Jump Around leads to rap's weirdest beef [October 4, 1992]
Plus: The Neds, Sadé, Stereo MC's, and R.E.M.
Greetings, Time Travellers! 👋 Welcome back to the week of October 4, 1992.
📰 Sinead O’Connor rips up a picture of the pope on Saturday Night Live, causing quite a stir.
📽️Beauty and the Beast finally shows up in British cinemas.
📺 BBC2 launches a new show called Later… with Jools Holland. (Wonder if it’ll get a second season?)
🎶 Number One song in the UK Top 40 is still Ebeneezer Goode, but let’s look waaay down the Top 40 at…
This week’s Number 32: ‘Jump Around’ — House of Pain
I have this hazy memory of seeing Jon Bon Jovi interviewed on Irish TV around 1992.
The presenter was chatting to him about the state of modern pop, and she said, “a lot of people are disappointed because we haven’t got any new genres of music recently.”
Jon, in fairness to him, said, “that’s not true, rap is getting really big.”
The presenter kind of snorted and said something like, “yeah, but I mean real music.”
It’s kind of hard to imagine this exchange happening in 2022, in an age where Kendrick Lamar has headlined Glastonbury and won the Pulitzer Prize. Hip-hop is omnipresent—it’s obligatory now for most pop songs to have a guest rapper drop a verse.
(As if any of them could match Kanye on ‘American Boy’, but that’s another matter.)
However, in 1992, hip-hop was far from ubiquitous. The majority of rap music was bubbling underground, only making the occasional foray into the pop charts, usually in the form of a novelty song.
And 1992 was defined by two novelty hip-hop songs.
Getting that Vanilla Ice money
Hip-hop had started the 90s by becoming increasingly sophisticated. 1991 gave us The Low End Theory and De La Soul Is Dead, while 1992 produced Don’t Sweat the Technique, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, and a solo project by Dr. Dre that will change the game forever (we’ll talk more about The Chronic soon.)
These are all-time great records, but none of them had the commercial success of low-brow clunkers like ‘U Can’t Touch This’ or ‘Ice Ice Baby’. Naughty By Nature had a big chart hit in 1991 with ‘O.P.P.’—but were still completely outsold by Vanilla Ice with ‘Play That Funky Music’.
One group that almost cracked the mainstream in 1991 were California stoners Cypress Hill, whose self-titled debut album made a big impact. The lead single, ‘How I Could Just Kill A Man’, got heavy airplay on college radio and had a video with cameos from from Q-Tip and Ice Cube. Despite this, it peaked at #77 (and failed to chart elsewhere in the world.)
Ruffhouse Records, the label behind Cypress Hill, were pleased with their success, but they were still chasing a mainstream chart hit.
And then it arrived. An unusual group, who didn’t quite look like other rappers, but who had attitude, and this one song with an irresistable hook that went, “Jump… Jump…”
And that act was called…
Everlast, the lead rapper of House Of Pain, says that it happened like this:
After his failed solo debut, Forever Everlasting, he teamed up with his high school friend Danny Boy and start a rap duo with a gimmick: they were proud Irish-Americans who rapped about drinking and fighting.
House Of Pain shopped their demo around to a few labels, including Joe Nicolo at Ruffhouse Records. Nicolo offered them a really shitty deal; House Of Pain walked away.
Tommy Boy Records—home to De La Soul and Naughty By Nature—had a label president with the grand Irish name of Monica Lynch, who said:
“This reminds me of my brothers. After church, they go to bars and get in fights.”
All was going well with the build-up to the first record, until one day when Everlast and Danny Boy were summoned to the label’s office, where someone played them an advance copy of Kris Kross’s ‘Jump’.
Everlast reckons that Joe Nicolo had played ‘Jump Around’ for Jermaine Dupri, the dodgy svengali behind Kris Kross, and asked him to produce something similar. Dupri took the order literally and produced a song that’s basically a clone.
House Of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ ends with Everlast saying:
Yo, this is dedicated to Joe "The Biter" Nicolo!
Grab your Bozack, punk!
They don’t directly call out Kris Kross—probably because it would be weird for two grown men to be openly beefing with tiny children.
Which is ironic, because ‘Jump’ is also a diss track, as discussed in our issue about that song. Kris Kross were beefing with fellow child rappers Another Bad Creation, resulting in the only hip-hop feud with a 9pm bedtime.
Anyway, that’s Everlast’s version of the story: Jermaine Dupri, Joe Nicolo, and Ruffhouse Records tried to steal ‘Jump Around’ from them, but they ultimately won out because they had the better track.
(He talks in more detail on Talib Kweli’s excellent podcast.)
Jumping to conclusions
But wait! Is that the whole story?
Consider one piece of crucial evidence—House Of Pain didn’t write the beat for ‘Jump Around’. The actual author was DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill—the biggest act on Ruffhouse.
Muggs originally wrote the beat for Cypress Hill, but they were exhausted after writing and touring their debut album. He offered it to Ice Cube, who passed, and to Special Ed, who said, “Yo son, these beats are a little too dusty for me.”
Then, Muggs had a lightbulb moment: he tweaked the song by adding a little squealing sound at the end of each bar. Nobody’s entirely sure where this sound comes from—Muggs says it’s a sample of a sax; others claim that it’s Prince’s squeal from ‘Gett Off’. Whatever it is, it’s the thing that makes the song pop.
Everlast wrote the rhymes, but Muggs claims he created the “jump around” chorus—although he also admits that he swiped it from another hip-hop act, Leaders Of The New School, who used to encourage their audience to jump a lot.
According to Muggs, the first time he heard the Kris Kross single was on the radio, and he was shocked and appalled that they were ripping off House Of Pain.
But that claim doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. Because Kris Kross used a number of samples for their beat on ‘Jump’, and one of the most prominent samples is…
‘I Could Just Kill A Man’ by Cypress Hill.
Everyone is a winner
The good news is that everything worked out fine for all involved.
‘Jump’ was a global smash hit. ‘Jump Around’ was an even bigger hit, and is now a permanent fixture on playlists with titles like “Songs That Get White People Turnt”.
Unfortunately, neither act managed to have a non-jumping related hit afterwards. Kris Kross drifted into tragic obscurity; Danny Boy struggled with addiction; Everlast had a pretty good solo career. The most successful person in either group was House Of Pain’s DJ Lethal, who jumped ship to join an up-and-coming Florida rock band called Limp Bizkit.
The biggest winners of all were DJ Muggs and Cypress Hill, who more or less recycled the ‘Jump Around’ beat on their second album, giving them an international smash hit with ‘Insane In The Brain’.
‘Insane In The Brain’ is not a novelty song. But would it have charted if ‘Jump’ and ‘Jump Around hadn’t charted? Who knows.
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Elsewhere in the charts
Number 10 (↑ from 16): ‘Sentinel’ — Mike Oldfield
Tubular Bells is such a weird artifact, man. A 19-year-old sits in his bedsit, playing around with instruments and overdubbing techniques, and he ends up creating an album that was forever beloved by anyone who smoked weed in the 70s.
Tubular Bells 2 is the opposite of that, simply because Oldfield had money and support. It’s fine. It sounds pleasant enough. But the original Tubular Bells will always be a once-off phenomenon, never to be repeated.
Number 18 (=): ‘Connected’ — Stereo MCs
If you look at Stereo MC’s whole career, they’re best known as producers and remixers. Madonna loved their version of ‘Frozen’, and their record label helped to bring through artists like Finley Quaye.
Their Connected era was something of a blip, catapulting them to public attention with hits like ‘Step It Up’, ‘Ground Level’, and the album’s title track. They were nominated for a Mercury Prize and seemed to appear on every compilation album of the early 90s.
The sudden fame seems to have spooked them a bit though, and a follow-up to Connected didn’t appear until 2001.
Number 19 (New Entry): ‘Not Sleeping Around’ — Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
Personally, it is impossible for me to think of The Neds without also thinking of Neil Kulkarni’s extraordinary, Jocyean one-sentence review of their third album. Which is a bit unfair, because ‘Not Sleeping Around’ is a very enjoyable single, and it’s not even from that album.
Number 26 (New Entry): ‘No Ordinary Love’ — Sadé
30 years before the internet’s worst people collectively wet their pants over a Black Little Mermaid, we managed to have a half-fish, half-Sadé on our screens without anyone getting upset.
This is a great song. Sadé has a stunning voice and is possibly the most beautiful human being who has ever graced this world. I would absolutely jump overboard and drown if it meant hanging out with her for 15 seconds.
Number 36 (New Entry): ‘(Take A Little) Piece Of My Heart’ — Erma Franklin
This song re-entered the charts thanks to a Levi’s ad, and is one of the last vintage tracks to get such treatment before they started leaning into new music. Honestly, I’d rather listen to Erma Franklin than Babylon Zoo, thanks.
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Album of the Week
Automatic For The People — R.E.M.
Why was Automatic For The People such a gargantuan hit?
It might seem obvious in hindsight, but the record’s success was far from a foregone conclusion in 1992. Out Of Time had catapulted R.E.M. to fame, but much of that had depended on one-off parlour tricks: Kate Pierson’s guest vocals on ‘Shiny Happy People’, the hip-hop on ‘Radio Song’, the attention-grabbing weirdness of ‘Losing My Religion’.
Automatic For The People is, in some ways, a kind of retreat from all that. This is much closer to the little indie band that released ‘Radio Free Europe’ back in 1982. The album opens with ‘Drive’, a moody slow-burner with no obvious chorus, filled with tension and angst.
In a way, the success of Automatic comes down to grunge. R.E.M. clearly got why grunge was taking off in such a big way: it wasn’t the noise, it was that people were sick of the neon plastic fakery of the 80s, and they wanted something that felt nourishing. They wanted authenticity.
Automatic For The People is definitely an authentic record. No matter where it goes, it always feels like a bunch of guys who are passionate about music making the kind of record that they’d like to hear. They’re even happy to let a few imperfections into the final mix if it sounds good, like Stipe’s giggle when he stumbles into the chorus of ‘The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite’:
The result is one of the most consistent records that any band has ever produced. A sign of a good record is when the deep cuts stand above the singles, and there are plenty to choose from here (even though they released six singles). Even the instrumental filler, ‘New Orleans Instrumental No. 1” is hauntingly pretty.
Personally, for me, the album’s stand-out moment is ‘Sweetness Follows’, where all of Automatic’s ideas crash into each other, creating a very beautiful noise:
Of course, there’s one track that towers above the others in terms of popularity, a song that’s so over-played that it can now feel as cliché as ‘Imagine’ or ‘Jingle Bells’. But I think when you hear ‘Everybody Hurts’ in the context of the album, it can still feel as intimate as it did when it was first released.
Automatic For The People feels like a bit of a miracle. An uncompromising record that rigidly adheres to R.E.M.’s musical philosophy, yet somehow it managed to sell 18 million copies.
But yeah, in hindsight it makes perfect sense. People wanted authenticity, and that’s what Automatic delivers.
How do you rate Automatic For The People in R.E.M.’s discography? Let me know in the comments.
Did Prince appear in ‘Jump Around’? We may never know, but I can promise that he will appear in the next issue.