A versatile American hip-hop group based out of Orange County, California, the Kottonmouth Kings emerged in 1996 with an eclectic — and cannabis-centric — sound that integrated punk, psychedelic rock, reggae, and hardcore rap. The group first attracted mainstream attention in 1997 with the track “Suburban Life,” which appeared on the soundtrack to the horror-comedy film Scream 2 and became a modern rock radio hit. They continued to brashly beat the rap-rock drum over the next two decades, maintaining a fierce independent streak and issuing a slew of high-charting albums like Koast II Koast (2006), Long Live the Kings (2010), and Kingdom Come (2018).
The self-described “psychedelic hip-hop punk rock” outfit, comprised of former Humble Gods frontman Brad Daddy X, rappers Saint Vicious and D-Loc, DJ Bobby B, and “visual assassin” Pakelika, drew both commercial and critical praise for their 1997 breakout hit “Suburban Life.” After issuing an EP, Stoners Reeking Havoc, on their own Suburban Noize label in early 1998, the Kottonmouth Kings released the full-length Royal Highness on Capitol that summer. Hidden Stash, a collection of B-sides, rarities, and remixes, followed a year later, and their third album, High Society, pushed them further into the mainstream on the strength of the singles “Peace Not Greed” and “Close Call.” Gigs with D12 and Bionic Jive followed in fall 2001, just prior to the release of Hidden Stash, Vol. 2: The Kream of the Krop. A fifth studio album, Rollin’ Stoned, which was produced by Brad X, appeared in October 2002
The self-explanatory Classic Hits Live hit the airwaves in 2003 while the band continued its expansion of the Suburban Noize empire, putting out videos and albums by rappers and punk bands. Their 2004 release, Fire It Up, peaked at number 42 on the Billboard 200 and came out on the stoner’s holiday, 4/20. The Kings returned in 2005 with their seventh album, a self-titled effort that featured guest shots from like-minded pals Cypress Hill and Tech Nine. Unfortunately, the combo was forced to postpone its summer tour when D-Locsustained a foot injury. Koast II Koast became the band’s eighth studio full-length in June of 2006, and rose to the number three slot on the Billboard Independent Album Chart. The compilation Hidden Stash IIIappeared at the end of the year, with a new full-length outing, Cloud Nine, arriving in 2007. Like the Kings’ 2004 album Fire It Up, 2010 album Long Live the Kings was also released on the stoner’s holiday of 4/20. Sunrise Sessions would follow a year later, featuring more of a reggae, dubstep, bluegrass, and jam band vibe, while 2012’s Mile High returned to the world of rap-rock while reuniting the group with founding member Saint Dog. In 2015, the Kings climbed into the Top Ten of Billboard’s Rap Albums chart with Krown Power, an album that featured Insane Clown Posse along with reggae legend Marlon Asher. The OC rappers returned in 2018 with their 14th studio long-player, Kingdom Come, followed by the compilation LP Most Wanted Highs in early 2019. Saint Dog was found dead at a friend’s home on October 14, 2020; he was 44 years old.
Crazy Town’s music and image reflected one of the most dynamic and volatile sociocultural environments on the planet — Los Angeles — where the urban squalor of the South Central district exists just minutes away from the glitz of Beverly Hills. Spearheaded by a team of producers/vocalists, Seth “Shifty Shellshock” Binzer and Bret “Epic” Mazur, Crazy Town combined hip-hop’s lyrical attitude and rhythmic sass with the muscle of live rock instrumentation. The combination yielded the group a number one hit in 2001, when “Butterfly” topped the Billboard 100 and helped push the band’s debut effort, The Gift of Game, to platinum status
Bret Mazur and Seth Binzer were both surrounded by music while growing up in Southern California. Mazur‘s father was Billy Joel‘s manager, while Binzer‘s father was an artist and filmmaker who directed the Rolling Stones‘ live movie Ladies & Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones. The two boys preferred a different style of music, however, listening instead to rap acts like N.W.A., Cypress Hill, and Ice-T, as well as alternative rock bands like the Cure. Originally from New York, Mazurstarted crafting beats and cutting tracks at an early age and found himself working on records by MC Serch (of 3rd Bass), Eazy-E, and MC Lyte; he was also House of Pain‘s DJ for a short period. Meanwhile, Binzer had come across a copy of the Beastie Boys‘ Licensed to Ill while in Mexico, and discovered a side of hip-hop that inspired him to start making demo recordings on his own.
Binzer and Mazur initially came together as the Brimstone Sluggers, and while the pair recorded plenty of music, their contributions to other hip-hoppers’ projects prevented them from completing a full album of their own. They also each ended up in rehabilitation clinics, where the two began writing letters that helped hatch the plan to form Crazy Town: a hip-hop band featuring a full instrumental lineup to complement the rapping vocalists. The group was to be rooted in classic rap-rock miscegenation like Run-D.M.C.‘s “Rock Box,” or Public Enemy and Anthrax‘s collaborative effort “Bring Tha Noize.
Doug “Faydoedeelay” Miller (bass), Rust Epique (guitar), Anthony “Trouble” Valli (guitar), DJ AM (turntables), and drummer James “JBJ” Bradley — a former session player who played on the Beastie Boys‘ Check Your Head album — were recruited to join the group, and Crazy Town was officially born. The band’s debut album, The Gift of Game, was produced by close friend Josh Abraham and featured appearances by KRS-One, dancehall toastmaster Mad Lion, and Dirty Unit. The album spawned a world-wide hit with “Butterfly,” an ode to attractive women, and put the band on the road to success.