A blend of hip-hop, punk rock, and psychedelic styles with lyrics that often reference smoking marijuana, Kottonmouth Kings have become underground cult heroes with very little support from mainstream venues like radio and MTV. Their first two albums had combined sales of more than 500,000 copies, yet none of the songs was heard on the airwaves. “You know at the end of the day, it’s all about making your own rules and living by your own code of ethics,” Saint Vicious told MTV.com “Respecting other people, having fun, enjoying life, and loving what you do. And that’s what we do.” Beyond the music, the members run their own record label, Suburban Noize Records, have their own clothing and Manágement company, S.R.H., and oversee a street marketing division.
Kottonmouth Kings got their start in 1994 in Orange County, California. Acting as their Manáger and producer, Brad Daddy X helped bring D-Loc, Saint Vicious, and Johnny Richter together. At the time, Brad Daddy X performed with the alternative metal band Humble Gods, who were signed to Hollywood Records. Not long after their formation, Richter left the band for personal reasons, and Hollywood Records dropped the Humble Gods from its roster.
Brad Daddy X took over for Richter, and the revised lineup recruited Manáger Kevin Zinger; the group later added drummer Lou Dog and DJ Bobby B. For their onstage performances, they brought out a six-foot-eight performance artist named Pakelika, also known as the “visual assassin,” who interprets the music as a half-man, half-machine character.
Kottonmouth Kings gained exposure by performing with other well-known California bands such as Offspring, Sugar Ray, and Sublime. In 1997, they released the Stoners Reeking Havoc EP on their own label, Suburban Noize Records, which got the attention of Capitol Records. Gary Gersh, then president of the label and known for signing Nirvana, agreed to a contract that allowed the Kottonmouth Kings to keep their label by signing a joint venture between Capitol and Suburban Noize. “I already had my experience with a major [label], knowing how quickly it can go south and leave you with nothing,” Brad Daddy X told David Jenison in Mean Street magazine. “I didn’t want to go through that again. I remember back in the punk days when we put out our own records. There was no big entity that could interrupt the purpose of the band. We wanted to stay true to that.”
In 1998, Kottonmouth Kings released their major label debut, Royal Highness, which included the songs “Bump,” “Dog’s Life,” and “Suburban Life.” The CD sold more than 250,000 copies and held a position on the SoundScan top 100 albums list for more than two years. The band also contributed the song “Suburban Life” to the Scream 2 soundtrack. The following year, the group released Hidden Stash with a limited pressing of 30,000 copies strictly on Suburban Noize. Not long after its release, Saint Vicious left Kottonmouth Kings and was replaced by Richter.
The members of the band were ready to keep the new music flowing to the fans, but record company politics slowed their progress. In 2000, Roy Lott replaced Gersh as president of Capitol Records. Almost immediately after taking his post, Lott created a policy that abolished all joint venture labels, including Suburban Noize. Rather than cut the Kottonmouth Kings off completely, the record company agreed to release one more album before ending the contract. The band came out with High Society, which included the tracks “Peace Not Greed,” “Day Dreamin’ Fazes,” and “The Lottery.” Sales matched that of Royal Highness by selling more than 250,000 units. Soon after the album’s release, Lott left Capitol Records and was replaced by Andy Slater, who renewed the joint venture contract with Suburban Noize before the band’s next effort.
In 2001, the group still Manáged to maintain its growing underground fan base with no support from television or radio. They released a home video called Dopeumentary on VHS and DVD, which included concert footage, backstage mayhem, special guest appearances, and interviews. The video soared to number eight on Billboard’s Top Videos Sales chart through the band’s word-of-mouth marketing. The title of the band fit right in with their ongoing drug-inspired theme. As Marc Weingarten wrote in a Los Angeles Times concert review, “Kottonmouth Kings use dope as a trope the way country artists use heartache and jukeboxes.”
After Dopeumentary, the band headed back into the studio to record their next CD, Hidden Stash II: The
Members include Brad Daddy X , vocals, producer; DJ Bobby B, deejay; D-Loc, vocals; Lou Dog, drums; Johnny Richter, vocals; Saint Vicious (left group, 1999), vocals.
Group formed in Orange County, CA, 1994; formed its own label, Suburban Noize Records, released Stoners Reeking Havoc EP, 1997; formed joint venture with Capitol Records, 1997; released Royal Highness, 1998; released 30,000 copies of Hidden Stash on Suburban Noize, 1999; released High Society, 2000; released Dopeumentary home video and Hidden Stash II: The Kream of the Krop, 2001.
Kream of the Krop, which was released in October of 2001 on Suburban Noize/Capitol Records. The album was produced by Brad Daddy X and Kumagai, and included songs like “Tell Me Why” and “Paid Vacation.” Around the time of the recording, Brad Daddy X’s former band Humble Gods re-formed to record a new release on Suburban Noize. The original members of Humble Gods also contributed to a couple of tracks on Hidden Stash II—“Bi-Polar” and “Dying Daze.”
With both bands together, Brad Daddy X reflected on the Kottonmouth Kings career: “Everything has now come full circle in our journey,” he explained to Jenison in 2001. “We just need to keep living each day as if we’re climbing a mountain. An occasional glance to the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.”
After the release of Hidden Stash II, the band embarked on a tour with D12. By 2002, Kottonmouth Kings had survived three record company presidents at Capitol Records and still maintained their own three companies with a noticeable level of success.
Throughout the entire experience, they Manáged to maintain their independence and stay true to their self-defined principles. Brad Daddy X explained to David Friedman in MurderDawg magazine that the band’s philosophy goes far beyond the drug references one sees on the surface. “If there’s any message behind the Kottonmouth Kings,” he says, “it’s live while you live, create your own reality, and make your own rules.… It’s about having a good time, enjoying life, trying not to be caught up in the system ‘cause it’s not designed for personal freedom. Kottonmouth Kings is about attaining personal freedom.”
Stoners Reeking Havoc (EP), Suburban Noize, 1997.
(Contributor)Scream 2 (soundtrack), Capitol, 1997.
Royal Highness, Suburban Noize/Capitol, 1998.
Hidden Stash, Suburban Noize, 1999.
High Society, Suburban Noize/Capitol, 2000.
Hidden Stash II: The Kream of the Krop, Suburban Noize/Capitol, 2001.
Billboard, September 11, 1999.
FreeSkier, December 2000.
Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2000.
Mean Street, November 2001.
MurderDawg, November 2001.
Pitch Weekly, July 6, 2000.
Romperchic, September 23, 2000.
State Press (Arizona State University), June 25, 2002.
Washington Post, August 19, 1998; July 7, 2000.
“Kottonmouth Kings,” Suburban Noize Records, http://www.suburbannoizerecords.com (June 30, 2002).
“Kottonmouth Kings Biography,” RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (June 30, 2002).
“Kottonmouth Kings Crack Open Hidden Stash II: The Kream of the Krop, Third Studio Album in Three Years, on Capitol/Suburban Noize Records,” NewMediaMusic.com, http://www.newmediamusic.com (June 30, 2002).
“Story: Kottonmouth Kings,” In Music We Trust, http://www.inmusicwetrust.com (June 30, 2002).
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