In what's become an annual tradition for us, we ask a few members of Team Backbeat to reflect on an album they're thankful for in honor of Thanksgiving.
The day to day drudge of the drowsy school year is almost unbearable, especially in high school, where the most important skills aren't taught in classes and are the hardest to learn. I wasn't exactly Mr. Popularity, which was fine, because I had a few close friends that I liked better than any of the most universally beloved anyway.
My fondest memories were spent in my room with a makeshift studio, a term that I use very loosely -- we filled my bass drum with clothes to dampen the hollow boom, relied overwhelmingly on a single distortion pedal and recorded with a bare-bones program called Sound Recorder, with no features to speak of, that came standard on my computer. We used our haphazardly gathered equipment to soundtrack a game we created on RPG Maker 2000, Japanamuffin, and to record our band, untitled.bmp.
Our music had a sound influenced primarily by the band Sublime, and our genre-jumping, less-than-garage-quality and almost inaccessible, inside humor was obviously a direct result of so often listening to albums like Sublime and Robbin' the Hood, for me in particular. Though absent were the irreverent soliloquies of one mysterious Raleigh, the same wickedly disturbed sense of humor was featured on tracks of ours about cell phone-induced head cancer, scat fetish and how much Good Charlotte sucks.
More than just influencing my musical playing, Sublime touched on the genres that would encapsulate my listening for the next five years; I moved from mostly punk and ska, which Sublime covered in tracks like "Pool Shark" and "Saw Red," which featured Gwen Stefani. Through dub, sampling and a hip-hop sensibility, the album was one of the first (along with Rage Against the Machine's The Battle of Los Angeles) that got me into hip-hop before I even knew it was hip-hop that I was enjoying.
At the time, I would have been quite resistant to the hip-hop fan label had I known it applied to me, but Robbin' the Hood sampled Guru and Geto Boys and featured a short freestyle from Too $hort, who, only being familiar with rappers like Eminem and 2Pac, I didn't recognize as an MC with any notoriety.
But later interests in hip-hop and reggae only touch on the love I have for the sublime sounds of what will probably always be my favorite band. Sublime's self-titled commercial breakout album got its due, but the group's earlier albums have much more personality. Robbin' the Hood is a bittersweet grove of nostalgia.
Favorite tracks include "Greatest Hits," which I listened to daily throughout high school, "S.T.P.," which I wear a Stone Temple Pilots shirt in honor of (nobody gets it), "Cisco Kid," which is one of the strangest, most amazing tracks ever and especially "Lincoln Highway Dub," one of the songs that I go to bed to every night, which was the heart of the later hit, "Santeria."
Bradley Nowell's death, though it occurred before I really had my own musical identity, was one of the most tragic events of my adolescence, along with the deaths of Kurt Cobain and Mitch Hedberg. I became obsessed with visiting his gravesite in Orange Country, or at least visiting Long Beach, the place he sang about with such fervor, but I never did.
I've always said I wanted to get a tattoo, and in honor of the band that died with Nowell, throughout high school, I promised myself that my first tattoo would be the sun from the cover of 40oz. to Freedom. Thankfully, that's an adolescent promise that I wasn't bullheaded enough to keep, but the influence of Sublime, and my particular love for the unkempt but beautiful easiness of Robbin' the Hood, will forever remain imprinted on my identity.
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