Listening to Everlast's solo album gives me a whole new respect for House Of Pain. I gave them a bad review, but upon further consideration they deserve a lot more credit. Sure, they're simplistic and single minded, but they are fucking funny and that shit was quite good for a group of white rappers in the early 90's. I listened to the album a few more times, and have come to the realization that for their time House Of Pain was pretty fucking good. The samples and beats are cool and the true skill of the lyrics is in the delivery. Jump Around is a good fucking song. Given the simplistic and hyper aggressive tendencies displayed on that album however, I was surprised to learn that What It's Like was actually the guy from House Of Pain. So I guess its all about trancending genres now. With Lethal hooking up with a metal band and actually making it work, Everlast's solo album isn't quite as surprising as it could have been.
I'm not in the habit of buying shit that I hear on commercial radio all the time, nor do I usually buy an album on the strength of one single. However, I broke all my own rules this time, having some extra cash burning a hole in my pocket. I heard the one song and was interested to see what the rest of the album would be like. It comes as no surprise that What It's Like is the best song on the disc by far. It also comes as no surprise that Everlast didn't stick to that one sound alone when doing the solo album. About half of this is straight ahead rap with a little live guitar and other instruments thrown in for good measure. A few songs are straight ahead alternative rock and half ass bar band music. Two songs are stripped down hip hop influenced folk music in the vein of What It's Like. Ends, the other folk song (this time sampling Wu Tang Clan's C.R.E.A.M.), easily stands out above the pack as well. These two songs share subject matter and are cut from the same musical fabric. They are both done exceptionally well and lyrically show complexity and thought that no one could have expected from the guy who once wrote "Yo I'm not a black man, but every time I grab the mic, I rock a phat jam" and meant it.
The rap on this album isn't as solid as it could be. Everlast showed considerable raw talent in House Of Pain, but the key to his appeal was partially in his unapolagetic confrontational attitude. The tone on this album is different. Everlast brings in a host of producers for each different rap track, sacrificing a coherent flow for a chance to name drop his buddies. The rap is mostly mediocre, lacking the bravado of House Of Pain and the double barrel punch of DJ Lethal and Danny Boy. Everlast doesn't lack talent, but he needs to settle down his genre jumping and add more substance to his style. Death Comes Callin is a surprising combination of folk rock and hardcore old school rap. This song works the combination well, most of the rest don't. Painkillers also works exceptionally well, with Everlast ignoring his love for throwing everything into the mix, and concentrating on a single style. The song is pure stripped down rap. He actually sounds like Notorious BIG in some of the vocals. The lyric is emotional and well written, presumably about his recent bout with death. The metaphor works with Everlast playing the part of an ignorant, unapolagetic rap star suddenly cut down in his prime, paralyzed by a bullet to the spine. The tone turns from bravado to remorseful reflection ("You won't be doing any jumping around anymore"). Everlast's vocal delivery hits its full potential on this song, harkening back to the old school days of House Of Pain and adding some substance and room for reflection that that group never had.
The alternative guitar driven tracks are mediocre at best. Everlast hits strongest when his guitar isn't amped. He should stick to the acoustics, well evidenced on What It's Like and Ends. The stripped down simplicity of these songs reveals more hardcore emotion and skill in delivery than a thousand amped up electric tracks. The lyrics are surprising in their clarity and insight into human nature on the above mentioned songs. Everlast is a competent musician and a skilled rapper. This is a hard combination to make work. I'm not really sure how to rate this album, because it plays on different extremes. When it sucks, it really sucks. But when it hits it is fucking amazing. Everlast needs to settle down a little with the genre jumping and write more stripped down acoustics like the song that got overkilled by alternative radio. There is no doubt in my mind that this song is the reason that most people are buying the album. He has a lot of skill and I'll be looking forward to seeing what he does next, once he gets the chance to apply himself fully to the genres which he explores on this album.* * * Reviewed: August, 1999