What It's Like

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"What It's Like"
Single by Everlast
from the album Whitey Ford Sings the Blues
Released September 10, 1998 (1998-09-10)
Format CD single
Recorded 1997
Genre Blues rock, hip hop
Length 5:03 (Album Version)
4:37 (Video Version)
3:50 (Radio Edit)
Label Tommy Boy Records
Songwriter(s) Everlast
Producer(s) Everlast
Everlast singles chronology
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"What It's Like"
Audio sample
"Whats it's Like"

"What It's Like" is a song by American musician Everlast. It was released in November 1998 as the lead single from his album Whitey Ford Sings the Blues. 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 impoverished protagonists.

The song went to number-one on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for one week and number-one on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks for nine weeks.[1] It also peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the singer's only solo Top 40 hit on the US pop chart to date.[1] In the United Kingdom, the song reached #34 on the UK Singles Chart.[2] The song went to the Top 5 hitting #4 on the Pop Songs chart. The song was also unexpectedly and surprisingly a hit to adult contemporary stations since most rap songs or songs with rap verses cannot be played on the format.[citation needed] Despite that, the song went to the Top 10 at #9 on the Adult Top 40 chart.

Song structure[edit]

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. 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 (in the third verse, "...you ever had to wake up to hear the news") 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).

The characters are:

  • A wino (the man at the liquor store beggin' for your change); when asking for change from a man he's turned down rudely (Get a job, you fuckin' slob)
  • Mary, a pregnant girl who decides to have an abortion (Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom who said he was in love); when she goes through the door of the clinic, she gets called a "killer," a "sinner," and a "whore."
  • A drug dealer named Max, a man with violent friends and an alcohol problem (He liked to hang out late, he liked to get shit-faced and keep the pace with thugs) who dies a violent death (He pulled out his chrome .45 talked some shit and wound up dead).

The speaker attempts to build sympathy for each character's struggle through the phrase "Then you really might know what it's like'. The cause of the first character's lifestyle as a beggar is ambiguous.

Music video[edit]

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.


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1998-1999) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[3] 26
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[4] 17
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 6
Canada Rock/Alternative (RPM)[5] 14
Germany (Official German Charts)[6] 17
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[7] 58
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[8] 31
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[9] 20
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 34
US Billboard Hot 100 13
US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 1
US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 1
US Billboard Adult Top 40 9
US Billboard Top 40 Mainstream 4

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1999) Position
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[10] 29
Germany (Official German Charts)[11] 81
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[12] 28
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 4
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 2


External links[edit]