Limp Bizkit — Three Dollar Bill, Y'All$
The debut record from one of modern music's most infamous bands, Three Dollar Bill, Y'All$ was what launched Limp Bizkit into the industry spotlight. Recorded with preeminent nu metal producer Ross Robinson, little did anyone know the impact this band would make in such a short time. While their contemporaries in Korn had established a lot of the core elements of the nu metal genre, namely the downtuned guitars and heavy emphasis on rhythm and groove, Limp Bizkit took these fundamentals and combined them with a primtive hip-hop influences that would go on to be copied and exploited to nauseating levels in the years that followed. It's hard to believe, 22 years later, that there was a time when rap metal was a new and novel concept.
All of the Limp Bizkit hallmarks are present on Three Dollar Bill, Y'All$, but in a much more primitive form — even in the context of the band's caveman stylings, this material is rough. Fred Durst's vocals are pretty evenly split between his standard high-pitched, yelpy raps and above average metal screams; aside from some overdubs, the vocals are quite raw and unpolished. The rhythm section of Sam Rivers and John Otto really holds the record together. Despite the reputation nu metal earned for basic song compositions, Rivers and Otto lay down some an assortment of slick, skillful bass and drum lines on this record — which tend to be overlooked due to the band's obnoxious image and smothering profile. Meanwhile, Wes Borland's guitar work — which has never been deeply technical whatsoever — is so crude and rudimentary that it almost defies description. A mix of elementary power chords and noise effects, Borland's style would never have worked with any other band; the riffs on Three Dollar Bill, Y'All$ are serviceable but lacking the infectious nature of the band's peak output. The guitar tones are aenemic and the playing is just barely in time. It's a style that works, but barely — it's not like Borland ever became a shredder, but he vastly improved his sound and general musicianship over time.
Three Dollar Bill, Y'All$ feels very uneven. While the Limp Bizkit sound never evolved much from this record, the band did improve somewhat as song writers and performers. The biggest difference between this album and those that followed is the massive increase in production values. On Three Dollar Bill, Y'All$, they sound like a young, hungry band that hadn't quite hit their stride yet. All of the fundamental ingredients were present, they just hadn't gelled together yet; Limp Bizkit would go on to refine the blend of stupid, groove-heavy noise they established on this album and hone it to a razor-sharp point on subsequent releases.
Three Dollar Bill, Y'All$ starts to drag near the end of the second half of the record, and some of the tracks — like "Stalemate" and "Everything" — could have been a lot shorter. Of the band's whole catalog, very little of this record comprises their big hits. The "Faith" cover is objectively terrible — and it comes as no surprise that George Michael apparently loathed it — while "Pollution" and "Counterfeit" are emblematic of the whole record: mostly competent, full of energy and rage but lacking memorability or even a hint of nuance. "Stuck" is a strange mix of aggro noise, an odd shout-out to Suicidal Tendencies and an exceptionally misogynistic narrative. Anger directed at women is a consistent theme on the album, and something the band was advised told to tone down on future releases. At the time, I didn't think anything of it, but given changing social attitudes and my own maturation process, it's a lot more jarring to hear now.
If you're just looking to see what the big deal was with Limp Bizkit, this isn't essential listening. Three Dollar Bill, Y'All$ is an interesting album to revisit as a retrospective piece; the heights that such an obnoxious, meat-headed band ascended to are mind-boggling even to this day. In its time, the anger of this album resonated a lot more with me, whereas now it's a mixture of quaint and mildly embarrassing — ah, the folly of youth. The band has an inexhaustible supply of rage but lacks aven a hint of introspection; the whole narrative is intensely sociopathic — which likely explains a lot of the youth appeal they had at the time. As a whole, Three Dollar Bill, Y'All$ is very flawed; there are a lot of strong segments on the album but not a lot of great whole songs. It's a competent debut, but hardly an indicator that Limp Bizkit was going to be such a mainstream force in the years that followed.
Of all the band's albums, I personally rank Three Dollar Bill, Y'All$ at the number 3 spot. The height of Limp Bizkit's power was in the wake of Significant Other, which is their strongest album. Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water wasn't nearly as powerful as its predecessor, but it still yielded a lot of the band's stronger material and easily outclasses this primitive debut effort. The remainder of the band's material is a blend of failed experiments and standard fare that fails to recapture the relevance and entertainment level of the band's glory days. This is the worst of the best Limp Bizkit has to offer.
For those familiar with the late 90s and early 2000s, the name Limp Bizkit triggers a strong reaction — regardless of whether it's positive or negative. The band's profile has shrunk considerably over the decades, as they remain purveyors of a genre of music that aged out of the mainstream nearly 2 decades ago. Three Dollar Bill, Y'All$ is an intensely primitive and raw artifact from early days of the nu metal era. These are the humble beginnings of a band that would be inescapable for the next 6 years that followed this record's release.
Release date: July 1st, 1997
Record label: Flip / Interscope Records
Fred Durst — vocals
Wes Borland — guitar, backing vocals
Sam Rivers — bass
John Otto — drums
DJ Lethal — turntables, samples, keyboards, programming
- Nobody Loves Me
- Faith (George Michael cover)
- Stink Finger
- Indigo Flow
- Leech (Demo)
Published: September 18th, 2019.