It might have naturally popped to mind — if you have a warped sensibility like some members of the Inverse staff — to make a joke about 90s-indigenous Omaha rap/reggae/rock outfit 311 after checking today’s date. What you may not naturally assume is that the band — still very much in existence — celebrates March 11th every year as “311 Day,” and does an annual blow-out concert/festival in New Orleans. They have a second show tomorrow, and you can learn more at the Facebook page here.
Given this knowledge, we’ve decided to treat 311 Day as the holiday it should be (why are we working today again?) and compile a list — ordered by how incredibly 311-esque they are — of 311 songs for your perusal and enjoyment. Isn’t it a lovely 311 Day? The birds are out and chirping, and it truly feels like spring, at least from where I’m sitting. Maybe you should don your cargo boardshorts then, and find an electric bass to slap! If you’ve got nothing ready at hand, just go ahead and roast some of these classic ‘11 tracks.
8. “You Wouldn’t Believe” (2001)
This noodly lil’ thing charted at #7 on the alternative charts. Since it’s kind of like listening to nothing, it’s the most impressive piece of proof that everything ‘11 touched at the turn of the millennium turned to gold, or at least nug. Shaq, also, is in this video, and they made it so you can hear him dribbling. By osmosis, the song gets even better.
7. “Love Song” (2004)
It’s the 311 Cure cover you can woo to, and it took the increasingly chill band to #1 with the alt-heads. Did they sell out with this one? I don’t know — are you an idiot?
6. “Beautiful Disaster” (1997)
It’s laid-back 311 chunes like this one which make it so 311 YouTube autoplay always takes you back to “Santeria.”
5. “Don’t Tread On Me” (2005)
Wow, another defining jam — did you forget how many they had? They were getting a little Barenaked Ladies by this point, but the song still goes. At this point, these guys were going on 15 years in the game, still putting up regular sacrifices to the gods of reggae like Peter Tosh, was holding a gun to their heads.
4. “Down” (1996)
311’s second mixed crossover pop hit, surpassed only by “All Mixed Up.” One of their edgy rap-rockers, kind of on that proto-Incubus tip we all know and love.
3. “Amber” (2002)
I don’t like to interject personal anecdotes into my articles when I can avoid it, but if there was ever a moment that required it…
In my freshman year in college, I took a music appreciation class in which we were required to select one of our favorite pieces of music and present on the relationship between its words and music. A intrepid young man — matted and be-hemped — brought in “Amber,” which he played and then spoke quite eloquently about, until he hit a roadblock while trying to articulate the way in which the guitar sounded like the substance amber.
“It’s a lot easier if you listen with visualizer,” he explained. There you have it: That’s what “Amber” is all about, ladies and gentlemen.
2. “All Mixed Up” (1996)
311 was never truly funkier than they are on this tune, where they vibe like a dubbed-out, Oakleys-wearing, chain-hanging-from-the-wallet version of KC and the Sunshine Band. The lip-flapping on the pre-chorus is their most virtuosic moment, and it really makes you want to “just get up off your a**”!
1. “Come Original” (1999)
The camera pulls out from the interior of a subwoofer. We enter a neon green world, with glowing barcodes painted on the walls, dreads hanging, bucket hats clouding everyone’s better judgment. It was a simpler time. “Come Original,” a tribute to artists keeping it unique, is the consummate 311 cocktail — the most 311-y thing possible. Ever. There are some high-powered prog riffs, the motormouth toasting-style rapping, the winding, whining lead melody, the reggae backbeat, bass player “P-Nut”’s (yes, that’s right) thumbs going ham, the radio-edited swears… Well, why am I even going into it? The song says so for itself:
“Funk slap bass mixed with the dancehall and
Hip-hop beats and punk guitar and
Deadly on the mic is the one SA
The name is 311 and you know it ain’t easy.”
No, it certainly isn’t, SA. Happy 311 day, all.