- Potty animals: Jimmy Pop Ali (second from right) and the Bloodhound Gang.
Think you've got tough career choices? Consider this: Bloodhound Gang lead singer Jimmy Pop Ali, who holds a degree in mass communications from Temple University, was offered a record contract and an internship with radio shock jock Howard Stern on the same day.
It's the ultimate potty humor enthusiast's existential moral dilemma. Does he accept the internship and absorb Stern's Yoda-like teachings, basking in the genius of the self-proclaimed "King of All Media"? Or does he opt for the rock and roll lifestyle, in search of artistic fulfillment and personal expression?
Well, Ali took the recording gig, and it would appear he's made the right choice. The Bloodhound Gang's fluke smash single, 1996's "Fire Water Burn" has ensured their place in history, though "artistic fulfillment" might prove too serious a term to describe a song with the chorus "Burn, motherfucker, burn."
We are dealing with a potty humor enthusiast, after all. Actually, we're dealing with five of them (Ali, guitarist Lupus Thunder, bassist Evil Jared Hasselhoff, DJ Q-Ball, and new drummer Willie). The Philadelphia group, which formed in 1993, had a rocky start and almost didn't make it out of the gate. After its major label debut, 1995's Use Your Fingers, tanked, the group virtually disbanded, forcing Ali and Lupus to recruit new members. Now, the Bloodhound Gang has evolved into a legitimate band, anchored by a love of power chords, pseudo-metal leanings, hip-hop flavored sampling, and, of course, Ali's unique rapping approach. Think Kid Rock with less structure. Eminem with less pathos. Vanilla Ice with less . . . hair gel. But then, what do you expect from a group that has titled its forthcoming album Hooray for Boobies?
Coming off 1996's One Fierce Beer Coaster, the album that yielded "Fire Water Burn," Hooray for Boobies delivers all the double entendres and wiseguy futon talk you can stand. Sample song titles: "Vagina," "I Hope You Die," "Yummy Down on This," and "That Cough Came With a Prize." Risqué? Perhaps. But in the wake of the "low-brow" humor of South Park (the TV show and the movie), Limp Bizkit, and There's Something About Mary, the Bloodhound Gang gets away with it. And then some.
"Maybe the pendulum's swinging," Ali admits, pointing out he took a lot of heat for "Fire Water Burn." "People just weren't into it. Now they're more receptive toward . . . whatever you want to call it. Potty humor?"
Still, the elitist prude critics of the world will be reluctant to give the Bloodhound Gang any measure of respect. In fact, according to the band's website, a potential lawsuit over the song "Right Turn Clyde" -- which features the rhyme "All in all you're just another dick with no balls" (cribbed from Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall") sung to a Casiotone, strings, and operatic vocals -- has delayed the release of Hooray for Boobies. As a result, "Right Turn Clyde" will not be on the final version of the album (but is well worth tracking down), and the song titles "Vagina" and "Most Likely to Suck" will be changed when the final version of the album is released. And yet not everyone has taken offense to Ali, who has a way of making friends out of his enemies.
"The worst review we ever got was this two-page review for a New York paper," he explains, clearly enjoying himself. "He really took it personally. He hated everything about us, and he even did a little research to find out about us. And I said, "This guy's great,' so we had him write our new press biography."
The record company eventually axed the idea, but Ali, who wrote the long-winded, self-deprecating bio himself, had made his point. His band didn't need respect -- one supposes they did it for the boobies, the boobies, to interpolate Limp Bizkit.
Assuming it makes it to the record store racks, Hooray for Boobies is an album destined to do for the chest what Sir Mix-a-Lot did for the butt. Arranged as a series of fan letters Ali composed to his favorite porn star, "The Ballad of Chasey Lain" serves as the album's centerpiece. The chorus: "You've had a lot of dick/I've had a lot of time/You've had a lot of dick, Chasey/But you ain't had mine." On "Mama's Boy," the skit that introduces the song "Vagina," Ali phones his mother to ask her what rhymes with "vagina," and when she suggests he change the word "vagina" to something else, he responds, "like box or pussy or cunt?" His mother hangs up in disgust.
This is not to suggest that all of the songs on Hooray for Boobies are irreverent. One of the cleverest jokes on the album is "10 Coolest Things About New Jersey" -- it consists of ten four-second tracks of silence. "When the Stripper Is Crying," a song sent up as a disco-country farce and sung in Ali's best hick trucker accent, is actually based on a true story, or so Ali maintains.
"I went to a strip club with a friend of mine, and he got me this lap dance," he recalls. "And this Russian girl straddled me, and she was, you know, starting to do her dance, and I asked her how she was. And she says [he adopts a bad Russian accent], "Oh, I am not well.' She started telling me what sucked about her life. Her grandmother had just passed away, and she hadn't been back home to Moscow for, like, three years. Her eyes started welling up with tears . . . and she's still grinding me while she's doing this. And I thought, "This just sums up my life.' And it's kinda weird, 'cause I'm still getting a hard-on from it."
It's really a beautiful story -- vulgar, salacious, and borderline obscene, but still beautiful.
Crude though he is, Ali is well-read and well-versed in popular culture. In the cheesy techno track "Mostly Likely to Suck," he drops references to The Catcher in the Rye, Seinfeld, Larry Flynt, and Pee-Wee Herman. Ali's form of satire might be offensive, but it has a distinct literary antecedent.
"I think Voltaire was a potty writer," Ali responds when asked about his influences. "I just write about things I like. If I read a book or something like that, I put it in there. And at the same time, if I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with extra crunchy Skippy, it makes a metaphor."
Damn right. Perhaps Ali could even teach Stern a thing or two about fusing intelligence and immaturity. He doesn't even need to declare himself the king of anything to pull it off.
"I'm not trying to change the world," Ali admits. "But sometimes you find that the things that aren't meant to change the world do change it. You never know. Maybe fifty years from now people will say, "Whatever happened to the brilliance of people like Kid Rock?'"
Or Jimmy Pop Ali, for that matter.