The story goes that the union of rap and rock was forestalled in the mid-'80s by the rise of black nationalism, especially as manifested by Public Enemy. But it was also forestalled by the dearth of good ideas after Rick Rubin introduced Run-D.M.C. to Aerosmith and the Beastie Boys to a competent studio guitarist. And the latest crop of rap-rockers has repeated that dead end by bleeding dry a dingier version of the same concept.
The Anger Management Tour, on the other hand, serves up the summer's hottest bill by crossing color lines without resorting to simple style mergers. Instead, the acts cover the full rhythmic spectrum of today's mainstream macho strutting. Xzibit's booming delivery is emblematic of the hardest West Coast hip-hop. Ludacris puts his big mouth in the service of the Dirty South's squiggly electronics and smutty exhibitionism. And the X-ecutioners offer an instrumental version of machismo: When the crew of DJs starts scratching the beat in perfect tandem, it's like Blue Öyster Cult's five-guitar encore.
Given their race, the two headliners -- Papa Roach and Eminem -- naturally have a more complex relationship with hip-hop. The onetime rap-rockers in Papa Roach have reduced their rap usage to a simple flourish on their new album, Lovehatetragedy; it's just one more tool in the band's hard rock kit. And Eminem, after becoming the first white rapper to be fully embraced by black America, has acknowledged his privileges on The Eminem Show with blatant rock moves that broaden his music while narrowing his persona. In fact, with its political grandstanding and confessional tales of persecution, The Eminem Show is mildly reminiscent of Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Except Eminem also adds a little Aerosmith to the mix, just to prove he can.