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Limp Bizkit are the new kings of rock. Why?

The big difference between Van Winkle and the bands he tries to associate himself with now is that he's only using the music to relive past glories. He saw what was selling, so he redid "Ice Ice Baby" (renamed "Too Cold" on Hard to Swallow) in a way that would get people to actually listen to it again without laughing...much. Van Winkle missed the point by latching onto a sound that combines metal's expression of white suburban alienation and hardcore hip-hop's outlet for the frustration of young black men in the ghetto. And Van Winkle can't relate either way: His is the sort of alienation that only celebrities endure, the angst that comes from realizing no one cares about you anymore.

The rest of the bands claim to be using the music as a way to vent their anger, scream therapy set to a breakbeat. Without a doubt, some of the hostility is genuine, or at least it may have been at some point. But Van Winkle's adoption of the sound only serves to underscore the problem with many of the groups that have surfaced in the wake of Korn and Limp Bizkit's success. Too many of them smack of cheap opportunism, cashing in on a passing fad until the next one comes along. Even Korn and Limp Bizkit sound as if they're trying to copy themselves, tapping an empty well. After selling millions of records, Korn's Jonathan Davis doesn't seem to have anything to be angry at anymore, unless it's the fact he isn't selling more records. The message is meaningless, despite everything both bands claim to be expressing with their songs. It all comes back to a cheap imitation of Run-DMC tag-teaming with Steven Tyler and Aerosmith. After all, that's where it all started.

It's probably unfair to blame Run-DMC and Aerosmith for Limp Bizkit's current success, but it's hard not to. Somewhere between then and now, the line between hip-hop and hard rock was lost forever in a mosh pit, trampled by some 15-year-old toothpick hitching up pants that would be baggy on Dom Deluise. It seemed like a good idea in 1986, when they decided to "Walk This Way" to the top of the charts. And to this day, it remains the only such collaboration worth listening to. Both bands obviously agree: Run-DMC's forthcoming album Crown Royal includes another merger of the two groups, this time a reworked version of the Raising Hell classic "It's Tricky."

Run-DMC and Aerosmith opened the door, and Public Enemy and Anthrax made people regret it five years later, when the two bands partnered up to record a forgettable take on PE's "Bring the Noize." And two years after that, the blueprint for the recent glut of hip-hop metalheads was created on the soundtrack to Judgment Night, an album that managed to obtain worse performances from its cast than the film did. Judgment Night is the most obvious touchstone, teaming such bands as Helmet and House of Pain, Slayer and Ice-T, Biohazard and Onyx, and Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot, and proving that it doesn't matter how weak your rhymes are as long you scream them loud enough. It's been a quick trip downhill ever since.

Thirteen years after Run-DMC revived Aerosmith's flagging career, "Walk This Way" sounds more like the beginning of the end, and not just because it revived Aerosmith's flagging career (cf. "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"). Looking back, it might just be the most damaging three minutes in recent popular music history, the song that started hip-hop and rock down a road that ended in a head-on collision that sounds a lot like Limp Bizkit. Or Kid Rock, Insane Clown Posse, Korn, Staind, and any of the dozens of hybrid bands currently clogging radio playlists and Billboard sales charts. For better or worse -- or really, just worse -- Limp Bizkit's lineage begins where "Walk This Way" ends. It's a shame, because when Joseph "Run" Simmons and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels traded rhymes over Joe Perry's unforgettable riff, they broke the mold. Too bad it didn't stay broken.

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