Review Summary: Bradley Nowell is Nostradamus.“I would like an emergency call please, there's a psychopathic trying to kill me in my ***in' room, now get them cops over here to 1-2-3-O-9 Ventura Street please. He is standing in my door, I told him to get out of here, and he tells me he's gonna put me in the psycho-tank, for making my production here. Which is a science fiction magazine! And he's trying to scare me 'cause he thinks he's big, but he's just a big pile of ***! 'Cause I'll splatter him all over the ***in' wall. I hope you record all that. That's a pre-programming for the police department! And send 'em over here, 'cause I'm about to kill him in two seconds. Now get 'em over here as fast as you can please. I hope your recording this…”
– Raleigh Soliloquy Pt. II
Who Raliegh was and why his soliloquies were included on a Sublime album may forever remain a mystery, but nevertheless he is there and angry as ever. While this small excerpt of his lyrics may seem a bit odd in a ska album, they are rather funny, are they not? And, even if the little clips have nothing to do with Sublime or their music, they really explain what Sublime was all about…fun. Sublime was a band who would show up to their own concerts so drunk they could hardly make it through their sets, a band who openly sings about taking recreational drugs, and one who are well known for their couldn’t-care-less attitude. Though this crazy lifestyle would eventually lead to the death of lead singer Bradley Nowell, it seemed to work well with the band for the time being. Sublime are known for their amazing debut, 40 Oz. to Freedom, and their self-titled swan song, Sublime. However, what the band produced in between these two breaking points in their career is really what makes the band, is it not? And here we have the midpoint of Sublime’s career, executed in true Sublime fashion.
In response to fans’ accusations that Sublime was selling-out, Robbin’ the Hood’s cover proudly exclaims that it includes “13 self-produced 4-track home recordings.” Though this technique would severely compromise the quality of the album, it was a necessary precaution for the band to prove they were not in this for the money. Even with the low production value, Robbin’ the Hood does a great job of piecing together other artists’ music with Sublime’s. Samples of Bob Marley, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Barrington Levy, The Doors, and even Scarface can be found somewhere within the album. While a lot of the tracks are dubs and purely instrumental, this doesn’t take away from the genius of frontman Bradley Nowell. Lincoln Highway Dub, for example, shows hints of what would later become the band’s superhit Santeria. Steady B Loop Dub even contains a snippet of Sublime’s earlier hit, Badfish.
Naturally, the music blends elements of reggae, ska, dub, rock, hip-hop and pretty much any other genre you can imagine. STP, which is short for Secret Tweaker Pad, is a prime example. As one of the album’s gems, it begins with a rocking intro, slows down into a reggae verse, speeds up into a ska-like bridge, and then gets back to rocking. And while the band is constantly changing speed and style, there isn’t one noticeable mistake anywhere on the album. Gwen Stefanie makes duets with Nowell in Saw Red, a blasting ska love song. Near the end of the album, Bradley blasts a bout of the blues through the dirty Freeway Time in LA County Jail. With experience with illegal substances, jail time, and one night stands, Sublime creates an arsenal of topics to write about and appeals to not only teenage badasses, but also the scum of the earth. And all the while there's a crowd of people singing along. Greatest Hits will no doubt be one of the band’s greatest hits. With lyrics like, “I’m drunk by noon but that’s ok, I’ll be president some day”
and “I’m too drunk to light the bong, I’m too stoned to write this song”
the band appeals to the chillout stoners who listen to Sublime for just that reason.
Even while the band uses drugs to appeal to their audience and portrays them as a fun time, Nowell still brings out the bad side in Pool Shark, a song about his heroin addiction. While the first version of the song is scattered and fast, the acoustic version is much more meaningful, with Nowell really singing emotion into each line. Heroin would eventually lead to the death of Nowell, and in a prophet-like manner he calmly predicts his own death within the lyrics. Similar to Pool Shark, the pure euphoric moments of the album come during the solo acoustic tracks. Boss DJ and the marijuana-ode, Mary. Though it seems like this album would appeal only to the potheads of the world, Sublime’s music spreads a message of fun and partying. Boss DJ does a great job of exploiting corruption in the mainstream music business.
Though the reign of Sublime ended in 1996, the messages within Robbin’ the Hood leave timeless impressions. They preach real-life problems and solutions, and Bradley’s Nowell’s lyrics were far ahead of his time. Had this band been around today, the music industry might be very different. Robbin’ the Hood is the least-known of the Sublime albums, but probably the one with the most content. From laughable skits, to dub instrumentals, to wailing acoustics, Robbin’ the Hood contains a blend of unmatchable genres and is the second entry in a diary of a musical genius who would predict his own downfall.
“Take it away but I want more and more…one day I’m gonna lose a war...”