more in common with popular rap at the time than, say, Matchbox 20, the song itself hit No. 3 on the mainstream rock charts.
Was "Space Lord" the first overtly visual marriage between rock and rap that set the stage for the beginnings of the nu-metal explosion by the end of the year? Following "Space Lord," both Korn and Limp Bizkit (whose hip-hop influences were much more overt) became mainstream darlings and even brought along hip-hop heavyweight Ice Cube for the inaugural Family Values tour.
Soon Kid Rock, who married the excesses of both rap and rock that Wyndorf admired, became one of the biggest names in music, allowing both the genres' participants and their fanbases to have a more open relationship. It's a testament to Kahn's direction that, almost 15 years later, the video holds up without the immediate shiny suit rap landscape to compare it to.
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