A couple of weeks ago, Rocks Off told our younger brother, eight years our junior, that we were interviewing legendary '90s hip-hop group House of Pain. He gave us a confused look.
So we started singing: "Jump around. Jump around. Jump up and up and get down."
"Oh yeah, the song from Mrs. Doubtfire," he responded.
Granted, he was four years old when House of Pain emerged as one of the first successful all-white hip-hop groups in America during one of the most racially-charged eras in the last few decades, but his response made us sick to our stomach.
"Have you not seen the video?" we asked aggressively. "Because House of Pain is so much more than fucking Mrs. Doubtfire."
In 1992, House of Pain's "Jump Around" and the video that followed - filled with stereotypical Irish hallmarks like Catholic churches, overflowing lager, "Kiss Me I'm Irish" buttons, St. Patrick's Day Parade marching and bloody noses caused by rowdy drunk Irish-American kids - served a higher purpose.
Like Houston's South Park Mexican gave Mexican-American kids struggling with their identity the leeway to vent (if not to take after him in certain other ways), like Kid Rock made it OK to live in a single-wide trailer, like Eminem gave permission to private school boys and California Valley girls to rap at stoplights without embarrassment, House of Pain gave life to the clover outside of St. Patrick's Day and faces to the tough, knuckle-busting, short-tempered Irish-American bar regulars who wouldn't bow down to anyone.
What the video portrayed was something in your face, unforgiving and didn't seek permission - pretty remarkable, given the times.
In this week's print section of the Houston Press, we wrote:
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."
When you look at the hypersensitive race relations landscape of that era, fresh off the heels of the Rodney King beating, one probably never expected an Irish duo to take hip-hop by storm on MTV, go multiplatinum and be nominated for a Grammy (Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group), of all things.
But House of Pain did just that and put their cultural identity on the map. Or did they?
After interviewing House of Pain, we called our friend in California, who is much older than our brother but slightly younger than us. We thought he might be more appreciative of the interview with the group.
She responded, "Yeah, they were Mexican, weren't they?"
House of Pain performs with with Big B and Dirtball, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 26, at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel, 713-225-5483 or www.warehouselive.com.
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