It’s ironic that now, years after going through a metalcore phase, my hair is the ideal length for a great head-banging session. While I’ve strayed pretty far from the genre and its surrounding culture as a whole, every once in a blue moon I return to some of my favorite albums, being pulled in by the nostalgic feeling that comes along with some of last decade’s best breakdowns.
Fearless Records, a label formed in 1994 that was a major figurehead in the early pop-punk movement, still stands as a force to be reckoned with in post-hardcore and metalcore. In 2000, the label came up with the idea to construct a compilation album consisting of its signed bands covering popular songs of different genres. That album was the first of many that would fall into their Punk Goes… series. Since that first album, Punk Goes Metal, Fearless has gone on to release Punk Goes ‘90s, Punk Goes ‘80s, Punk Goes Acoustic, Punk Goes Christmas, Punk Goes Classic Rock, and the series within a series, Punk Goes Pop, which in itself has six albums.
After searching Apple Music for Punk Goes Pop the other day, I came across an album that I had completely forgotten existed, one that had laid dormant, waiting for the day somebody rediscovered its true atrociousness.
Punk Goes Crunk.
Released in May of 2008, this is as cringeworthy as an album can possibly be. Totally unnecessary as it was, it probably seemed a lot better on paper, and was clearly carried out by people who have little to no real knowledge of hip-hop music. First of all, let’s start with the cover.
This looks like the cover that your weird uncle who dates 17-year-olds and wears Tapout exclusively would throw together in his basement. I’d put money on betting that the gold chains were added in photoshop. Also I’m not entirely sure why there are dice, possibly in an effort to bring to mind street dice betting, which has nothing to do with crunk or hip-hop in a larger sense. It comes off as juvenile and semi-racist, considering whoever created the cover probably was picturing a group of young black men playing and thought, “This would be great for a rap cover! Yeah, that hood shit!” Also, the money in the background is made up of $20 bills, making for a grand total of what looks like far less than $200. But nice try.
Now let’s consider the title. “Crunk” was a subgenre of southern hip-hop that focused on heavy basslines, shouted vocals, and was more oriented for dancing in clubs. Taking a look at the track list, there’s practically no real crunk music covered.
Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Nope.
The Roots. Not even close.
The closest thing to crunk is Lil Jon’s “Put Yo Hood Up”, which is so horribly put-together that your ears may bleed. Hearing a bunch of hard-rock white guys try to mimic Lil John’s ad libs is the closest audible thing there is to ear cancer. For Fearless to call this “crunk” music shows a complete ignorance of hip-hop, though I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they only went with that title because it rhymed. It’s also relevant to point out that by 2009, crunk music was on a sharp decline, pushed aside by newer sub genres like trap and drill. It seems that, unfortunately for them, they’re exploitation of it came just a few years too late.
Getting to the actual music itself…I really don’t want to, but I must. It’s just so, so bad. For some reason, Set Your Goals decided it was a great idea to record “Put Yo Hood Up” in a Yoda voice. Say Anything has Ol’ Dirty Bastard rolling over in his grave. “I have a little problem with you not fuckin’ me” has never sounded more nerd-rapey. And for good measure, they replace “nigga” with “n-word”, showing a complete lack of creativity when it comes to changing the lyrics. I’m sure the band thought it was hilarious. Pac would have a heart attack if he heard the karaoke atrocity that My American Heart put together for “California Love”. The edited vocals and synth line belong in some weird, rip-off Mario game that you’d find in a dilapidated bowling alley. The only track that I found semi-redeemable was The Devil Wears Prada covering Big Tymers’ “Still Fly”. They’re the only band that didn’t inject themselves with fake swagger and actually did the melody some sort of justice. Other than that, no…just no.
Despite Fearless’ success with the Punk Goes Pop series, Punk Goes Crunk is one project they’d probably rather forget. Calling this cheesy isn’t enough for this natural disaster. Giving a bunch of skinny, white rockers the opportunity to live out their fantasy as rappers is a cheap gimmick that failed miserably. I can’t say I gave more than one listen to this project way back when it dropped, but revisiting it nearly a decade later highlights just how terribly cringy it is. Exploiting a trendy genre you know practically nothing about is clearly not the best idea for any record label, and this stands as a perfectly shitty example as to why. With that being said, be on the lookout for Punk Goes Trap, hitting FYE shelves in 2020.