To look at the Kottonmouth Kings, you wouldn’t think they were a bunch of political extremists—urban-outfitted Orange County suburban b-boys all sporting more machismo than a young Marlon Brando. Sure, the group is pro-pot—natch, just look at the name. The band even tried to hold a listening party for their sophomore album, High Society (Suburban Noize/Capitol), at the Key Club in Hollywood on April 20 at 4:20 in the afternoon (the cops shut it down). Hell, they might as well have bongs holstered at their sides.
But to think this is a group out to change the political workings of America, well, you’d have to be, um, high, right? Your standard pothead would rather play with Mother Earth than try to star in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Then again, get all 12 of the Kings in a room with a speakerphone and ask them what the band truly stands for, and you’re liable to end up with something like this:
“The Kottonmouth Kings are on the front lines of freedom. And working on the front lines sometimes makes us a target.” That’s rapper D-Loc talking. “But we’re trying to enlighten people while still taking fire from critics. We want people to look deeper. And if you look deeper, you might not like what you find. It might lead you to this: To truly believe in the words of Jesus Christ you can’t be a Christian. If you believe in truth, freedom and the pursuit of happiness, you can’t believe in the Constitution. Some people don’t want to hear that, but they have to hear it.”
But the Kottonmouth Kings take their politics and manifestos seriously. High Society is littered with lines like “taxes are stealing” and “anarchy through capitalism.” The first single is a reworking of the old TSOL anti-establish anthem “Peace Not Greed.” This ain’t no simple “damn the man” crap. Cut through the haze—it’s as thick as the inside of Jeff Spicoli’s van—and you’ll find some revolutionary rhetoric.
“OK, you take the ‘anarchy is capitalism’ line. That means we’re gonna kill them with their own poison.” That’s producer Brad Daddy X talking now. “We’re gonna take our message to the people one record sale or one download at a time. We’re gonna take those sales and try to buy our true freedom. And the only way to have true freedom is to escape their monetary system.”
Again: Um, yeah.
Of course, all this ranting and pulpit pounding is perfectly disguised. For every corrupt government comment on High Society there are 10 references to the band’s main girl Mary Jane. The record has more bong rips than a High Times party—a quick way to score major points with both the naturally anarchistic Oxy set and herb hounds. It even sports a guest appearance by the Insane Clown Posse, locking up the WCW contingency.
Then there’s the music itself. The Kottonmouth Kings specialize in easily-digestible-yet-suitably-rebellious rocked-up hip-hop complete with Dre-influenced beats and metallic guitars—think Kid Rock covering Cypress Hill’s debut disc, but with only enough street cred to get by in Newport Beach. And yet when everything is mashed all together, tracks like “First Class,” “Here We Go Again” and “We the People” end up being true guilty pleasures—the kind of stuff you rock out to in your car only when you’re riding solo. The rhythms bounce like a braless Pamela Anderson.
D-Loc and recent California penal guest Jonny Richter throw out resin-crusted rhymes faster than they’d claim a case of glaucoma during a police raid, copping some of Cali’s finest—from Snoop Dogg and Eazy-E to Sublime and Nebraska expatriates 311—whenever possible. Sure, at times it gets as ridiculous as a Cheech & Chong movie. Then again, even an amateur fader can identify with the shout-out chorus of “The Joint”: “Yo, you’s got the joint/Nah, I got’s the joint/ Yo, who’s got the joint?/ We’re all on point, we’re all on point.” Pure poetry.
“You know, man, the Kottonmouth Kings speak the truth.” We’re guessing it’s Richter this time. “A lot of people out there are living the same reality we are, whether it’s hooking up, buying an ounce of weed, or working hard just so the government can take your money. Those are the people we’re talking to and talking for. They’re the people that understand where we’re coming from. We’re giving them a voice.”
Of course, the irony is that the Kottonmouth Kings, while peppering their music with demands for one-nation-under-bud, don’t want to be typecast as just a pot band. “The media tends to jump on the stereotype,” Daddy X says. “They don’t think of anything else. But we’re not trying to screw with people; they’re trying to screw with us.”
Regardless, the Kings are taking their message to the people. High Society hit shelves in June. The band plans to be on the road for as long as it takes to start a revolution—or at least until the weed runs out. And even if the band has a serious case of red eye, D-Loc says the Kottonmouth Kings will make sure to take care of business.
“We have a lot of passion for what we do,” D-Loc says. “If Kottonmouth Kings fans show up, it’s our obligation to give them everything we got. That’s the least we can do. Power to the people.”
Again: Um, yeah.
Kottonmouth Kings with Pimpadelic, Aug. 5 at DV8, 115 S. West Temple (539-8400), 8 p.m. ($10).