By Brian Ives 

At the turn of the millennium, when the White Stripes exploded onto the mainstream music scene with their classic White Blood Cells album (which featured the classic “Fell In Love With a Girl”), they were seen as the leaders of a garage rock revival, cleansing modern rock radio’s palate after a few years of rap-metal domination thanks to the likes of Crazy Town, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit hogging the airwaves. To be fair, it’s not that the White Stripes seemed to have anything against rap or metal specifically, it’s just that they seemed like they were unaware of any music that had been released since 1963 or so.

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So, it’s strange that, fifteen years later, Jack White’s GRAMMY-nominated solo jam “Lazaretto” is based on a hip-hop classic. That’s not our opinion: White said as much in an interview with CBS Radio station KROQ in Los Angeles.

“It was an experiment,” White told KROQ hosts Kevin & Bean. “I heard about a songwriter writing when you listened to other music and think about it for a second, and then erase it from your mind and then write a song immediately right then. And the song I had used was ‘Cha Cha Cha’ by MC Lyte. So I was listening to ‘Cha Cha Cha’ and the band were listening to it.” After listening to it, he instructed the band, “Now, everybody: forget about it.”

Of course, “Cha Cha Cha” had neither crushing power chords that sound lifted from an early ’70s Black Sabbath jam, or a fiddle solo, but if you listen to both songs, you can hear the influence. Compare them for yourself: listen to “Cha Cha Cha” here, and check out “Lazaretto” below.

It’s not White’s first time tipping his cap to hip-hop: he’s been known to throw Eric B & Rakim’s classic “Don’t Sweat the Technique” and Jay Z’s “99 Problems” into his shows. And “Freedom at 21” from his last album (the GRAMMY-nominated 2012 album Blunderbuss) veered close to hip-hop, including a Hype Williams-directed video that is his most loving homage to the art form yet. We’re glad he’s (sort of ) caught up with the times.

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“Lazaretto” is nominated for Best Rock Performance (against Ryan Adams, Arctic Monkeys, Beck and the Black Keys) and Best Rock Song (against Paramore, Beck, the Black Keys and Ryan Adams). The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards air Sunday, Feb. 8 at 8 pm EST on CBS.

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