December 27, 2007

CD Review: Kottonmouth Kings - Cloud Nine

The Kottonmouth Kings have got to be one of the hardest working groups in the business. In between seemingly incessant touring they have released twelve full length albums in the past decade. I am pretty much a newbie when it comes to the stylings of the Kings. I finally decided to bite the bullet and give them a shot when I picked up Joint Venture. It may not have been the best choice to start with, it just happened to be the first one I saw when I decided to pick one up. I liked it, rather, I liked some of it. The album started off strong and seemed to steadily drop off for the remainder. I liked the beats; they had a good groove to them, not to mention the punk influences on their sound. Anyway, the year has changed and I find a copy of Cloud Nine in my hands. This album is much more consistent throughout. It is a good disk, although I am not sure you could count me among the KMK faithful.

Their sound stands apart from other hip hop I listen too; although my hip hop is exposure is relatively limited, comprised primarily of ICP and other Psychopathic Records alum. Their brand of hip hop brings in punk and rock influences in a mixture that they call "rip-hop," which is probably the best way to describe it. It is still firmly entrenched within the realm of hip hop, but the do it yourself ethic of punk is evident in their self-produced releases. The group even own and operate their own independent record label, Suburban Noize Records. These guys seem to be so busy it's a wonder they ever find time to smoke up!

If there is one consistency throughout Cloud Nine, in addition to the ever-present marijuana influenced and inspired lyrical flow, are the beats. At times it may verge on becoming repetitive, but there is something about the grooves that keeps one interested. You can listen in and pick out the lyrics, or you can sit back and just groove to the beat. The music is laid back, not to say there isn't energy, there are plenty of tracks that would be sure to get a party on (and off) their feet.

Cloud Nine is loaded to the final second with nearly 80 minutes worth of music. They do not skimp on the tunes with twenty tracks filling up the CD with beats, rhymes, and the aural equivalent of THC.

Among the twenty tracks, there are a few that stand head and shoulders above the rest. When you slide the disk in be sure to check out the downright catchy opener "Controlled Substance," "Think 4 Yourself" the hook laden cut with special guests Insane Clown Posse, the ode to lighters "Litas," "One Day" with it's smooth rock flow, "City 2 City" with Tech N9ne and Big Krizz Kalico has a dancefloor beat that will get your head bobbing, the acoustic inflected "It Ain't Easy," and the acoustic ballad "Proud to be a Stoner."

Seriously, though, this is not destined for any classic status. It is not groundbreaking or particularly special in its beat structure or lyrical content. What it is is a good time. If you have a high tolerance for marijuana inspired lyrics you will find an album to put on and groove to that has strong beats, and the occasional insightful lyric that will demonstrate that they can go beyond the pot lyrics.

Production values are high, that's right. The sound quality of this album is first rate. The mix is perfect giving rise to strong, deep bass, sharp cymbal hits, and clear, intelligible vocals. If only every album was mixed this well.

On top of the completely loaded CD, there is a DVD in the package. This is no mere fluff disk with a video or two and maybe an interview. The bonus DVD runs 70 minutes and is filled with information on Sub Noize Records and all of its artists. It is presented as an Underground News Report hosted by Daddy X. Included are videos from KMK (including "Think 4 Yourself" with ICP), Big B, DI, Mondo Generator, Hed PE, and others. It is a perfect capper for the set. These guys know how to pack in the value!

Bottomline. This is a good album. If you are a fan, you will want to get your hands on this if you haven't already. If you aren't a fan and are either curious or looking for something a little off the mainstream, this could prove to be what you are looking for.



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