Ah, The Good Ol’ Days of Nu-Metal



Who’s that? Kelly Jr.? Aw, come on over here. Take a seat in that rocker. You want some lemonade? There you go. Me and your uncle here was just talking about nu-metal.

Ah, nu-metal. You shoulda’ seen it, kid. It was such a time. Heaven knows how it came about–it was one of those movements that you didn’t realize was happening until you found yourself smack dab in the middle of it. One minute, you think you know where music’s going, and the next you’re getting a tribal tattoo down your arm and wondering how much that polyester shirt with the flames costs. Lord, what an interesting time.

We didn’t care nothing about being “united in metal” or paying homage to the scene, mind you. We were all about the gritty “real” world, even those of us who had never left the suburbs. Hell, especially those of use who had never left the suburbs! Why sing about a bunch of zombies or the ozone layer when you could sing about how unhappy you were, and about all the dirty sex and designer drugs you were involved in? At any given time between 1999 and 2003, I had a strung-out mallrat girl with too many bracelets grinding up against me to a Cold song. Didn’t need no devils or abstract spiritual concepts for that. It was beautiful, in a way.

Lot of people said we were just white kids who wanted to be black, and maybe there was something to that at first. But soon we just wanted to be the freakiest white kids out there, you see? We realized that being lower-class and disenfranchised was at the core of rap, and when you applied it to metal you got a bunch of hedonists with nothing to lose who just want to feel something new, whether by cutting themselves, piercing themselves, or taking a drug that was just a series of syllables. The silver sleeveless shirts and big pants were just symptoms of that–those rap culture attributes taken to an ‘I don’t care’ white trash level.

The pants. Sweet Christ on a trampoline, son, there were pants as far as the eye can see. In the right light, it looked like everyone at the Godhead show was just floating along the floor. But we made them our own, in certain ways. The big plastic UFOs meant you leaned towards electronica and pop, the Menace jeans said you were more skater- and punk-oriented, and those Tripp NYC ring-covered strap-fests let the world know you were a goth who loved himself some Jhonen Vasquez and cocaine. It was funny to see the skinny jeans take hold in response. How were you supposed to write all your favorite band names on those pieces of crap?

Somehow, the whole thing was sexy. That trashy look, that mix of punk kid and rap kid and metal kid, it had a kind of dangerousness to it, like a girl who you know is batshit bonkers but who you can’t help but wanna bang. Ultra-tight top, ultra-baggy jeans? That there was a winner. Besides, sex was our Satan. What did parents care about skulls and black candles when you could be smoking meth and getting AIDS during a homosexual encounter? It truly was the best of times.

I hear you laughing! Think your grampa’s lame, do you? But here’s the thing, kid–nu-metal was so damn dangerous at the time. Scared the Hell out of everyone, including metalheads. Oh yeah. The metal kids saw nu-metal booming, making millions, and they worried that this was the future of rock and roll. Even if nu-metal made them stronger by building their underground cred, a lotta bands were wondering if metal as they knew it had died, and its tombstone was a DJ table. And anyone who tried to get with the times got screwed because of it. Metallica? Those poor bastards. Never shoulda’ uttered the name ‘Kid Rock.’

All right, enough out of you, wiseass. Go hang out with your cousins and talk about whatever music you think’s cool. But if you get a chance, ask your grandmother to show you the picture of me in the fishnet shirt with the pacifier around my neck. And find me before you leave. I got an extra copy of Issues that’s yours if you want it.

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