“It's so offensive that it can't actually mean that”: Have The Prodigy finally changed the lyrics to ‘the most controversial song of all time’?

The Prodigy
(Image credit: Rahul Singh)

After spending 25 years attempting to defend the opening song on their huge-selling album, The Fat Of The Land, The Prodigy appear to have not so quietly dropped the offending lyrics from Smack My Bitch Up in their latest live show. It's a bit of a shift away from saying the original lyric was 'ironic'.

The Prodigy

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In 1997, The Prodigy were riding high with their third LP, The Fat Of The Land. The album gave us the iconic and (not really) terrifying video to Firestarter (which apparently made children cry), and sold well over ten million copies. In fact, it was once the fastest-selling album of all time. 

Fat Of The Land was hailed by many as one of the first true rock and dance music crossover records, and if ever an album summed up a decade it was this - but perhaps not always for the right reasons. 

The lad culture of the 1990s was all too pervasive, from magazines to music, and the opening track, Smack My Bitch Up, is seen by many as a track that could have only been released in that decade and one that, frankly, should have stayed there.

Its drink and drugs first-person hedonistic video didn't help. It was banned left, right and centre - so much so that you'll have a job finding it anywhere, so here's the audio only version. 

In the intervening years the band have consistently had to defend the track, claiming that it was a tribute to hip-hop culture. In fact the sample in question comes from the Ultramagnetic MCs track Give the Drummer Some, a song that doesn't seem to have attracted quite as much controversy as the second-gen Prodigy take.

“At the end of the day,” the band’s late Keith Flint once said in an interview with Rolling Stone about the Prodigy track, “the girls who come to our shows are hardcore girls, and they don’t look at it as that. 

"If some girl in an A-line flowery dress decides there’s some band somewhere singing about smashing bitches up, let’s get a bit militant. They don’t know us. They never know us. They never will.”

“It’s so offensive,” Liam Howlett added, “that it can’t actually mean that. That’s where the irony is.” He would also say that the song was really about simply “doing anything intensely” and that “only brainless people get some stupid message out of it”.


Nice boys in 91: the band before any controversy (Image credit: Getty Images)

That didn’t stop many from objecting, including the US-based National Organization for Women, who said the song promoted violence against women, the BBC, who banned it, and other broadcasters who refused to name the song on screen. 

The video, though, went on to win an MTV award, while the song itself was voted the most controversial of all time in a 2010 PRS For Music poll

Of course, more than a quarter of a century on from the original release, the world has shifted away from the 1990s in many ways, and it now appears that The Prodigy have dropped the original offensive vocal from the song in their latest live performance. 

At an Alexandra Palace show on 24th November, the band’s Maxim sang, “Pitch up. Change my pitch up” rather than the original “Change my pitch up. Smack my bitch up." Check it out around 2:08 of this (not particularly great) video from the show.

There’s been no word from the band about why they have decided to change the lyrics now, nor whether it's a permanent alteration. 26 years ago, Howlett and co probably knew they were producing something controversial, but little did they realise how much it would run and run. 

Finally, and much less controversially, here's an excellent video on how to recreate the track – with or without its original lyrics – in Ableton Live.

Andy Jones

Andy has been writing about music production and technology for 30 years having started out on Music Technology magazine back in 1992. He has edited the magazines Future Music, Keyboard Review, MusicTech and Computer Music, which he helped launch back in 1998. He owns way too many synthesizers.

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