There’s nothing unusual about rap showing up anywhere anymore, but that wasn’t the case when Anthrax released “I’m the Man” 30 years ago.
While the metal group’s most-known rock-rap hybrid “Bring the Noise ’91” collaboration with Public Enemy was still four years away, the band’s first rap endeavor was this terminally silly track.
There’s a lot to unpack listening to it today. The metal guitars from “Hava Nagila,” the hook that sounds wholly nonsensical unless you’ve seen the Rodney Dangerfield classic Easy Money, the random drops of Sam Kinison screaming, and Metallica’s screaming “Master!” etc., all make for one of the most quizzical sound collages this side of “Batdance.”
But what really resonates about the track today is how, in a lot of ways, it’s rock’s first real tribute to rap.
Anthrax were already a well-established metal band and really had no reason whatsoever monetarily to press up a jokey single with the members trading rhymes over a hard-rocking traditional Jewish riff. It sounds far too sincere to be a novelty. A year after Beastie Boys’ License to Ill and Run-DMC’s Raising Hell penetrated the mainstream with its own rock-influenced rap, Anthrax’s welcoming of the rap sound into their fold was a pretty cool cross-genre nod.
More than that, you can hear the band’s unabashed early rap fanboyism take hold. Sampling vocals from the Beasties and the Fat Boys, and doing their best to mimic several popular flows at the time, one could make the case it’s almost the earliest precursor to Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s popular “History of Hip-Hop” segments.