As much as getting an uncensored version of the 2000 album Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water was like unearthing a treasure – each expletive uttered bringing a toothy grin upon my face – there were often times I heard songs like ‘Rollin” or ‘My Way,’ where all the abuses were blanked out.
When the going gets tough, we turn to our favourite guilty pleasures. But when entertainment is concerned, is there even any guilt to what gives one pleasure? In our new series Pleasure Without Guilt, we look at pop offerings that have been dissed by the culture police but continue to endure as beacons of unadulterated pleasure.
The years 2000 and 2001 were pretty revelatory to me, and it wasn’t just the hormones or moving to Mumbai that made me feel that way. It was more or so the kind of music that my brothers and I were being put on to, being ever the young and impressionable adolescents surrounded by slightly older kids who were scouring Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire et al for all kinds of music.
One of those friends put me on to rock and metal in a big way. Among the biggest rock and metal releases burning up the charts at the turn of the millennium was Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. I was also getting introduced to artists like Eminem, Linkin Park, Korn, Rage Against the Machine, Papa Roach, Coldplay, and so many more, back when it wasn’t bizarre to utter these names in the same sentence.
Bizkit’s 2000 album – their third – was handed to me and my brothers on a pirated tape, and we spun it on a double deck cassette player probably every other day. Of course, a part of me was completely enamoured by all the explicit language I was learning, but I was also intrigued by all the references jumping straight out of American pop culture (like skateboarding or understanding a wrestling move called the Full Nelson or even what “going platinum” meant in the music industry). Plus, there was the obvious quest to figure out what this album title meant, which was certainly unsavoury and scatological, much to any fan’s delight.
Beyond that, Fred Durst’s care-a-damn, yeah-I’m-a-white-rapper delivery was hard to overlook, even if he was spouting a lot of nonsense. That was the draw — to be unashamedly saying dumb things and getting morose over cliched relationship issues, but to lay it over Wes Borland’s stomping riffs, John Otto’s roomy drum work, and Sam Rivers’ uncharacteristically slick basslines. Not to forget, DJ Lethal was often invoked in the lyrics by Durst, as if to hype listeners up to his turntablism and beat production which permeated through on several tracks.
The first glimpse of The Chocolate Starfish and The Hot Dog Flavored Water probably came to me via the music video of ‘Rollin’,’ featuring actor Ben Stiller, among others, who appears in the opening title. Every time (among the countless hundred times) I replayed this song, the part I always waited for – lyric sheet in hand – was when Durst uses f**k four times in two consecutive lines. The surge that chorus provided was a high like something I’d never heard before, opening my mind up to how anthemic a brash, crass, and seemingly heavy band like Limp Bizkit could be.
Safe to say that when I learned the above-mentioned expletives, that was pretty much all I wanted I say when I wanted to express myself. So imagine my excitement when I found an album that pretty much revered the F-word, the best example on Chocolate Starfish being ‘Hot Dog.’ Durst’s exaggerated vocals notwithstanding, ‘Hot Dog’ (proudly) used f**k 49 times in total, across three minutes and 50 seconds. The most notorious of the lines went: “If I say “f**k” two more times/That’s 46 “f**k”s in this f**ked up rhyme.”
Most days after school, this was what I would prioritise instead of homework. Over long commutes on holiday, we had our Walkman to share, which allowed us to have the track sequence burned into our minds, the booming sound of ‘My Generation’ and ‘Full Nelson’ leading to the more emotional break-up song ‘My Way,’ and of course, ‘Rollin’.’ The single version was subtitled as an ‘Air Raid Vehicle’ while there was a second version called ‘Urban Assault Vehicle,’ featuring guest verses from rappers like DMX, Method Man, Redman, and producer Swizz Beatz. The verses were so lethal that it showed me who the gruff and unsparing rappers were in hip-hop, that too from a collaboration. Earlier on, Xzibit raps on ‘Getcha Groove On,’ a primo DJ Lethal aided song that saw Limp Bizkit at their most hip-hop.
As far as I’m concerned, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water had no fillers. It had the appropriately fast-paced energy of ‘Livin’ It Up,’ which was anthemic as much as it was, once again, explicit. Songs like ‘Hold On,’ ‘It’ll Be OK,’ and ‘The One’ were slower but they exposed me to the mellower side of the band. It made me feel like Limp Bizkit was bringing depth into an album that went on to sell over eight million copies, being certified platinum by 2001.
While ‘Rollin” was my introduction to the album, the first Limp Bizkit song I had heard was ‘Take A Look Around,’ thanks to the soundtrack for Tom Cruise-starrer Mission: Impossible 2. The pendulous, ultimately tumultuous rager of a song featured the chorus, “Now I know why you wanna hate me,” which is pretty much where I was channeling a whole lot of misguided adolescent angst. The explosive song still makes me want to throw fists and jump around, along with one of the more underrated singles on the album, ‘Boiler.’
As much as getting an uncensored version of Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water was like unearthing a treasure – each expletive uttered bringing a toothy grin upon my face – there were often times I heard songs like ‘Rollin” or ‘My Way,’ where all the abuses were blanked out.
I rolled with it, and still sometimes end up intentionally ‘blanking’ my way through the lyrics.
After I was taken in by nu-metal, rap-rock, and particularly, Limp Bizkit, thanks to Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, I dove into their discography, somehow convincing my parents to buy me their 1999 album Significant Other (whose title I did not understand until many years later). It was the first time I ever paid attention to the infamous Parental Advisory Explicit Content sticker, which was obviously explained to me by my dad.
Limp Bizkit still gets me hyped, 21 years on. Their latest song ‘Dad Vibes’ – helped by Durst’s seemingly “Dad” look at music festivals in the US – has been on repeat. Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water was a future classic for me, even if everyone else grew out of it, and laughed sheepishly about liking Limp Bizkit. It was kind of surprising to realise later that this music defined my love for heavy tunes, even if it was directionless in its angst. I believe this can still get a crowd moving anywhere in the world. If you don’t believe me, footage from their recent performances don’t lie.
Anurag Tagat is a Bengaluru-based independent music journalist, covering artists nationwide and around the globe. He is also an assistant editor at Rolling Stone India.
Read more from the Pleasure Without Guilt series here.