THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES: Pop Goes the Weasel  by 3rd Bass (1991)

“Let’s all sing pop goes the weasel!”  It starts with what sounds like a sample from an old kids’ 45, and then immediately explodes into the unmistakable hook from Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”  Then, MC Serch comes on the mic with a vicious diatribe against the likes of Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer.  The song was one of the first “mainstream” dis tracks, and the sample-heavy production (also including bits from James Brown’s band, The Who, and Stevie Wonder) seemed to make 3rd Bass as commercial as the rappers they were attacking.  But then, in the video, they let Black Flag’s Henry Rollins play Vanilla Ice!

Serch, Prime Minister Pete Nice, and Daddy Rich teamed up with the great Prince Paul and Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad to make their first album—the phenomenally good “Cactus Album.” The band created their own lexicon, just as De La Soul were doing, using “cactus” as a euphemism for a white man’s penis and “The Gas Face” (the name of their breakout hit) for attacking bad rappers.  Known for their war against the only other white rappers worth mentioning at the time, The Beastie Boys, 3rd Bass never got as famous but, in my view, they were much more hip hop.  The Beasties were great—don’t get me wrong—but they were much more punk-minded than true hip hop culturalists.  Their second album, Derelicts of Dialect, was their true masterpiece—and it’s there that you’ll find “Pop Goes the Weasel”. It was their only #1 song.  They broke up the following year.

Further listening: I’m a big fan of the band, but I’ll admit this is their only GOAT.  Other good singles (just not greatest of all time singles!) were Product of the Environment, Steppin’ to the A.M., and Brooklyn Queens.

Covers: None.  But since the music to the song is built around Sledgehammer, check out these covers:

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