What It's Like

"What It's Like" is a song by Everlast. It was recorded and released in 1998.

The song is typical of the style Everlast embraced after leaving hip-hop trio House of Pain, being a combination of rock, hip-hop and blues incorporating characterization and empathy towards working-class protagonists.

Structurally, the song consists of three verses, a chorus and a bridge. The last line of the chorus varies in accordance with the particular situation faced by the character in the preceding verse. The characters are:

  • A beggar (an old man at the liquor store beggin' for your change)
  • Mary, a pregnant girl considering an abortion (Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom who said he was in love)
  • Max, a young man with violent friends and a drug problem (He liked to hang out late, he liked to get shit-faced and keep the pace with thugs)

Each character is presented in a sympathetic light as a victim of circumstance and as being an object of derision. Each verse ends with the line God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his/her shoes and Cause then you really might know what it's like to, with the action varying depending on what the character has to do (sing the blues, have to choose, and have to lose, respectively).

At the end of the music video for the song, all of the characters (along with other people) are crowded around a window. Behind the window, an idyllic family is having an enjoyable dinner, oblivious to the less fortunate who are outside.

The song went to #1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks for 1 week and #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks for 9 weeks. It also peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Everlast performed the song on Saturday Night Live in 1999, on the show hosted by James Van Der Beek.

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