The events of September 11th changed absolutely everything about our lives. That days terrorist attacks have become such a cultural touchstone that the weeks before and after it feel hazy at best. Yet, what makes those weeks 13 years ago even harder to fathom is what a uniquely bizarre time it was for popular music. Back when Justin Timberlake was just an *NSYNC member and punk band Sum-41 were topping the pop charts with a hybrid '80s rap-cum-hair-metal sound, the music industry was still making astronomical profits to the point where the summer of 2001 saw a barrage of peculiar novelty songs that wouldn't have fit in any other era. Then, the dour weeks after 9/11 saw the airwaves starved for content that could fit the bleak rebuilding period America was facing. These are the forgotten novelty songs surrounding 9/11.
Afroman – "Because I Got High"
Starting things off we have Afroman's immortal "Because I Got High." As whimsical as cautionary tales get, time has been kind to Afroman's signature hit. "Because I Got High," or as the radio edit knows it, "Because I Got (ding sound)," arrived on the Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back soundtrack, complete with a Kevin Smith directed video, making it a stoner classic for years to come.
Little T and One Track Mike – "Shaniqua"
Here's a weird one to explain to future generations. As catchy as "Shaniqua don't live here no more," is to say, the parts of this song that aren't the chorus are just utterly puzzling. Yes, this was a hit, a hit that for some reason was repeatedly mercilessly flagged anytime someone uploaded it during the early years of YouTube which may have damaged its legacy amongst a generation obsessed with its own nostalgia.
Bad Ronald – "Let's Begin (Shoot the Shit)"
A huge misnomer of the post-Eminem pre-Macklemore world is the idea that white rappers are in any way easy to market. In 2001, The Neptunes struggled with Lee Harvey, Bad Boy struggled with Kain and when it looked like their might be more money in more white rappers came the label creation Bad Ronald. Consisting of handpicked white rap talents of different scenes (most notably DJ Deetlax of Minneapolis rap collective Oddjobs), Bad Ronald burst forth with "Let's Begin (Shoot the S***)" While the Marc Klasfeld directed music video of a kids show for adults is excellently executed, the song eerily reeks of proto-frat rap a good eight years before the rise of Asher Roth. With an album that came out on 9/11, the group were also among the first to be filmed in post-9/11 PSAs for MTV.
Petey Pablo – "Raise Up (USA Remix)"
The music industry's response to 9/11, a terrorist attack on America the likes of which had never been seen, was understandably a varied one. While there were plenty of covers and concerts meant to provide an emotional solace for a grieving nation, the two most American genres of country and hip-hop took a more aggressive approach. While we've become familiar with the country song patriotic vengeance cliche, rappers were just as mad at Al Qaeda. Most memorably, Petey Pablo rewrote the Timbaland produced "Raise Up" to reflect America coming together and threatening Osama bin Laden.
Insane Clown Posse – "Every Halloween"
The weeks following 9/11 were especially rough on radio DJs, I recall one remarking to Rolling Stone that it just didn't feel like the right time to play "Bootylicious." Starved for content, the aftermath saw Detroit shock rap outfit Insane Clown Posse score a minor hit that autumn with "Every Halloween." In efforts to get Americans' minds on something else, like the upcoming holiday, Psychopathic Records sent their annual Hallowicked season song, usually reserved for fans who attend their Halloween concert, to radio stations nationwide.