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You Gotta Be Kidding Me
in which a simple song has complicated context
Artist: Dynamite Hack
If you know Dynamite Hack, it’s from their cover of Eazy-E’s “Boyz-n-the-Hood.” For those who clicked that link, boy, is that an unpleasant watch these days! At least the director of that video1 had the decency to pan the camera away from vocalist Mark Morris as he, a very white man, drops a (mercifully censored) n-bomb. It’s easy to see why some folks hated this cover—The Village Voice named it the 46th worst song of the aughts!2—and at the same time, it’s also pretty clear that Dynamite Hack was trying to make their own uncoolness the punch line. The academics agree:
Dynamite Hack’s single and video juxtapose their white vocal style, and visual images of white economic privilege, with NWA’s narrative of ghetto crime and survival. I argue that Dynamite Hack is careful not to parody hip hop, and that instead the group uses the gangsta imagery of NWA’s lyrics to parody their own whiteness [and] its distance from hip hop credibility.3
But here’s an interesting thing about Dynamite Hack that even the academics don’t consider: Yes, the band’s best song was on 2000’s Superfast, but it’s not an arguably fraught cover, it’s the album’s second track, the absolutely ripping “Anyway.”
In the same way that Lisa Loeb’s “Split Second” is the pure, uncut version of a certain type of mid-‘90s-pop-rock, “Anyway” is the pure, uncut version of a certain type of late-’90s-grunge-rock. There’s nothing at all complicated about “Anyway” and therein lies the song’s brilliance. It’s four stick-clicks and then two-and-a-half minutes of blasting power chords and crash cymbals. There’s a quick guitar solo, a moment when everything but the bass drops out of the mix, a predictably high harmony in the chorus, and a bridge where Morris shouts the lyrics, enunciating each and every syllable at almost exactly the same pitch.4
“Anyway” is here to be big, dumb, loud rock.5 And if you don’t like it, well, to quote Morris: Fuck you, anyway. I kid, of course, but Dynamite Hack clearly knew that “Anyway” was their greatest feat of actual songcraft, because, not only was it prominently located as the second song on Superfast’s tracklist, it was also the final song on Superfast’s tracklist,6 this time as a slow-moving piano ballad. And if you’re thinking that a piano ballad of what I just described as a big, dumb, loud rock song might be pointless and terrible, then I’m pleased to inform you that quite the opposite is true. Say what you want about Dynamite Hack, but they knew how to record a solid cover, even of their own songs.
I give “Anyway” four out of five stars.
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Evan Bernard, apparently, per the official-ish notes on the video’s YouTube page.
That review makes its point immediately: “The hilarious juxtaposition of a stiff white person and—can it be?—rap music?!” But that perspective is somewhat undercut by the overdone balance of the post which, only a few lines later, suggests that Dynamite Hack’s cover was “literally farted out of the sphincter of a just-hanged Saddam Hussein, the morose poot representing his twitching body’s last involuntary movement.” And they rated 45 songs as worse than this one! My god.
That’s from the abstract of a 2006 academic paper that I simply refuse to pay $50 to read in full. Yes, $50. In the year 2023. No, I don’t know why.
Around here we call that monotone approach “going full Mr. Brightside.” To paraphrase Kirk Lazarus, you never go full Mr. Brightside. “Anyway” is the exception that proves the rule.
It was also easy enough to play that my snot-nosed 8th-grade punk band included it in our sets, which created a problem for 13-year-old me every time we came up on the giant “fuck you anyway” of the bridge. I couldn’t just scream fuck into a microphone when my parents and/or my friends’ parents were in the crowd—as they often were because my bandmates and I were, you know, children. But replacing such an exclamatory curse with some other word—i.e. “screw you anyway”—just sounded so incredibly lame. For the entire duration of that band, I never really figured out what to do. My memory tells me that I mostly kept the fuck but mumbled it away from the microphone. Punk rock!
More specifically, it was a hidden track at the end of the album. Remember hidden tracks? Streaming services have basically killed that particular format and, honestly, good riddance.