Combining heavy metal riffs with hip-hop influences and rapped lyrics, this genre became very popular in the late '90s through
the early 2000's and then fell from favor. There are a few bands of this style still doing well, although most have come and gone.

The Next Generation of Rock & Punk, Joel McIver cites the bands Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, Nirvana and Jane's Addiction as setting up various musical characteristics which are prominent in the genre. In Popular music genres: an introduction, Stuart Borthwick and Ron Moy identify Rade Against the Machine as an influence on Nu-Metal.

The origin of Nu-metal is often adjudicated to the work of producer Ross Robinson, who worked with acts such as Korn, Limp Bizkit, producing their first albums and helping create the sound that defined them. He has even been called "The Godfather of Nu-Metal".

Korn is often acknowledged as a reference for Nu-Metal style of music. They released their first self-titled album in 1994, but they didn't gain mainstream popularity until years later. The most "pure" form of Nu-Metal is considered to be the one contained in their second studio album, Life is Peachy. However, Korn has repeatedly stated that they do not agree with the label "Nu-Metal", saying they considered the term "dumb".Many of the first Nu-Metal bands came from California.

Nu metal gained mainstream success through MTV and Ozzy Osbourne's 1995 introduction of Ozzfest, which led the media to talk of a resurgence of heavy metal.Also, the 30th anniversary of Woodstock (Woodstock 99) featured nu metal bands, notably Korn and Limp Bizkit. The Family Values Tour is the most widely recognized tour meant mainly for Nu-Metal bands.

In the 1990s, many bands began to mix rapping and other new techniques with traditional heavy metal guitar and drum sounds. As a result, fans and music journalists needed to differentiate between the more traditional heavy metal music and this "new breed" of bands who were using samples, DJs, raps and drum machines in a way that made their music distinct. "New Metal" evolved into the trendier spelling "Nu-Metal," and a genre was vaguely defined.

Nevertheless, some distinction is usually maintained between rap metal, rapcore and nu metal. Rap metal is normally considered to be metal with primarily rap vocals - with a minimum of other styles. Rapcore and nu metal are basically the same thing: distorted guitars and drums with rap influenced vocals. This means that it can sound somewhat like traditional metal vocals, with a varying amount of rap - some bands more than others.

Nu-metal vocals can include rapping, clean singing, hardcore-like barking, and various forms of screaming, sometimes all in the same song. Not all bands are inspired by hip-hop, however:Slipknot utilizes rhythmic vocal techniques very similar to that of Glen Benton from Deicide in his earlier days.