Rose and his L.A. Guns bandmate Tracii Guns formed Guns N' Roses in March 1985. The band was a merger of L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose, and featured musicians who had played for one or both groups, including Ole Beich and Duff McKagan. The band debuted at the Troubadour in Hollywood and proceeded to play the L.A. circuit, eventually building a fan following and attracting the attention of several record companies. The lineup eventually solidified with Rose on vocals, Slash on lead guitar, Izzy Stradlin on rhythm guitar, Duff McKagan on bass and Steven Adler on drums. Guns N' Roses was signed to Geffen Records in 1986 and released a four-song EP, Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, on their own label, UZI Suicide, in December of that year.
The band's major label debut album, entitled Appetite for Destruction, was released in the United States on July 21, 1987. The record had a slow start, selling only 500,000 copies in the first year of its release. However, fueled by relentless touring and the mainstream success of the single "Sweet Child o' Mine", Appetite for Destruction rose to the #1 position on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States in the fall of 1988. To date, Appetite for Destruction ranks as the fourth best-selling debut album in the United States, has been certified 15x platinum by the RIAA, and has sold over 27 million copies.
With the success of Appetite for Destruction and its follow-up EP, GN'R Lies, Rose found himself lauded as one of rock's most prominent frontmen. In a 1990 interview with MTV, journalist Kurt Loder referred to Rose as "maybe the finest hard rock singer currently on the scene, and certainly the most charismatic." He was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in August 1989 and again in April 1992.
In 1990, Guns N' Roses returned to the studio to begin recording the full-length follow-up to Appetite for Destruction. Recording sessions were temporarily scuttled when Steven Adler, battling drug and alcohol addiction, was fired in July 1990 and replaced by former Cult drummer Matt Sorum. The band fired their manager, Alan Niven, in May 1991, replacing him with Doug Goldstein. According to a 1991 cover story by Rolling Stone magazine, Rose forced the dismissal of Niven, against the wishes of some of his bandmates, by refusing to complete the albums until he was replaced.
With enough music for two albums, the band released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II on September 17 1991. The tactic paid off when the albums debuted at #2 and #1 respectively on the Billboard chart, setting a record as Guns N' Roses became the first and only group to date to achieve this feat. The albums spent 108 weeks on the chart.
In the late spring of 1991, before the Illusion albums were released, Guns N' Roses embarked on the 28-month-long Use Your Illusion World Tour. It became famous for both its financial success and the many controversial incidents that occurred at the shows.
Guns N' Roses resurfaced with concert tours in 2002 and again in 2006. The band, now consisting of Rose, Dizzy Reed, Robin Finck, Tommy Stinson, Chris Pitman, Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (replacing Buckethead), performed their first live concerts in the United States in over three years on May 12, May 14, May 15, and May 17, 2006 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. They also performed in Madrid on May 25 and in Lisbon (Rock in Rio) on May 27 to an audience of over 50,000.
On May 6, 2006, Rose appeared on the Eddie Trunk radio show and promised that the album would be released sometime in the fall or late fall 2006.
On August 31, 2006, Rose presented The Killers at the MTV Video Music Awards by coming out onto the stage and screaming his trademark, "Do you know where the fuck you are?!" In an interview backstage, Rose revealed that the official Chinese Democracy tour would begin "around October 24th", and that the album would be out that year.
On December 15, 2006, Rose issued an open letter to Guns N' Roses fans, discussing, among other things, the reasons why Chinese Democracy had not been released yet. The letter promised that the album would appear in 2007, and named March 6 as a tentative release date. However, the album's release date has since been pushed back once again.
In 2007, Rose collaborated with longtime friend Sebastian Bach on his solo album Angel Down, doing a duet with Bach on a cover of the Aerosmith song "Back in the Saddle". Rose also performed backing vocals on "(Love is) a Bitchslap" and "Stuck Inside", for which he was credited as a co-writer.