The triumph of hip-hop in the last couple of decades is not a particularly difficult phenomenon to explain. For all its musicianship and complexity, at the end of the day, it boils down to a dude (or dudes) shouting into a microphone. Though it may have its subtleties, it is decidedly not a subtle form of music.
In an age where music has achieved near total ubiquity (thanks to the Internet, ringtones, MP3 players, etc.)—to the point of becoming mundane (while silence becomes the rare exception, instead of the other way around)—tunes are less entertainment than fashion accessory, and one needs something that can cut through the noise in order to be heard. So if, for example, you’re a pothead, you’re less likely to be looking for music to listen to while you smoke weed (Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, etc.) than you are looking for music to announce to the world that you smoke weed—preferably as loudly and obnoxiously as possible.
If this is you, the Kottonmouth Kings have got you covered.
The SoCal-based group, which has been together since 1994, and—as indicated by their performance Tuesday night at Cain’s Ballroom—still has only one thing on their minds. That one thing isn’t royalties. (Perhaps, for the sake of the truly square, I should also mention that it’s not textiles or oral hygiene, either.) Taking the stage with a lavish set—a lush marijuana leaf jungle with a green leafy throne at the center—the Kings picked up their mikes and shouted at a crowd that seemed to be composed mainly of pot-smoking WWE fans. Not that there’s anything wrong with pot-smoking WWE fans, or anything.
The all-white hip-hop groups are protégés of that other all-white hip-hop group, Insane Clown Posse (ICP) — and for better or for worse, it shows. The group totally lacks in what rap connoisseurs term “flow” — the ability to combine rhymes, rhythms and meanings together in interesting ways — preferring instead to employ a generic “yelling into a microphone” style of delivery (as if they’d read a book about hip-hop and then decided to start a group); however, whereas ICP employs the white-boy yell to create the atmosphere of an evil carnival ripped (unknowingly, I’m sure) from the pages of Ray Bradbury, the Kings use their proverbial soapbox to demand the legalization of marijuana. And demand it. And demand it some more.
“We got any stoners here in Tulsa, Oklahoma? Where my stoners at,” asked front man Daddy X between songs. And by “between songs,” I mean between all of the songs—I’ve never heard the same stage banter so many times in one night. The crowd gave the group the obligatory cheers with hands raised every time they name-dropped Tulsa, so perhaps I’m just being overly nit-picky (or perhaps it all feels new each time if you’re high enough). After all, it’s not like there’s a lot left to say when you’ve been recording song after song about the exact same subject for a decade and a half.
To their credit, they did elaborate on the “legalize weed” theme a bit. In between hits like “Bump” and “Proud to be a Stoner,” Daddy mentioned his elation at the ousting or Bush (“We finally got George Bush out of office!” — actually the Constitution did that, guys—“Everyone give your neighbor a high-five!”) and his thoughts for economic recovery (“If they’re not legalizing weed in this economy, we got some stupid people in office” — actually, that last part is probably true either way), I suppose to prove that they’ve been reading the USA Todays their hotels leave at their doors every morning.
I’m being a bit harsh. I really am. The Kings are a party band, and nothing more, and they managed to lay down some seriously “phat” beats — beats that inspired head-nodding, dancing, and even some violent “moshing” (and here you thought weed helped people mellow out). Still, the monotony of the message was wearing thin by the end of the evening — as was the monotony of the music. (DJ Bobby B can definitely lay down the grooves, but we’re talking about songwriting where “cleverness” is defined as “shifting from four/four time to eight/eight time for the third verse.” Every single song.)
And, truth be told, there are probably a lot of good reasons to legalize marijuana. (It doesn’t appear to be much worse for anyone than tobacco or alcohol, the government wastes billions of dollars fighting a losing battle against it, and—whatever else—it’s certainly preferable to prescription drugs like the apparently psychosis-inducing stop-smoking aid Chantix, which the FDA approved wholeheartedly). Like all proponents of marijuana legalization, the Kings have a lot of good arguments on their side.
Unfortunately, like most proponents of marijuana legalization, they’re too baked to make them coherently.
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