As you might imagine, I heard “What It’s Like” a ton in High School, pretty much completely unaware that this guy was in House of Pain until someone told me. But having not heard that song since it was in heavy rotation, I had no idea what I was getting into.
There is a part of me that wants to view this record as innovative, given its rather bizarre amalgam of hip hop, blues and folk. Without knowing if someone had done anything quite like this before, it’s easy for me to believe that he’s doing something unique or, at the very least, different. I don’t know how true that is but it’s the kind of thing that would cause me to overlook various problems, if it was true.
The songs are all over the place, there’s hip hop, there’s borderline singer-songwriter, there are combinations of the two; some of them are quite catchy, some of them are less so. Like basically every ’90s hip hop album I’ve ever heard, there are too many songs. And there are too many interstitials – in this case, usually in the form of answering machine messages, which was a common trope back then – some of which feel pretty damn forced: “Yo Everlast, it’s guy famous to the hip hop community seeing how you are” etc.
But I think if I didn’t listen to the lyrics, I’d probably have rated this at least one higher. The problem with the lyrics is that they appear to come from two different people, or a split personality. They actually remind me of an O Jays album where, on one track, they’re singing about the world being at peace but then, on other tracks, they’re singing about those backstabbing bitches. It’s incongruous to put it mildly. Same here. Everlast writes these songs empathizing with the homeless and he writes songs about threesomes. I get that both of these things can be in one man’s mind, but the way this is presented, the social comment songs and the “I’m tough and women, who are whores, want me” don’t fit together at all. It’s hard to take songs like “What It’s Like” seriously when they are on the same album as some of these other tracks.
So at some point you just want it to be over. You think he might not be aware of the incongruity of his songs and whatever appreciation you had for the genre fusion melts away.