A band composition with lyrics by lead singer Brad Nowell, this song is an anthem for the spiritually free but financially downtrodden. Nowell finds himself getting up in the morning, smoking his special cigarette, and wondering how he ended up broke. Then things start to look up as he reframes his life and sees all the good things about it: he has a dog, he can get high, and he's never gone to war. Instead of focusing on what he doesn't have (money) he sees what he does have (love), and realizes that's all he needs if he can keep a good attitude and not let problems bring him down. The song became far more poignant when Nowell died of a drug overdose on May 25, 1996.
Many elements of this song, including the "Loving, is what I got" chorus, are based on a 1986 song called "Loving" by the Jamaican dancehall singer Half Pint (which can be found on the Skunk Records release of his album Recollection). At first, Sublime didn't share the love - Half Pint got no credit on "What I Got" when the song was released. Once the song took off, however, Half Pint was listed as a co-writer and awarded the subsequent royalties. It ended up all good; Sublime bass player Eric Wilson explained in his Songfacts interview: "Half Pint wanted to get paid for it, so then we got a relationship through that, and when we did the Dub Allstars, Half Pint went on the road with us for a summer, and I got to know him really well and play with him every day. That was a blessing in itself."
This song is key to Sublime's success - the first one all but their earliest fans heard. It has a strange an convoluted recording and release history, spanning two producers and two labels.
The first version of the song was released in America as a 12" single in 1996 on Sublime's independent label, Skunk Records. It's likely that this single was issued before Nowell died. When the band signed to MCA Records, two versions were included on their self-titled label debut album, which was released two months after Nowell's passing: one produced by David Kahne, and a "reprise" produced by Paul Leary. MCA sent these two versions, along with their "clean" edits to radio stations, many of which put the song in rotation (usually the Kahne version). In October, the song made #29 on the Billboard Airplay chart. MCA didn't release Sublime singles for sale, but kept sending them to radio stations: "Santeria" (#43, April 1997), "Wrong Way" (#47, August 1997), "Doin' Time" (#87, January 1998). Securing airplay for an unknown band without a living lead singer was no small feat, especially since radio stations often expected acts to make station appearances and play listener showcases in exchange for airplay.
The album became one of the best sellers of 1997, with over 5 million copies sold. Many fans had no idea that their lead singer had died - Brad Nowell's father Jim recalls getting lots of fanmail for his son around this time.
Sublimes back catalog also started selling, with their first album, originally released in 1992, going Platinum. The remaining members of Sublime formed the Long Beach Dub Allstars, which later morphed into Sublime With Rome when they took on lead singer Rome Ramirez.
After Brad Nowell sings, "I can play the guitar like a motherf--king riot," instead of gnarly guitar section, a mellow acoustic solo follows. This is a sly bit of humor on the part of the band.
Nowell didn't even play the solo; it was performed by their guitarist Michael "Miguel" Happoldt, who produced the demo. In the "reprise" version, producer Paul Leary, who is a founding member of the Butthole Surfers, played the electric guitar solo.
The radio edits were labeled "very clean radio version" on the promotional CDs, since the explicit versions contain some very clear F-bombs. In the most-played edit, Brad Nowell plays the guitar "like a mother... riot."
There's a widely disputed "lyric" at the beginning of the original version of this song that exists in the commercially released versions but is toned down, possibly for copyright issues. Before the music starts, someone says what sounds like "F--k you Kenny." This is in fact a sample from Richard Pryor's standup comedy album That Ni--er's Crazy, track name "Have your ass home by 11" where he says, imitating a girl who wouldn't sleep with him, "I don't want to f--k you, you can't even sing!" Pryor was talking about how musicians had a hard time picking up women in his day because there were Doo-Wop groups on every corner.
Suggestion credit: Matt Maguire - Watertown, MA
According to the band's guitarist Michael Happoldt, it's the drum loop that makes this song so popular. "It sounds so dope that when people hear it, they just want to get up and jump around," he told Billboard. "And Brad's voice is like from another planet."
In the UK, the "Super No Mofo Edit" (produced by David Kahne) was released as a single, charting at #71 in 1997.
A music video was pieced together after the death of Brad Nowell from photos and existing footage of the singer. It won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Alternative Video in 1997. At the ceremony, Sublime bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh were pretty drunk by the time they were announced, and Wilson yelled "Lynyrd Skynyrd!" when he got to the mic.
Wilson and Gaugh later explained that they figured they wouldn't win, so they decided to celebrate the nomination by splitting a bottle of tequila before the show.
Blues Traveler started covering this in 2011 and released their version on their 2012 collection Blues Traveler: 25. Their guitarist Chan Kinchla told us: "We actually played a show with a band, Rebelution, who are managed by and related to some of the people that were in Sublime. They always loved the track, and that was kind of in the air, and they were like, 'You should record that and release it.' Because we did the best cover of it. Mainly because we didn't really try and copy their cover, we did our own version, which I think is why they liked it."
Chan adds that the song suited the band, especially their lead singer John Popper: "John's great at that kind of quick vocal scan anyway. And when you release a new record, you always want to put a few new things on it, and it just came together."
Rachel from Annapolis, MdDid anyone else ever notice that the first verse or whatever is the exact same tune as lady madonna by the beatles? I just realised this . Still, One of my favorite songs by anyone ever. I can play the gui-tar like a mother f--king riot! ah. classic.
Kane from Wytheville, Vait's true about the f--- you kenney part i got the richard pryor Cd
Pedro from Chula Vista, CaActually, Izzie, it's titled (Reprise) but it's actually done by a different producer (David Kahne) because MCA decided that Paul Leary wasn't good enough. Assholes. In any case, the reprise was never supposed to happen, but they were forced to make it. It was a big waste of time and money for Sublime. Also, it's "F**k, you can't even sing." that Brad says in the beginning of the Leary version. And Jordan, you're both wrong. In the Leary version, Miguel played the solo and the lead guitar and Brad played rhythm guitar. In the Kahne version, Brad didn't play at all. Miguel played the solo and lead and Paul Leary played electric. For the last time, the beginning is not a sample! Bradley says "F**k, you can't even sing!"
Connor from Lansing, Miin the begginning of the song you can here really softly before any music plays "ooh F*** you jenny" this is also heard at the very beginning of the song "shimmy shimmy" by old dirty B******
Laura from Bham, United KingdomBrad and Lou Dog R.I.P
This song is about never giving up no matter what gets thrown at you, and they'll always be something. :D
Susan from Westchestertonfieldville, Vathis song does remind me of a time when it came out and a generation of kids, but IMO Sublime had waaaaay better songs on their 40oz. to Freedom album, as well as Robbin the Hood, those albums kick ace!!
Jarrett from Friendswood, Txthis song just is perfect, tells hey life can suck at times but love it its all you gonna get this is why the lyrics are tattood on my back
Elmo from La La Land, WaI agree with Charles from Iowa
Jonathan from Macon, GaMy name is Hudson Brown and I like hugging my father, especially when i get cold and my toes curl up. My fathers warm hands wrapping around me so tightly makes my toes curl back down and become relaxed.
Madalyn from Greensburg, Pagood summer song...awesome...it makes you think of the good old days
Anna Mullin from Atlanta, GaI LOVE THIS SONG! it's amazing, it's been my ringtone forever cause when I hear it i get really relaxed and at eeaaaseee....
Ryan from Lanesborough, MaListening for when he starts singing is the hard way to figure out which is the reprise...
If you here the line 'take a small example, take a tip from me' then its the reprise
Josh from Los Angeles, Cathis was the first song i heard by sublime, and i loved it. i heard it on dave mirras game.
Jayme from Waipio, Hiive only listened to the reprise...what exactly is a REPRISE? sorry maybe its stupid but i really dont know!
Jena from Bonner Springs, KsThis song rocks!!! As do most, if not all, of Sublime's music. Typical of most true talent, who are often fighting their own demons of mental illness, or (in Brad's case), drug addiction, Bradley Nowell left us too early.
Andy from Chicago, Ilall i know is this song is pretty sweet to get messed up to and just relax
Izzie from Lala, Hiactually andy, the "rough version" is the actual "what i got". the original. the "more polished one" is the what i got reprise. does the first one have a few instrumentals at the beginning before the singing begins? then thats the real what i got. does the second have his voice and the instruments starting at the exact same time? thats the reprise. hope that cleared it up for you :)
Andy from Arlington, VaThere are two versions of this song on the Sublime album. The second track on the album sounds like a rough version of this song, like they're rehearsing it. The next-to-last track is a more polished version. The rough version is the one I always hear on the radio, for some reason.
Josh from London, Chinau all r really bad smelling people who smell bad my name is josh hungfo dont make fun
Â¿? from Gold Beach, OrThis song kicks ass its probly one of their best songs ever to bad he had to die
Jordan from Philadelphia, PaActually, Ryan's last fact is somewhat incorrect. Miguel did do some guitar work for "What I Got", but the main solo doesn't belong to him. Brad is responsible for the main solo...a way of checking up on this is simply listening to the song. During the first solo you can hear him humming it in the background ("do do do do, do do dooo.."), a common practice among guitar players.
Calvin from Kyle, Txthis song is awesome. if im ever feeling down i just pop this song in and bam i start looking at the brighter side of life. you cant always feel down about stuff look at your problems laugh at em and move on. this song taught me that because it is wicked sweet.
Izzie from Lala, Hithis is my 2nd fave song and the lyrics are my manual on how to live my life....
Madison from Atlanta, Gais it just me or is this song on the self titles record?
Izzie from Lala, Hii love this song its great. it reminds me of my low key, souhern california life. i live in a shack on the beach. im living in hawaii jsut for the moment.
Thierry from Brea, CaIn the first 2 seconds on the song the very first spoken lyrics of Shimmy Shimmy Ya by Ol' Dirty Bastard are sampled.
Maggie from Austin, Txnot only is it pretty much the same rift chirs from ames iowa... but it is shamelessly coped from lady mondonna. the similarites are quite remarkable... have a listen
Chris from Ames , IaThis song is pretty much the same riff as Lady Madonna by the beatles. Check it out.
Craig from Chester, Vasong was on dave mirras freestyle BMX