Disclaimer: More than any other band/artist that I’ve mentioned on Rock Stars in Hip Hop or Sunday Station Change, this band tops them all on my list (Radiohead and Vampire Weekend are very close, though). No band has impacted my outlook on music more than this band.
When I first started listening to music seriously, it was all hip hop. I was probably the only 11 year old in the Minneapolis suburbs with Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Nas and Atmosphere albums in my discography collection. That all changed a couple years later, when I came across the music video for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new video, “Can’t Stop”.
Keep in mind, this is far from their best work, but it’s what turned me from a hip hop-only fan to an all-around fan of music. Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante and Chad Smith will all have a special place in my musical catalog. Their music is why I got into John Frusciante’s (who has since turned into my favorite artist of all-time) solo material, which subsequently taught me how to take multiple listens to fully “get” certain sounds that don’t make sense right away.
One thing that helped me transfer over was the fact that Anthny Kiedis was rapping in a lot of his tracks, especially the early stuff. To be clear, Kiedis is NOT a good rapper in the same sense that Nas is a good rapper. Kiedis’ lyrics are loopy, strange, and often non-sensical, but given the goofy nature of the funk/rap/sex-based sounds they’d typically put out, this was very seldom surprising.
They’ve been a band since 1984, but the Kiedis/Frusciante/Flea/Smith quartet started in 1989 (and concluded in 2010). Their early, pre-Frusciante/Smith days are when they really honed into their rap fan roots. Back when the group featured the late (and great) Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons, they were much less rock and much more metal/funk/rap craziness that made imitators look like straight-laced sissies.
Despite all this, the group has, without question, evolved. Flea is a top 3 rock bassist of all-time, John Frusciante is in the discussion as the best rock guitarist of the last 25 years, and collectively, they’ve put together some of the best music for my personal listening pleasure. Blood Sugar Sex Magik from 1991, along with 1999’s Californication are two of the best albums of the 1990s. Stadium Arcadium is one of the best albums of the 2000s.
I’m not alone on this, either. The group got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just a year ago, introduced by superfan Chris Rock (director of their “Hump De Bump” video, one of their worst singles).
They got their start because of their uniqueness, but they kept it going because of their musical evolution.
The best thing for me as a fan was listening to John Frusciante and Flea jam. When I’d see them live, this was, for me, the best part of the show. Not listening to “Under the Bridge”, nor “Give it Away”. It was the stuff that Frusciante and Flea did together that was so unbelievable.
Also: Since (and before) leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Frusciante has managed to put together a pretty great solo collection. He’s also recently started producing hip hop records. His first is with The Black Knights, a Wu-Tang Clan affiliated group. Their first album, Medieval Chamber, came out this year.
Check out a track here: