In the late '80s and early '90s, at hip-hop's height as a civil-rights megaphone for groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A., racial issues and their close cousin, ethnic pride, were often only referred to in black terms.
So when two white kids who loved hip-hop as much as any others attended a Public Enemy show, Chuck D and company's venting their frustrations with white society as the crowd roared its approval rubbed these two Irish-descended youths the wrong way.
The color combo of white and green was about to find its own place in hip-hop, if only for a brief period of time. With N.W.A.'s "Fuck Tha Police" and the FBI's equally vehement response still fresh, Erik Schrody — better known today as Everlast – and his House of Pain partner Danny Boy O'Connor broke out with "Jump Around."
House of Pain
With Big B and Dirtball, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 26, at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel, 713-225-5483 or www.warehouselive.com.
Though less so today (thanks in no small part to House of Pain), only hip-hop has such racial dynamics that successful white artists are considered to have broken through a glass ceiling.
"Let me say it like this," Everlast says about House of Pain's Irish persona. "It was our intention. It was right in the height of the whole Afro-centric hip-hop movement. It was a reaction to that: 'We're Irish; we love hip-hop, too. We're not trying to be anything but this.'"
"Jump Around" emerged during the sweet spot between hip-hop's toddler years and adolescence, when groups like EPMD, Gang Starr, Das Efx and Black Sheep were shaping a new sound. House of Pain muscled their way to the forefront.
Though their entire body of work is not as appreciated — but should be if you think Cypress Hill was legendary; the groups' sounds practically mirror one another — "Jump Around" alone will keep House of Pain forever in rotation at company Christmas parties, weddings, and college stadiums and arenas. But the group has moved on.
Everlast has since had a successful alternative career, winning a Grammy with Carlos Santana and making the gold and platinum albums Whitey Ford Sings the Blues and Eat at Whitey's. He even recorded the theme song for the TV show Saving Grace.
People who skim the pond of American music like a rock may not have gone deep enough to know that Everlast is more than the reason that Celtics jerseys suddenly soared in popularity when "Jump Around" was all over MTV, or the man behind the folk-rap 1998 megahit "What It's Like." This 20-year reunion tour — which blends Everlast's more recent live-band work with House of Pain's gritty catalog — may change all that.
"A lot of cats think I abandoned rap, because I'm off exploring," says Everlast. "What you have to understand is I'm off trying to find things that motivate me 23 years into the game, looking under every rock at this point for inspiration and new things.
"I recently saw an interview on MTV, and I look like a fucking baby," he continues. "I was asked something to the effect, 'What do you want to be known as?' I was 18 or 17 years old at the time. I answered, 'I actually want to be known as a musician.'"
"Now looking at my life 22 years later..."
"That was prophetic in a way."
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