name is 311 and you know it ain’t easy.” One imagines singer Benji Webbe in some hotel room with MTV on, maybe while on tour with Soulfly (whose debut album he contributed to), watching these five white guys arrogantly smug their way through a frat-fuck mockery of dancehall and just seethed. Maybe right then, the first seeds of his band Skindred’s staggering gauntlet-throw “Nobody” began to germinate. “My sound we’ve come to take over,” it begins. “MC you better look over your shoulder.” If it sounds like a warning, that’s because it is. The band is giving it their all; guitarist Mikey Demus does expert work summoning the urgency of a dancehall horn with the octave pedal, but for the most part their job is to get out of Benji Webbe’s way. Shifting through an unreal litany of accents, voices, and flows, Webbe turns in one of the greatest vocal performances nu-metal has ever seen, one that’s as much Wayne Smith as it is Wayne Static. It’s difficult to single out any particular moment-- the little squeak he throws into “nobody”, the inimitable “Why-yai-yai!” that leads into the breakdown, the “bah-bah-bam”s that set it off-- that could define the song, but nothing quite tops the bottom dropping out of the chorus and Webbe downshifting into a brutal growl. It’s a full-body-chills moment that surprises every time it happens. Even though they left instructions right in the song (“Blend up the reggae, metal, punk, hip-hop”) there’s still never been anything quite like “Nobody,” before or since, and hey, what do you know, maybe it ain’t easy after all.
“Funk slap bass mixed with the dancehall and hip-hop beats and punk guitar,” smirked Nick Hexum on 311’s 1999 single “Come Original.” ”The