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Burning down the House

[Originally published 1993 |
Updated here 1999.07.22: Will Tairrie B please shut up??]

"Three words, folks: House... of... Pain," putative comedian Denis Leary tells the camera in the opening seconds of a House of Pain video. But maybe we should be leery of Leary, a self-described asshole, and instead come up with our own three little words to describe the Boston rap superstars: "Smug, bigoted punks," maybe, or "smirking gutter rejects," or simply "homophobic and sexist."

I recently had a discussion with a friend about whether House of Pain’s eponymous (and million-selling) début album was deeply or incidentally homophobic. I argued for the latter designation because, at the time, I thought the overt homo-hatred was limited to one utterance of the word "fag." (Later I listened more closely. See below.) More of an affront, I thought, was the group’s brazen contempt for women. At the start of "Shamrocks and Shenanigans," vocalist/tattoo aficionado Everlast sings:

I kicks the flavour like Stephen King writes horror.
If I was a Jew, then I’d lights a menorah.
I got rhymes for you.
Excuse me, señora,
are you a whore or
are you a lady?

Apart from the metrical anomaly – how often do you find a verse that ends in "or"? – these lines bug me because of the shit-eating grins the House of Pain boys wear in the video. Note too that "señora" refers to married women in Spanish, an extra nuance of obnoxiousness which they no doubt think is clever. And if your were hoping that House of Pain’s album would be in the minority of rap records that don’t scatter whore references like fertilizer, think again – and listen for "so if you’re a ho, all my friends know," "always gettin’ hos when there’s hos to get got," and others.

OK, so he has a problem with women. But is Everlast perhaps a bit conflicted about guys too? "House and the Rising Sun" has the line "Snatch you by the ears, smash you up like a queer," but then goes on to threaten us innocent listeners with "I rip shit and kill it, cut your gut and spill it, treat you like a gas tank, take your ass and fill it, then take you for a ride to where I reside, put your face in my pillow and have you weeping like a willow." Just don’t expect him to wear a condom.

Violent references like this are rife on the album, and in fact Everlast’s sidekick Danny Boy has admitted that he likes to pack a pistol. Couple this with Everlast’s skinhead look and you’d be forgiven for crossing the street if you saw them coming your way. But none of this is surprising if you look at Everlast’s history. Back in ’90, Everlast put out a solo album which stiffed, as they say in the record biz. He was at best a curiosity, known more for his dandy look (Armani suits, perfect hair, "swayve" and "deboner" demeanour) than whatever talent he had.

Everlast was going out for a while with Tairrie B, who billed herself as the world’s only white female rapper with a recording contract. (Actual mention of Everlast in the liner notes of Tairrie B’s first and only record, The Power of a Woman: "Love is a drug... and baby you’re a Trip! It was a ’Strange Relationship.’" Go figure.)

"The name’s Tairrie – and the B is for Bitch," Tairrie declared. She welcomed the word bitch "because to me, bitch means Being In Total Control of Herself.... Calling myself a bitch isn’t putting myself down." Well, that explains everything, Tairrie.

Tairrie’s song "Ruthless Bitch" tells you to "go back to wearing sequins, ’cause you look like a faggot" and "you ain’t no rapper, and what do you look like? Rumour has it you’re a dyke!" After a journalist (I couldn’t find out who) took Tairrie to task for her homophobia, the blonde bombshell allegedly stormed into his office and called him a faggot, a rumour a queer source at her label didn’t deny. "Just bringing his sexuality into it had nothing to do with the review," the source told me at the time. "We can’t deal with her anymore. She’s going to ruin her career."

And guess what? She did. With friends like these, House of Pain doesn’t need enemies, but enemies they have indeed made. May they join Tairrie B in pop oblivion and be forced to mop up washrooms in a drag bar for the rest of their lives.

Postscript: Will Tairrie B please shut up?

I keep getting these E-mails from someone claiming to be Tairrie B. It could be Courtney Love for all I know. The thing that gets me is that this correspondent seems to keep re-discovering this page, as though she forgets all about it after firing off her latest screenful of bashing spleen. Like:

From: "Eliza Kiara"<>

To: <>

Subject: Attempting to dis Miss B

Date: Sun, 21 Sep 1997

dear mr clark, i just so happened to be reading my site on the internet for my new band TURA SATANA when one of our links led me to you ...i am so not surprised to see once again yet another misinformed writer attempting to analize lyrics or statements i previously made so many years ago.First of all lets clean one thing up right now...i am not now,nor have i ever been a homophobic person in any sense of the word.what happened eight years ago with that asshole writer (and I use the term writer loosly) from BAM MAGAZINE and his name was Ernest Hardy was such a fucking blown out of proportion bunch of lies which were perpetrated by him,himself that i can only laugh at it now.I’M VERY SURE THAT IF MY INTENT WAS TO KICK HIS ASS AS HE CLAIMED I THREATENED.... I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE! in my book when you talk your talk you must walk it as well or keep your mouth shut! when a person is asked to review a record this does not mean only review the face on the cover and make racially degrading and offensive comments about it. as a listener to all types of music and a person who is interested in discovering new and exciting singers,rappers,bands...etc i also read reviews of latest projects.i expect to at least read a review which the so called writer actually listened to the fucking record but Mr Hardy i believe only looked at my photo and when he saw a blonde haired,green eyed white female on the cover that was all his sorry racist,uninformed ,unintelligent self decided to see and somehow interpret to readers in a musical and lyrical review. maybe you should pick up a copy of MANHOLE...ALL IS NOT WELL or TURA SATANA...RELIEF THROUGH RELEASE and learn something real as i have no more time to explain myself.

love & kisses,TAIRRIE B.

PS. and would you mind not putting my name anywhere near EVERLAST in the future...thank you



Date: Fri, 2 Apr 1999 03:05:46 EST

Subject: the divine miss tairrie b.

dear joe, since i had the priviledge of reading your oh so lovely comments on me and my supposed demise and homophobia as well as carrer (along with my ex everlast,who by the way is selling thousands of records a week you idiot)i have decieded to inform your uninformed,straight girl bashing ass that if you have nothing better to do in 1999 then talk about me atleast get your facts STRAIGHT!!!! I KNOW THAT WORD IS A DIFFICULT ONE...maybe you should check the fuckin internet nowadays jerkoff and while you are at it quit being such a drama queen because that’s my job FUCKER!!! love always,MISS B.

Remember: "We can’t deal with her anymore. She’s going to ruin her career." Stiiil got it, Tairrie!