For a young, suburban kid living in South Jersey, the arrival of hip hop came like the often ocean swells that battered the Jersey Shore each year. The first wave that we were exposed to: From Newcleus to Run DMC to Dana Dane gave way to The Beastie Boys and NWA and by the time the early 90’s came and college called, hip hop had exploded into everything we wanted it to be: skateboarding and punk rock infused with heavy beats and DJing. Then one day this band of three white guys shows up. Heavily flanneled with work hats and wallet chains, skullies, and a tough guy persona, they told us to jump around. It didn’t matter if they were all Irish or not, the Rick Klotz logo (Come on son! Fine Malt Lyrics), the nasty attitude, and despite them being Boston Celtic fans (they played on the Irish heritage hard) who we hated, you couldn’t help but like the band itself. They were here, they rapped, and they were House of Pain.
Often mixing jazz and funk with their samples thanks to Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs, we learned about the Bob and Earl, Junior Walker, and Lowell Fulsom samples that appeared on 45s we would eventually spin in our sets later. And although they eventually got dismissed as frat boy rap and their music associated with sporting events all over the world, at that moment in time, they were ground breaking to us. Yes, of course the Beastie Boys were the embodiment of white boy rap, one our favorites, and HOP were definitely influenced by them, but man, Tommy Boy was on to something in ’92. As Danny Boy said years later, “It was a weird time in hip hop. If you were a white boy and you wanted to get down like that, you had to knuckle up.” And knuckle up they did, eventually getting kicked off the Beastie Boys tour and doing their things their own way throughout their record making. I was fortunate to see them at the height of their career, at of all places Montclair University here in New Jersey with Cypress Hill, The Whooliganz, and Downtown Science (remember “Room To Breathe”?). For all of the hip hop that was around during that time, they were different than the next. But eventually music changes, people change, and groups part ways. Everlast went on to a successful career as a musician, Danny Boy formed La Coka Nostra, and DJ Lethal has gone on to play with Limp Bizkit and a variety of other bands while also producing as well. While at the height of their career though, they had their “Shamrocks and Shenanigans” tune, a great track in its own right, given the rock treatment by Butch Vig. This one always stuck with us.
This also gave way to the seminal Judgement Night soundtrack that while wasn’t the first hip hop and rock pairing, was still groundbreaking in our opinion. Anytime you can have Slayer, Teenage Fan Club, Helmet, Living Colour, and more pair up with HOP, De La Soul, Run DMC (nice nod to the kings), Cypress Hill etc., it’s pretty bad ass. Ok, the movie was not so good, even with Everlast in it, but music was, and it’s another feather in the cap of the group. Looking back almost twenty five years with this band, I can only look back with fond memories. Way before children and mortgages were involved, way before FleaMarket Funk was born, House of Pain were a soundtrack to a part of our life. Albiet a brief one, no matter what you think of them now, in ’92 it was still something. Listening back to the record for the first time in a very long time, the beats are still on point and I can still nod my head to it. File under classic and reminiscent rap, it’s a fine day to reflect on these guys and say: “Top O’ the mornin’ to ya.”