Kottonmouth Kings

FORGET ABOUT THE GRAMMYS. FORGET ABOUT the MTV Video Music Awards. The Kottonmouth Kings have won a higher honor: the 2000 High Times Marijuana-Music Awards band of the year. Yes, as its name would imply, the high-intensity rap/hip-hop party band has made an art out of smoking pot. But its overall mission goes much further. Besides becoming a crusader in the pursuit to legalize marijuana, the Orange County, Calif.-based group has formed a close-knit, self-reliant community of artists

The KMK posse including rappers Brad Daddy X, D-Loc and Jonny Richter; DJ Bobby B; drummer Lou Dog; and Pakelika (aka The Visual Assassin) runs its own label, Suburban Noize, which is tied to the merch.com merchandising company and artist management firm SRH.

The multilevel organization is also on the job for other KMK buddies, including the Corporate Avenger, Dog Boy, and Grand Vanacular. Those artists record and tour with KMK, as well. “It’s a very incestuous relationship we have with the Suburban Noize family,” Brad Daddy X told POLLSTAR.

While the Kings and their mates have basically perfected the ultimate dream job getting paid to have a ball they manage to keep their heads on straight.

“We take it real serious, our operation,” Brad said. “We believe in self-empowerment with artists. So we’ve never sold away our merchandise rights. … We ship our own merchandise. We print and screen our own merchandise for us and all of our artists, and we do it for a lot of other bands also.”

Though the other bands on Suburban Noize rely on the label for promotion and distribution, KMK is signed to Capitol Records. The two entities have a unique relationship, mixing major label support with an indie mentality.

Former Capitol Records President Gary Gersh embraced KMK’s vision when the band signed on. The deal was set so that Suburban Noize was distributed through Capitol/EMI and the major helped fund the small label in the early stages, Brad said. However, right after the band’s signing, the Gersh regime was out and Roy Lott took the reins.

“[Lott] wanted to cut all of the labels that Gary Gersh had established, so they cut [Beastie Boys’] Grand Royal then Suburban Noize,” Brad said. “We were still attached to Capitol with our contract but Suburban Noize was now set free. So the last couple of years, we’ve been just operating completely independently.”

On one hand, Capitol has been great for KMK, heading up retail distribution and radio/video promotions. The song “Bump” off its Capitol debut, Royal Highness, brought the band into the mainstream. But artist and label don’t always see eye-to-eye.

For KMK’s latest album, High Society, Capitol got firmly behind the single “Peace Not Greed” not the band’s choice for the record’s debut song. “So they did a big-budget video and huge promotion and it just didn’t translate to a top 10 single or whatever aspirations they had,” Brad said. “Then all of the sudden, they stopped. [They said], ‘We’re not putting any more money into this record or promoting this record.’ That’s cool. Once again, we’re still selling records and we do our own promotion.”

The subject matter that influences nearly all of the band’s music doesn’t always make promotion easy. Some mainstream radio stations don’t want to offend advertisers with talk of marijuana legalization, the government stealing taxes and police cracking down on the wrong crimes.

Brad Daddy X
Jonny Richter
DJ Bobby B
Lou Dog

Brad lamented about how every KMK single Capitol has released has gone through serious radio edits, even cutting out the word “plant.”

“The magnifying glass on music is still so almost ridiculously overcensored to the point of I don’t understand it, really, as an artist. It doesn’t seem to be in balance with the rest of what goes on in the media, movies and everything else,” he said.

As for live performances, KMK has been banned from playing some college campuses and was even ousted from the city of Huntington Beach. However, Brad said, “Across the country, we haven’t had too many problems with promoters and venues because we usually leave behind good vibes with people. It’s people that aren’t really involved … that sometime have a problem with it.”

After all, personal choice and freedom are what KMK is preaching. “I don’t believe that any man or any government or any police agency should be able to dictate how a man decides to interact with a plant that the Creator put here,” Brad said of the band’s platform. “That concept is a little ludicrous to me.”

With its expert turntablist, three rappers, a drummer on a custom three-wheel bicycle and a dancer who is “half man, half machine,” KMK is taking its wild party all over the globe, as it has done for the last few years.

The band’s next tour with Corporate Avenger, Twiztid, and Blaze opening will hit large clubs and halls all over the nation. It begins with Cypress Hill at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles April 20th “national pot smoker’s day.”

In the meantime, the Kottonmouth Kings’ home video, “Dopeumentary,” is due in April with another album soon to follow.