The Peabody Award-winning Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, from PRI and WNYC, is public radio’s smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy – so let Studio 360 steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.
August 26th, 2015
Episode 79 of 201 episodes
In the mid-90s, rappers from the East Coast to the West convinced an entire generation to consume malt liquor in “40s”— 40-ounce glass bottles that delivered the alcohol equivalent of a six-pack in one serving. Songs like N.W.A.’s “8 Ball” glamorized the cheap, potent beer alternative. The brewery that made St. Ides exploited the rap-malt liquor connection, putting all the stars of the era in commercials, from Ice Cube to Notorious B.I.G. to Snoop Dogg, who memorably slow jammed his tribute to 40s: At their peak, 40s made headlines and spawned editorials. TheLos Angeles Timesin 1992 explored the widespread backlash to malt liquor, claiming that “shrewd advertising in ethnic neighborhoods” had “turned it into a status symbol.” Soon, though, 40s disappeared from hip-hop. “Right in the mid- to late-90s, rap culture took a serious turn from sitting in the hood drinking a 40 to sitting in the club drinking champagne,” saysBesha Rodell, anLA Weeklyfood writer who penned the first history of the drink, “40 Ounces to Freedom.” “Rap culture became about having money. There’s nothing fancy about drinking malt liquor.” But the 40 survives. I still like my high school drink of choice — Olde English malt liquor mixed with orange juice, a concoction known as the Brass Monkey. I was introduced to it by friends who pointed out that it was the subject of a Beastie Boys song, also called “Brass Monkey.” But when I called Mike D to talk about his inspiration, he was confused: malt liquor? In a Brass Monkey? It turns out that the Brass Monkey he was singing about was a cocktail comprised of orange juice, vodka, and dark rum, which came premixed in a can. “Homeboy,” Mike said, “have you ever used Google in your life?” (This episode of Sideshow first aired last summer—June 10, 2014—but it's a gift that keeps on giving.)