The other day, while driving through the pleasant streets of San Francisco, my friend thought it would be a marvelous idea to crank Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”. Mind you, the windows were down, so anybody who was in earshot of us clearly heard Fred Durst amplifying every curse word as if to piss off every parent whose child bought his album, but they also heard us actually listening to “Break Stuff.” That is embarrassing enough. I’m not sure where it happened, but somewhere over the course of ten years, everyone really started hating Limp Bizkit. Sure, the rap metal of the late ’90s has sort of dwindled, but Durst and company have clearly had it worst. Korn is still around, while Kid Rock has gone with the tide of popularity, and almost every other group that sounded like them haven’t released anything (that got press, at least).
But maybe we were all just delusional back in 1999, the year Limp Bizkit’s highest selling, and chart-topping album, Significant Other, was in heavy rotation. Maybe we weren’t mature enough. Who knows? Looking back, though, at Limp Bizkit’s three 1999 music videos, all directed by their singer, I now question what I saw in these guys in the first place. Yes, they captivated me, and capitalized on my pre-teen angst well enough (not to mention, they definitely pissed off my parents), but I look back and wonder what I really enjoyed about this. Because I’m starting to think Limp Bizkit was nothing more than a wave of pop music, which would therefore lump them in my mind with N*Sync. That would mean that in 1999, I was sleeping with the enemy.
I find my sense of self-loathing skyrocketing as I type in the term “limp bizkit nookie,” into YouTube. In fact, people clearly search for this video a lot, because a HUGE picture of Fred Durst in his classic “Nookie” attire pops up as the first result. I haven’t properly digested this video since I was about 11, so my film school education has allowed me to realize Durst is not the cinematic wizard I remember from middle school. In the video, Durst is some sort of slow-rapping pied piper, but he attracts sexy young women (with interesting fashion sense) instead of children (which is what the song did anyways). These women are really into Durst, so much that one of them leaves a pay phone hanging to follow him. Hopefully the people on the other line won’t be worried about her.
Meanwhile, the band is playing on a stage in front of an all-male audience. Durst is not present. After leading women around the streets of New York for awhile, and rapping about his lady problems (which is honestly the one thing I don’t get, why is this song over this video), the women are led to the stage. We catch a short glimpse of Durst in a room that’s all red, with shitty lights hanging everywhere, for whatever reason, and then the band just blows the doors off for the final chorus. One thing that sticks out is that the crowd is also in gender-specific areas (girls on the right, guys on the left). This seems almost misogynistic to me, but I could just be over-analyzing. Either way, at the end, in a very poorly acted sequence that is supposed to look real, Fred Durst is arrested, which signaled the whole “Durst is a bad boy” motif. And thus the story continues…
The next video is “Re-Arranged”, which is actually one of the few Limp Bizkit songs I listen to nowadays. The song always seemed a bit more personable and genuine. The video, though, tries to get political, due to the allegations against the band following Woodstock ’99. For those of you who can’t remember, Limp Bizkit was accused of starting riots. Obviously, a few concertgoers were unhappy with overpriced drinks, the heat, and suddenly had a very metal soundtrack in their ears. They made their own decisions, but Durst and company caught the bad press. Not their fault, but then again, they probably should have nixed “Break Stuff” from the set list.
Anyways, the whole “Re-Arranged” video is the band being put on trial, but the whole thing comes off as though a college student were remaking To Kill a Mockingbird. For one, the band is all in prison with their instruments, just jamming away. Is this what celebrities get to do in jail? And while they are trying to be serious with the trials, all the shots continue to play off the bad boy concept, including rapping behind bars, maximum protection cuff shots, and, of course, a walk down death row. If anything, Limp Bizkit wanted to be in the dark spotlight. And how does the video end? No redemption, no fixing of the public image, and no apology. Instead, they drown in milk. Once again, the band is unable to act, as Durst and company fly around a white background talking about whether or not they are dead. “If we were in heaven,” Durst answers, “I’d be kicking it with Method Man right now.” Talk about a great way to market the next single.
It’s the final video of the “series” that is really the silliest, most ridiculous, and over-the-top one of all. Method Man actually does show up…and I’m still wondering to this day how M-E-T-H-O-D Man got mixed up with the Jnco-sporting Limp Bizkit. The “world famous” comedian and actor, Pauly Shore, also makes an appearance in the video, as well. Right away, you know you’re in for some interesting screen time. The video is basically just a kung-fu match between one timeless rapper, and one who has vanished from the spotlight completely. The two start off first playing videogames, but then Durst starts to get physical; he pushes Method Man. If this were my house, I’d be pissed, too. This is when the kung fu match begins, and the two start flying around and throwing each other into walls. Method Man can apparently swing swords like Shinobi, as he cuts a perfect Wu “W” into a bush, while Fred Durst does immaculate back flips. This is all while two scream in an outlandish and almost obnoxious fashion.
The two stop fighting to answer a phone call (why this would stop a battle is beyond me), and Durst makes the goofiest face ever to the camera in a close-up just prior to jumping up into a loft to retrieve a pair of numchucks. He accidentally knocks himself out, goes limp to fall out of the loft, but for some reason, just hangs their motionless. Method Man gets him in a chokehold when Pauly Shore rings the doorbell with a pizza in hand. Honestly, this video gets stupider and more nineties by the second. Meth and Durst open the pizza and it’s revealed that Weasel ate most of it in mid-delivery. To avenge their pizza, the two shove a slice in Shore’s mouth and then throw him into the sky. While Durst laughs like an asshole (which puts this in perspective), Method Man throws him up into the sky as well, and they all close it out with a party accompanied by the rest of Limp Bizkit and the Wu-Tang Clan in heaven. And this all started with Fred Durst walking down the street to meet some ladies.
The thing about all these videos is how ridiculous they seem nowadays. Back in 1999, these videos ruled. Every day they made numbers on TRL (Total Request Live, for the youngsters today), and the band’s popularity increased with every single. But it’s because everything was so hokey that they have lost all credibility. Fred Durst had all the screen time, but had no persona (at least one that was commendable). These three videos prove that he was just some bozo whose backing band banged maniacally on their instruments, and whose lyrics just pissed off parents. He was nothing more than an angsty pop star. Look where it got ‘em.