Think of Judgment Night–the original motion picture soundtrack from an Emilio Estevez film that didn’t do so well at the box office–as the stepchild of Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” In 1993 (the year the album was released) it wasn’t unheard of to hear rhymes behind rock riffs. Even the hip-hoppers mentioned above were doing it long before they crossed paths with Steven Tyler. But Judgment Night maintains its place in history because it fell between two periods in music where mixing your rock and rap was acceptable, and mixing your rock and rap was frowned upon (see Dope, Crazy Town, Adema).
A decade before digitally-spliced mash-ups found their home on iPods, and a few years before Limp Bizkit arrived on the scene and polarized the listening public, Judgment Night seemed like a novel (and perfectly innocent) concept–take your favorite alternative rock band and have them create a song with your favorite hip-hop group. Even if the album turned out to be a train wreck, enlisting artists like Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth, Helmet, Cypress Hill, and even rock/rap vets Run-D.M.C. made you want to listen to it at least once.
Not only was Judgment Night not a train wreck, but the album eventually sold over 2 million copies, overshadowing its accompanying film altogether. One of the album’s college rock singles was “Just Another Victim” featuring Helmet and House of Pain. Curiously, this is the only track on the album that features both full-on, verse-chorus-verse vocals from the rock group and rhymes from the rap act (which makes it the album’s most ambitious offering). Helmet liked the song so much, they began playing it live (sans Everlast) and later included it on their greatest hits album.
Sonic Youth teams up with Cypress Hill on the laid-back “I Love You Mary Jane.” B-Real and Sen Dog supply the weed-inspired rhymes (shocker there, huh?), while Sonic Youth provide the scratch guitar and the haunting hook, “Shoulda come by to get me high.” Cypress Hill also appears on “Real Thing” with Pearl Jam, another one of the album’s homerun hits.
Ice-T doesn’t go too far out of his comfort zone–considering he was already touring with his metal band, Body Count, at the time–when he shares a thrash-and-burn track, “Disorder,” with Slayer. The Seattle pairing of Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot on “Freak Momma” makes for one of the most memorable rhymes on the album, “I wanna put you in the mud, honey, ” while Run-D.M.C., the godfathers of this kind of stuff, appear on Judgment Night, tag-teaming with Living Colour on “Me, Myself & My Microphone.”
After sharing some screen (and scream) time with Onyx on their “Slam” video, Biohazard rejoins their buddies on the album’s title track. This may not seem like a relevant pairing 16 years later, but combining the in-your-face styles of both Biohazard and Onyx was a pretty big deal in 1993.
Years before Del The Funky Homosapien was plucked by Damon Albarn to lend rhymes to his super group, Gorillaz, he got his alternative-rock-training-wheels taken off when he teamed up with Dinosaur Jr. on “Missing Link.” I’m sure an early-90s Lou Barlow would tell you, if you could work with Dinosaur Jr.’s control freak, J Mascis, you can work with anyone.
In an album full of surprisingly fun treats, none gets sweeter than “Fallin’” from De La Soul and Teenage Fan Club, a bittersweet song about the ups and downs of fame. The backing instrumental will make you want to pour yourself a glass of lemonade and relax on the porch swing, while De La Soul defeats the alternative-grunge-era artists at their own game–crafting lyrics that will make you feel good about feeling so bad.