Irish-American Rapper Everlast Reflects On 90s Hits

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Tell Me More takes a look at the Irish-American hip-hop group House of Pain in commemoration of St. Patrick's Day. Lead man Everlast looks back at the enduring nature of their hit "Jump Around" and what it meant to break out as an Irish-American hip-hop group in the early 1990s.


And finally, since today is St. Patrick's Day, we thought we'd take a listen to what we think is the biggest Irish hip hop hit of all time.

(Soundbite of song, "Jump Around")

MARTIN: That's "Jump Around" from the group House of Pain. The group was formed in the early 90s by DJ Lethal, along with Irish-American rappers Danny Boy and Everlast.

We caught up with Everlast and asked him what it was like breaking through in the world of hip hop at a time when acts like Public Enemy were putting a sharp focus on race in America. Everlast told us the idea to form House of Pain actually came about while watching the Public Enemy rapper Professor Griff.

EVERLAST (Hip hop artist): It was one particular Public Enemy show that, you know, Griff was on one that night and like, you know, going on a tirade about the white people. And we loved Public Enemy and that night we just felt a little alienated by the whole thing, so we just kind of were like all right, we're going to make this House of Pain thing and we're going to talk about being Irish.

You know, everybody seems to think you have to want to be black to be involved in hip hop, you know, what I mean? And we were just kind of saying nah, well, you can be you.

MARTIN: "Jump Around" is the byproduct of another collaboration with DJ Muggs, known for his work with multiethnic hip hop group Cypress Hill. The track features sharp lyrics, a squealing sample from a song by Prince, and a baseline sampled from an old Johnny Cash tune. When it debuted in 1992, it shot to number three on the U.S. charts and became a top 10 hit in both Ireland and the U.K.

(Soundbite of song, "Jump Around")

House of Pain self-titled album went multiplatinum as fans connected to the song and the group which often boasted of its Irish roots by wearing Boston Celtics jersey.

EVERLAST: We understood what the ethnic pride kind of feel meant on the East Coast and we just kind of ran with it, and was like all right, this is going to be, you know, we're going to use this as a way for people to identify who we are.

MARTIN: Well, the song is close to 20 years old and has had amazing staying power. Both Blender magazine and the cable music VH1 listed it among their all-time best hip hop songs. Everlast says he never thought the song would have such longevity. But perhaps, it was his outsider status that made him work much harder to prove himself to the hip hop community.

EVERLAST: I had to love what I was doing. I was risking, you know, ass-whoopings and my life at certain times going places I went to hear and get involved with hip hop music. So I just, you know, as far as like locally in LA, I just got mostly, you know, respect just for being known. Look at this ballsy little white boy always around.

MARTIN: After "Jump Around," House of Pain broke up but Everlast scored another hit with his much mellower guitar song "What It's Like." Now the group is back together and yes, they are performing "Jump Around" and inspiring people to jump up and get down for a fun-filled St. Patrick's Day.

And that's our program for today. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Im Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Lets talk more tomorrow.

(Soundbite of song, "Jump Around")

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