Released in 1991, “Pop Goes the Weasel” was the sixth track of 3rd Bass’s album titled Derelicts of Dialect, one of the greatest alliterative titles of early ’90s hip hop.
It’s instantly recognizable thanks to a healthy hook courtesy of “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel.
But that’s not it for samples. Listen closely and you’ll hear bits of “Eminence Front” by The Who and “You Haven’t Don’t Nothin'” by Stevie Wonder. Plus, if you listen really closely, you’ll hear a few bars of “Damn Right I’m Somebody” by Fred Wesley and the J.B.’s. Fred was the trombone player in many James Brown bands and is also owner of his own one-hit wonder titled, “Doing it to Death” that reached #22 on the Billboard Top 40 in 1973.
Yet again, a hip-hop one-hit wonder shares a remarkable connection to a band that is a founding element of hip hop (that would be James Brown if you’ve lost track somewhere in the equation).
Listen to Pop Goes the Weasel by 3rd Bass
What’s “Pop Goes the Weasel” about?
It’s blasting all the hip-hop artists who crossed over into the mainstream with songs that were commercial and poppy and easy on the ears. Think M.C. Hammer, Vanilla Ice and others. Check these lyrics from “Pop Goes the Weasel.”
Hip-hop, got turned into hit pop
the second a record was number one on the pop charts
For those that get on heart that gotta in the ghetto
Let no one forget about the hard part
Now in ninety-one we got a new brand, a new band
lookin like the same old Klan
Same old theives that skeez so we gotta make sure
that real rap has got to endure
To my ears, it sounds like 3rd Bass is inviting and then biting the very hand that feeds them by inserting samples and the main riff from “Sledgehammer” into their allegedly subversive and legit rap song. Fellas, “Pop Goes the Weasel” is just as poppy by trading on goodwill toward “Sledgehammer” as “You Can’t Touch This” became a massive pop hit by co-opting Rick James’ “Super Freak.”
And though you could argue that 3rd Bass had more street cred than Vanilla Ice (a fact I won’t dispute), is “Pop Goes the Weasel” and its “Sledgehammer” sample any less overtly commercial than Vanilla Ice’s creative theft of “Under Pressure” by Queen?
They’re all just great hip-hop pop songs. 3rd Bass is no more legit than Hammer–at least on “Pop Goes the Weasel.”
You probably recall that Hammer sang “Too Legit to Quit” back in the early 1990s. Well that’s exactly what 3rd Bass did soon after their big hit by disbanding in 1992.
So 3rd Bass is history but “Pop Goes the Weasel” lives on as a classic hip-hop one-hit wonder that forced bands and listeners to take sides on who were the credible rappers. In my opinion, they all were.
But maybe I’m just a weasel myself.
Hear more: Hip-hop one-hit wonders
Buy Pop Goes the Weasel by 3rd Bass
Filed under: 1990s, Hip Hop · Tags: 1991 1 hit wonder, 1991 one hit wonder, 3rd Bass, Doing it to Death, Fred Wesley, Hip Hop, hip hop one hit wonder, James Brown, M.C. Hammer, Pop Goes the Weasel, rap one hit wonder, The Who, Vanilla Ice