“12 Years, 10 Albums, and 1 Big Daze.” No disrespect is meant toward Arrested Development or Speech, but that’s the best way I can think of to summarize the Kottonmouth Kings. Their name implies getting stoned, their songs don’t hide that fact one bit, and if you’ve ever been to their concerts… well let’s just say gigantic blunts and large marijuana flags wouldn’t be out of place as stage props. When the smoke fills the air at one of their stage shows, it’s NOT from a fog machine.
The Kings are neither the first nor the last group in hip-hop to dedicate their careers to the medicinal benefits of marijuana, but other than Cypress Hill they are probably the most successful to do so. As such I would have been disappointed had the color scheme of their tenth album “Long Live the Kings” been anything other than a tribute to their hazy legacy to date. The artwork is purposefully black and green. The inlay artwork under the tray is a blunted parody of the “Clockwork Orange” poster. Lighters are flicked and bongs bubble in the background of songs. The track titles on this 20 song long album let you know exactly what you’re in for. When you roll with the Kings you “Let the Indo Blow” until you experience “Reefer Madness,” at which point you turn into “Party Monsters” and “Stomp” to the beat, because everything’s “Great When You’re High” – at least until the cops show up to take your stash and/or arrest your ass.
Unfortunately “Fuck the Police” is one of the few times I’ve really had to take issue with the stoner vibe the Kings are on, and it’s not because the Insane Clown Posse are on the track. Actually Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope might be the closest to the spirit of the original N.W.A. song this track shares a name with, but the group can’t seem to make up their mind whether they intended to pay tribute or the title was a coincidence. The beat and tempo are totally different, and the righteous ire that Ice Cube and MC Ren displayed toward racial profiling and police brutality is totally absent, but the song still hints at the famous hip-hop classic particularly in the first verse. They should have gone all out in one direction or the other – either do a completely tongue-in-cheek tribute to the original or come up with a more original chorus that didn’t echo a much better song. In fact, “Screw You Pigs For Taking Our Weed” probably would have been a better (and much funnier) song altogether.
Production is both a high and low of the album, with the majority of the album laced (puns definitely intended) by Daddy X and Mike Kumagai, though Seven and Dirtball do offer minor contributions. At their best the group can offer you an acid jazz laced musical trip through thumping bass, echoing electronics and lilting flutes like those heard on “Reefer Madness.” Other standout tracks the dirty white trash blues of “Kill the Pain,” the over-the-top silly party rock of “Let’s Do Drugs” with Big B, the thumping electronica rap style of “Party Monsters” featuring Tech N9ne and the eerily D12/Eminem-esque “Mushrooms.” At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Kings tendency to fuse rap and guitars for their own unique brand of Suburban Noize, which has worked well throughout their career but occasionally gets irritating on this CD. “Rampage” hangs on a single riff dragged on far beyond the point it was interesting, “Mad Respect” would have been better as a Green Day song, and “Take it to the Top” sounds like really bad Linkin Park. The rest of the album falls between these extremes.
The press release that came with “Long Live the Kings” made much ado about Dirtball officially joining the group, but I can’t say he either adds or subtracts to the vibe the Kings already had – he’s just there. Johnny Richter is the rapper who usually stands out on any given track, but none of these emcees profess to be lyrically profound and their fans wouldn’t have it any other way. While this wouldn’t go down as the best Kottonmouth Kings album I’ve listened to (that’s “The Green Album”) this should satisfy their loyal legions of fans and bud smokers worldwide by not deviating from their tried and true formula much at all – they stick to the sticky icky icky and party raps that made them what they are.