You are a teenager in Southern California. In nearby Los Angeles, millionaires spend hours upon hours distilling the complexities of the human experience into their most easily digestible essences. Television is either Cheers or In Living Color. Radio is either rap or grunge. But you are a white kid going to Martin Luther King Jr. High School in a predominantly Hispanic city, and nobody knows who you are.
Laguna Beach is not Southern California. Friday is not Southern California. 40 Oz. to Freedom is Southern California. Never have so many cultures collided so fantastically in the span of one 74 minute album. Here, an unironic cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias” lives alongside Bradley Nowell’s list of the things KRS-1. Also: “Chica Me Tipo,” sung almost entirely in Spanish. Sublime lays bare in the length of one album what no one in Hollywood would ever attempt: Southern California as a culture clash where everybody wins.
Plus, dudes have got songs. “Badfish,” possibly the catchiest melody Sublime ever wrote, begins as a pick-up at a house party before transforming into an up-tempo ballad about addiction and mortality. The album opener, “My Ruca,” strips reggae down to a voice and a pulse—the beat could have come from the Clipse’s next album. “Ebin” justifies the entire third wave of ska. Everything gets laced together as an elaborate mix tape. They sample the Minutemen and Eazy-E and Led Zeppelin and George Clinton. And this doesn’t even take into account their cultural impact. Nowell holds KRS-1 responsible for his education, but how many kids in Irvine did Sublime hip to BDP? Or Jimmy Cliff? Or the Dead? How many finally felt that they could embrace Bad Religion AND Steely Dan? Hispanic culture AND black culture AND suburban white culture?
But it’s remembered for “Date Rape.” Wake up.
-Marty Brown, 2006