I know that when it comes to picking a favorite album from an artist it is generally a matter of opinion, but in this case I have no problem or guilt in using a word like “fact” when saying House of Pain’s best album is the third.
Certainly, their debut album is the most popular due to the mega hit “Jump Around”. It was the picture perfect theme song for the Everlast reemergence as the Irish Bad Boy, a persona he had only briefly touched on previously.
The initial sequencing of the album is so smart, in terms of revealing the album’s direction, that I can’t believe it is a coincidence. It starts off with “They Have Nots“, which feels like a natural progression from “Same As It Ever Was”. It is also one of the only songs with Danny Boy, the original House of Pain Co-MC. From there it goes into “Fed Up”, an Everlast solo cut, that is built on that element of bar brawl theme music with a man-child sense of humor which had always been a part of House Of Pain. He also sneaks in some hints of what is to come on the rest of the album. It’s a bit of a fore-warning that his mind is shifting to a different place, “Now why everybody making s**t that’s unreal/Because the A&R man he wants mass appeal/Forgetting all about how it’s supposed to feel/Kids be going out for the record deal”. He later applies these theories to his own artistic direction, “I don’t need MTV to make no buzz!” Now the tone is set and after this track the album starts to change and/or introduce new elements.
Apparently the group broke up the same day/time that this album dropped, explaining why it didn’t have much of a push. If you read any post-House Of Pain interviews with Everlast about the break-up, he speaks about him trying to leave the lifestyle that that group had entrenched their life in and him trying to walk a more righteous path. This was nothing new, since his teen years Everlast had been soaking up knowledge and spiritual guidance from the Bashir family in LA. Bilal Bashir produced the Everlast debut album, “Forever Everlasting” in 1990 (as well as the producer for the Divine Styler “Word Power” album, various Ice T projects, etc…). It was demos with Bilal Bashir that caught the ear of Ice T and led to Everlast entering the scene as a part of Ice T’s Rhyme Syndicate crew.
However, the receiving of that knowledge and being able to apply it as a standard in your everyday life are two different things entirely. Most everyone who attempts to walk on a righteous paths faces that challenge. You first start to witness the strains of this inner-struggle on track 3, “What’s That Smell”. It is the height of the only thing that plagues this album, misogyny. However, there’s clearly something strange going on. The track begins with the usual positive-thinking and abstract-minded Divine Styler shouting what are probably the most obscene two sentences of his whole career. The hook refers to laced weed and dissing money hungry women. Everlast’s first verse is a lop-sided blend of Rock Star Pimp and a self-proclaimed Johnny Mathis smooth romanticist. Despite his profane introduction, Divine Styler’s verse is as beautifully bizarre as ever. Is he talking about macking women? Who knows? It just sounds intelligent…ha. My point is, it is the moments like this where you feel like the direction of the group is pulling from two completely different ends. “Shut The Door” follows this same topic, but with far less balance or effectiveness and is what I would easily call the worst song and even beat on the album.
“Earthquake” has a chorus that suggests that is in same vein, but the verses take a different direction and it’s a rather solid slightly smoothed-out Boom Bap joint with Everlast and Divine Styler trading verses. Divine Styler definitely walks away the vocal champ on this one. It was this performance from him that had me hoping for a solo album at the same time, but that wouldn’t come until three years later, via "Word Power 2". Everlast does drop this gem though, “My love is stronger than pride, My love’s thicker than blood/My Killa squad’s in effect, no ones living off H.U.D!” (H.U.D = Housing Of Urban Development)
The all-around best song on the album might be “Heart Full Of Sorrow” featuring Sadat X. The beat has this mystical & liquid feel with a splash of B-Boy psychedelics. The song focuses on the trials and tribulations of the Recording Industry. Everlast and Sadat X spend most of the song rocking back-n-forth and their contrasting voices sound perfectly balanced, then Divine Styler sneaks in with some science at the very end. The hook really tells the story, “You ain’t promised nothing but a pocketful of stress/Still there be people that would die for less/You ain’t promised nothing but a heart full of sorrow/If they don’t like the demo make a new one tomorrow.”* As if the hook wasn’t grim enough, Everlast also shares the inevitable outcome of the falling-star who loses focus, “You’re either rhyming in code or some gangster node/You’re on clockwork apocalypse, you’re about to implode/Collapsing on yourself cause your whole foundation is built on lies/Don’t apologize/Because once they watch your rise, they want to watch you fall/And they’ll all take a piece just like the Berlin Wall/And place on their mantle like a souvenir/And what they call a knick-knack is really your career.”
I brought both of the previous House Of Pain albums and definitely enjoyed select tracks on each, but the biggest convincing point that I had to buy this album was that House Of Pain had made the Scheme Team an official part of the group. The addition of Divine Styler and Cockni O’ Dire was too intriguing to pass up. The new line-up best gets represented for the first time on the “Pass The Jinn”. Divine Styler sounds as down to earth as probably possible and he wears the style well when he drops in your face lyrics such as, “My mission is all in you a**/You young mutha f**kas respect my past!” While you can hear Cockni O’ Dire dropping Ragga Chants thru out the record, on “Pass The Jinn” you get to hear him actually spit a verse, which was a rarity in his career. Everlast drops some of his most powerful quotes here, “From the fat bag of blaze I must consume/Because my soul is on the verge of impending doom!” Later he gives a glimpse of his conversion to Islam and struggles to maintain, “I bow my head to the East five times a day/I put my face in the dirt every time I pray”. At a glance you might think he leaves the religious theme to brag on a lavish Rock Star lifestyle until he delivers the final line, “Plus I got the baddest house on the hill/My bank accounts full, but my soul’s empty still!” That was one my favorite lines of the year…
As a matter of fact, this album had a few more of my favorite quotes of the time. “No Doubt” has a few of those for sure, “You tell me you’re the baddest and you get the most cream/But tell me what’s the status on your self-esteem?” and “Buy your first row tickets, watch the vultures feed/Get your Culture freed from the lust and greed”.
“Choose Your Poison” is the only other track on the album featuring Danny Boy and it is also the only other song that sounds like a typical House Of Pain song, mixing an Old School B-Boy styled chorus with their latest liquor-quenching anthem.
“X-Files” is the song that best blends the two conflicting sides of Everlast. The beat has a sparse and sneaky feel, supported by Roxanne Shante’ accurately proclaiming it, “So Fresh…” The chorus further tangles the two lifestyles, “Some fiend for a**, some fiend for cash/Some do the knowledge, Some do the math/Some stick to rules, some stay from the path/Some do the knowledge, some do the math”.
On the second verse he references several Rock groups to make points, take a few jabs, and question his career path options, “No East Coast, West Coast, money what’s the beef?/It’s going down rough like swallowing teeth/I say word to Thin Lizzy, kid I get busy/And I knock all of y’all of this Wonder Wall/Because on a daily basis I rock like Oasis/Bit the Beatles style from a fetus to a child/I kill fourteen million cells puffing Ls/Stomping devils on all nine levels of hell/Check the transmission, hear the transition/Observe the technician in finite vision/Your highlight reels are laced by drug deals/As you scheme to check feels on chicks in hi-heels/It’s all bright and sunny when you’re holding big money/Buy my Sonic got youth plus my Mud got Honey/I could be the king of grunge if I blow my sponge away/There’s a little black dot on the Sun Today/But y’all don’t care if my soul’s up there/So come on and feel the sting of the true pain king!”
In terms of popularity, the “Fed Up Remix” is definitely an album highlight as Everlast teams up with Guru. The beat takes a flip of the same sample from Gang Starr’s “Just To Get A Rep” and each MC starts each verse referencing a classic song, lyrics or moment in the other’s career. It’s a nice subtle and fresh concept. Both MCs give a stand out performance and take turns grabbing the top slot with key shining moments, such as; Everlast, “Why you’re busy bragging on the people that you’ve blasted/I’m asking how many days have you fasted?!” and Guru, “I’m sick, demented, smack my manager/The professional, addressing all of you amateurs!”
“Killa Rhyme Klik” is probably the biggest sleeper track on the album. It’s the only other track on the album with full verses by Everlast, Cockni O’ Dire and Divine Styler. It’s pure rawness…
The album comes to close with “While I’m Here”, which is just the shout outs, but done with flavor. In-between samples of Milk of Audio Two saying, “While I’m here I’d like to thank” (from “Top Billin”), Everlast drops all his shout outs in freestyle rhyme style.
Can’t review this album without mentioning the production, which is credited to DJ Lethal and Everlast and is very well done. I still have hopes that an instrumental version will find its way on the internet. It has the gritty SP-1200 sound, but also a sharp, bright and melodic feel. I thought it would lead to DJ Lethal contributing a steady stream of quality production on upcoming projects, but I don’t know a whole lot after this, at least not that grabbed my attention like these beats. Perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention, listening to this again makes me want to further investigate.
Essentially “The Truth Crushed To Earth Shall Rise Again” is a musical exercise in the fight for Everlast to regain control of his soul. Over the course of this album you start to feel like he is going to OK, but still has a journey ahead of him…
*Also, can’t forget that Everlast gives a shout out to the Twin Cities, “From Arkansas to Minnesota I sell out the quota/I be the wet dream, making cream for promoters”.
Written By Kevin Beacham