If you enjoy reggae, ska or punk music, you’ll probably enjoy listening to Sublime. Chances are you’ve already heard Sublime—perhaps without even realizing it. The songs “Santeria”, “Bad Fish” and of course the famous “Summertime/Doin’ Time” get regular airtime on the radio.
Sublime first formed in Long Beach, California as a garage punk band in 1988. Their lead singer and guitarist was Bradley Nowell who unfortunately died of a drug overdose in 1996. Their first and most popular album titled 40 Oz. to Freedom was released in 1992 on Skunk Records. They created quite a following with the Southern California crowd. Though, at first the album received mixed reviews.
Originally, 40 Oz. to Freedom could only be bought at their live shows and on the streets. Before the advent of the internet and text messages, musicians and artists used good ole’ fashioned face to face contact to spread the word about their music. Fans appreciated that the band was humble enough to talk directly with fans.
It wasn’t until 1996 that Sublime achieved mainstream success when MCA re-released the album. Once it was found widely on store shelves, the album sold over 10,000 copies. The album topped the billboard music charts and went gold on the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) chart in 1997.
The album heralded the start of a new genre: dub rock. Various songs on the album contributed to the start of this new genre. This included a combination of reggae (“Smoke Two Joints”), dub ("Let's Go Get Stoned", "D.J.s"), rock steady (“5446 That's My Number”) and classic ska (“Date Rape”). And of course Sublime stayed true to their roots by including good old fashioned hardcore punk rock on the album as well ("New Thrash", "Hope").
Upon first listen of the album the song, “40 oz to Freedom” seems upbeat with a pretty melody and catchy lyrics. Although if you listen to the song again, you may notice that it’s actually a very sad song. The song alludes to a man who admittedly likes to escape reality by drinking—in this case a 40 ounce beer. The lyrics drive this point straight home.
In the song “Don’t Push” Bradley sings the lyrics “Stolen from an Africa land” which plays off on the song “Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley. There are references of other bands and artists in the album as well, including, but not limited to: Beastie Boys, Pink Floyd, Public Enemy, Jimi Hendrix, The Specials and Flavor Flav.
There are 22 tracks on the album—quite a feat for the band’s first release. The last track “Thanks Dub” is where Bradley and the band give shout outs and thanks to all the people that influenced their music. Listening to this track really gives you a feel for the type of lifestyle Sublime led during their tour days. It may even give you a new found appreciation for Sublime and the legacy that is 40 Oz. to Freedom.