By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Zinger pauses and checks his watch, and a woman from Capitol's public-relations department uses the opportunity to begin herding the Kottonmouth Kings toward that interview on KROQ "The van leaves at 6:30," Aimee says, but nobody really gets moving until she reminds them, "We have spaghetti and chicken burritos for you downstairs." The van is black and limo-length, with tinted windows and tan leather bench seats, a good sound system and a respectfully silent driver, who waits patiently with the engine idling while the Kottonmouth Kings climb inside.
"Okay, clean yourselves up!" says whoever is attached to the hand that tosses a fistful of small plastic bottles into the van. They ricochet off the windows, land on the seats, and bounce onto the floor. They are bottles of eye drops, courtesy of the record company, just in case the Kottonmouth Kings want to get the red out before they get to the radio station. But they lie unopened and ignored. Instead, as the van pulls out onto Vine Street, heading up toward the freeway and over Cahuenga Pass, the sound of its engine is drowned out by the sputter and gurgle of glass water pipes. "FIVE-OH!! FIVE-OH!!" somebody suddenly shouts. Everybody in the band reflexively drops their hands to their laps and, eyes bulging with fear and cheeks bulging with smoke, sneaks a peek to see where the police car might be.
"Juuuust kidding!" the jokester says after an interminable second, and another relieved second after that, the van is filled with literal billows of laughter.
If you want to see the Kottonmouth Kings stop laughing, remind them that most critics dismiss their music and their lyrics as overblown and inconsequential. At best, they get lumped together with other guilty pleasures, the way Bachman-Turner Overdrive did with rock, the way K.C. and the Sunshine Band did with disco, and the way . . . well . . . the way the Kottonmouth Kings do with the hardcore, pothead, party-on brand of white-boy-come-lately hip-hop that has been taken to the top of the charts by the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit.
The band doesn't appreciate this assessment. "First of all, people are inclined to hate us because we're white and we do hip-hop," snaps Brad X. "LA Weekly called us Fubu-wearing snowballers, called us peckerwoods, honkies, whiteys—all these racist terms. Same thing with Rolling Stone, which reviewed our record with lots of blatant racial slang. If they used those words with any other group—Latinos, Asians, blacks—the NAACP would be up in arms about it."
Beyond that irritable observation, however, the Kottonmouth Kings claim not to care much about critics. In fact, rather than reacting with knee-jerk rage at the mention of disdainful pop-music eggheads, the Kottonmouth Kings' pained expressions are accompanied by a surprisingly fine-tuned response: passion and purpose.
"We do our music for our fans," D-Loc argues emphatically. "We do our best to get our music to our fans as purely as possible. We want it to be as untouched as possible by outsiders, whether you're talking about the record company or reviewers. We do that best online and at our shows."
The band shrugs off the observation that its straight-to-the-people sound seems to detour through some pretty familiar musical neighborhoods. "Everyone compares our music to something—'sounds like this, sounds like that'—because they can't figure it out," explains Brad X. "And it is probably a little funk, and you might hear a little techno, might hear a straight West Coast hip-hop beat, might hear a little punk rock, and might hear a little reggae. You're probably hearing all of that, but our production manifests it all in a way in which we hopefully create our own unique sound."
Since most of the Kottonmouth Kings' songs are about smoking marijuana —hell, it's even referenced in the name of the band—the group's message is almost automatically written off as ganja din. But whereas so many bands of the stoner-rock/rap genre celebrate their disaffection, the Kottonmouth Kings suggest people are taking their lyrics too superficially.
"We enjoy life—we love it—and we try to make the most of it each day," says Brad X. "If you want to interpret us as a party band, so be it. But if you want to dig deeper, something else is there."
The Kottonmouth Kings consider themselves techno-revolutionaries, freedom fighters, anarchists, soldiers on the front line against racial profiling and corporate culture. Maybe it's just the pot talking, but at times, their rhetoric can get pretty compelling. "The Kottonmouth Kings aren't only talking 'bout the idea that marijuana should be legal so you can smoke with your friends," says the Corporate Avenger. "They're also talking about the concept that some group of human beings believes they have the right to take away your human rights, and they don't. It's like freedom of speech: the government tries to tell you it gives you freedom of speech. But that's a ludicrous concept. The Creator that gave you a mind and a mouth gave you freedom of speech. And that same Creator gives you the freedom to smoke weed, too. Bottom line: the government doesn't give a fuck about people using drugs. The government does give a fuck about the fact that drug laws give them broad-reaching ability to get into every motherfucker's life."