Back in the early 2000s, my band played a fundraiser to send a local musician to New York to further his career in the business. We were joined by then-local hip-hop/punk trio Whole Wheat Bread for the show. We all donated our time, as it seemed a good way to show some solidarity between bands of disparate styles in one evening and raise a few dollars for a mutual friend.
Evidently, the fans didn’t see it that way.
My band went on first, to be followed by Whole Wheat Bread. As we neared the end of our set, I realized we wouldn’t have enough time to fit in the final two songs we had prepared. If we were lucky, we’d get one done. So, over the microphone, I casually asked the guys in Whole Wheat Bread if we could go over a few minutes and complete our set. And then … chaos.
The crowd, which looked like an even mix of all of our fans, suddenly divided. The Whole Wheat Bread side began chanting “Whole … Wheat … Bread!” Our fans began throwing T-shirts and CDs all over the place. At a loss, and as debris flew in all directions, I turned to the band and said, “We have three minutes left. Play three minutes of noise.” And that’s what we did. I threw my guitar onto the stage and started hammering it into feedback. The crowd became more agitated. For three full minutes — an eternity on stage when the audience revolts — it was utter madness.
I’ve got it all on videotape.
After our set, the guys from Whole Wheat Bread approached me. They apologized for their fans’ behavior and told me they would not have minded at all were we to have played out our set. That’s why we were all there: To support each other. I told them it was cool, and that I thought it made for some great theatrics. I also told them they should be glad to have such dedicated fans.
Whole Wheat Bread has since gone on to national success, combining rap, punk and metal influences into something akin to Kings X meets the Ramones. Great stuff, and worth remembering in a look back at their debut album, Punk Life, released on Fighting Records in 2006. The album featured three originals and three rap covers.
Most noticeable about Whole Wheat Bread, to me anyway, is how tight they are. Punk bands can be respectably sloppy and get away with it, but this trio is straight solid. Track 1 on Punk Life, called “206,” is crunchy, heavy and fast, and anything but sloppy. Catchy and melodic, and skirting the edge of metal, “206” combines clever lyricism with balls-out riffage. Aaron Abraham is a meaty vocalist, and he digs in on this one.
“Grass,” a Green Day-ish tribute to weed, follows. Well, it’s better than any Green Day song, really, full of chunk and grit Green Day only wishes they had. The mid-tune bong-hits-and-partying scenario is forgivably clichéd if mildly humorous. In truth, it has more in common with David Lee Roth’s sexy-hooker banter in “Everybody Wants Some” than Billie Joe Armstrong’s fake suburban angst.
The cheeseball humor is abandoned by track 3, though, with the face-grinding “Symbol of Hope,” where darker humor prevails. A Bush-era anti-politics/anti-corporation/anti-racism rant opens the high-velocity rebel yell, with guest vocals by Suicide Machine’s Jason Navarro. Here the production shines, full of thick, distorted guitars and meter-bleeding drums.
On its heels are the three hip-hoppiest of the album’s six tunes, covers all. Little Scrappy’s “No Problem” goes first. All the trappings of heavy rap are here, including a call-and-response section, and several references to the “Dirty South” and “904 — Dooval!” Those references are also in Lil Jon’s “I Don’t Give a Fuck,” as the band challenges other bands like Good Charlotte with the battle cry “We’ll crush the niggas!”
Closing the album is Bone Crusher’s “Never Scared.” Another tune built on ferocious production, “Never Scared” seals Whole Wheat Bread’s position as the worthy successors of similar ’90s acts like Public Enemy and 24-7 Spyz. They didn’t call it “crunk” back then. It was just a weird blending of rap and metal, funk and punk.
Whole Wheat Bread continues to record and tour, and has worked with a number of rap heavyweights in various collaborations. But I’ll always remember them for this record — and, of course, the time their fans tried to kill my band.