Thanks in large part to their debut massive hit first single “Jump Around”, House of Pain was able to snag a platinum plaque for their self-titled debut album. Not only did the album do well commercially, but it also received favorable reviews from the critics (read my thoughts on the album here). The Irish trio would return in 1994 with their sophomore effort, Same As It Ever Was.
For Same As It Ever Was, House of Pain would use the same (no pun intended) formula as their debut album: Production by DJ Lethal and Cypress Hill’s Deejay and producer, Muggs (with assists from a few others) and Everlast manning the mic with minimal help from Danny Boy (and one other special guest that we’ll discuss in a minute). SAIEW failed to produce a hit anywhere near as massive as “Jump Around”, but it would earn the trio a gold plaque, despite the mixed reviews received from the critics.
I missed this one back in ’94 when it came out, and honestly only recognize one of the songs on the album’s track list. A few years ago, I bought it used for a dollar,but I haven’t listened to it, until now. And after hearing Everlast steal the show with his cameo appearance on Nice & Smooth’s “Save The Children”, I’m kind of excited to see if he was able to build on that momentum.
Back From The Dead – House of Pain kicks SAIEW off with an intense thick Muggs’ bass line laid underneath rough drums (Tha Baka Boys get a co-production credit) that Everlast uses to address his haters and the rumors of his death, both figuratively and literally. Everlast’s distinct rugged vocal sounds great over Muggs dusty production work.
I’m A Swing It – Lethal hooks up a dope mid-tempo groove that Everlast uses to get “funky like the Neville Brothers” over (a statement which I found amusing and I’m sure no one else in hip-hop has ever said), while Danny Boy sneaks in a couple of mediocre bars in between E’s verses. Everlast once again mentions the rumors of his death (was “Everlast is dead” really a thing that I missed in the nineties or was dude just being paranoid on a Geto Boys type level?) and he response to DJ Quik’s diss record “Can’t Fuck Wit A Nigga” from the Menace II Society Soundtrack with a few bars at the end of the song’s final verse. His blows are light jabs at best, but at least he was brave enough to defend himself.
All That – I thought this was a weird spot to place a random instrumental interlude…but, whatever.
On Point – This one sounds like HOP may have been trying to recapture that “Jump Around” energy. Everlast adds to his list of enemies, taking a shot at Marky Mark, who was an easy target for rappers back in the nineties (probably second only to Hammer…but don’t sleep, Hammer was a G. Just ask MC Serch). All in all, this was pretty dope.
Runnin’ Up On Ya – Lethal mixes up a vintage thick Muggs-like bass line with a loop of what sounds like bagpipes, giving the instrumental an Irish touch. Unfortunately, Everlast’s rhymes are forgettable (except for the part where he says “I used to rock a skin head” which sounded kind of white supremisty) and the hook is one big contradiction.
Over There Shit – Muggs hooks up a dusty backdrop with heavy drums, a haunting bass line and an ill vocal loop from the classic Audio Two record, “Top Billin'”. Everlast cleverly manages to shoutout both Milk D and Gizmo along the way, and his rugged vocal sounds perfect over Muggs rough production work.
Word Is Bond – The legendary Diamond D stops by to provide the backdrop and spit a verse alongside Everlast. Diamond D is a very dope and underrated hip-hop producer, but this one almost put me to sleep. Yes, it was that bad.
Keep It Comin’ – In my head, this will forever be the song that Everlast used the N-word on and got away unscathed. During his second verse he quotes his dad, who was speaking about Everlast and says “He’s a bum, kick the nigga out”. Regardless of the context, there is absolutely no way a white rapper would have got a pass for using “nigga” in this current day of social media and Black Twitter (side note: Everlast would use the n-word again a few years later while playing the racist cop, Bitchkowski, on Prince Paul’s “The Men In Blue” from his conceptual album A Prince Among Thieves). They would have hung him by his balls out the window like Big Red from The Five Heartbeats. Even though I feel some type away about Everlast’s use of the N-word, you can’t front on Muggs dope backdrop.
Interlude – Decent little DJ Lethal concocted instrumental that should have been title “Drunken Jazz”.
Same As It Ever Was – This title track feels like a darker version of Cypress Hill’s “Insane In The Brain”. Everlast and Danny Boy take turns rhyming about absolutely nothing over Muggs bouncy backdrop. I’m sure frat boys were loving this one in the nineties.
It Ain’t A Crime – Everlast is definitely not the go to rapper if you’re looking for a dope story line. This one could have been left on the cutting room floor.
Where I’m From – Everlast reminisces and raps about the importance of true friendships and weeding out the shady people in your circle (I laugh every time I hear him tell his Judas “If you wanna fuck me, first you have to kiss me”). But the true star of this one is DJ Lethal and his production work. He builds this backdrop around a nasty bass line, an ill break and a beautiful horn loop (I actually thought Diamond D produced this one before reading the liner notes). Despite the nonsensical hook, this is easily my favorite song on SAIEW.
Still Got A Lotta Love – Everlast comes up with a clever way to shoutout his peeps on this one. Instead of just speaking them over an instrumental, he actually raps them in couplets over an inconspicuous snare and bass line (it was cool to hear him give props to the Ultramagnetic MC’s on his final shoutout). Well done, Erik.
Who’s The Man – This was originally released on the Who’s The Man? Soundtrack in 1993 (remember that cornball comedy starring Yo! MTV Raps hosts, Dr. Dre and Ed Lover?). Lethal sticks with his formula of thick bass lines and heavy drums, while Everlast and Danny Boy continue to spew hardcore rhymes.
On Point (Lethal Dose Remix) – DJ Lethal remixes his own track with a menacing bass line, snapping drums and a mysterious horn loop, giving the song a darker vibe that the lighthearted original mix. Both mixes are dope. The remix sounds more cohesive with the rest of the album, while the original mix breaks up the album’s monotony. Choose your own adventure.
Same As It Ever Was lives up to its title in more ways than one. Like their debut album, House of Pain stays true to their Irish pride and gutter image over hard beats. And with a few exceptions along the way, they keep the same thick bass line, heavy drums, dark vibe format for the length of the album, giving it a cohesive sound, even though at times it can feel a bit redundant. Everlast is no Rakim (and Danny Boy’s limited verses doesn’t even warrant a mention), but he does a solid job navigating through Muggs and Lethal’s quality batch of dark and dusty instrumentals, even if he never matches the scene stealing magic he displayed on Nice & Smooth’s “Save The Children”. Same As It Ever Was isn’t spectacular, but its a decent album that is easy to miss or overlook, since it came out in a year packed with a slew of classics.