Former House of Pain MC Danny Boy was going to spit one more verse and return to rap retirement. But that verse grew into underground hip-hop supergroup La Coka Nostra, which reunited Danny's old group and brought aboard some friends.
Danny Boy's return to rap was initially planned as a cameo for Boston rapper Slaine, who grew up idolizing House of Pain, the seminal white rap group who set the stage for rap-rock's '90s explosion. Danny invited the up-and-comer to Los Angeles for some sessions with House of Pain's DJ Lethal, who moved on to Limp Bizkit. Other partners in rhyme stopped in, and soon things got out of hand.
"These dudes started doing really good shit together," recalls Danny Boy from Las Vegas, where he's hustling his Dissizit! clothing line. "Before long, it became one big party, and nothing was getting done. And my boy Lefty [LCN rapper Big Left] called me and said, 'Yo, dude, this is great, it feels good. It's like summer camp. It's like La Cosa Nostra up in here.' I said, 'Man, it's more like La Coke-A Nose Straw, 'cuz nobody's doin' nothin' but gettin' dusted.'"
Danny, who got clean four years ago after a series of rehabs, skipped the debauchery. He talked the crew into putting the straws away, but the project kept snowballing. After Danny posted some of the group's grimy, intentionally underproduced tracks on La Coka Nostra's MySpace page, the crew had thousands of MyFriends in no time.
It wasn't long before real friends came calling. House of Pain's third member, frontman Everlast, who'd had a hit-or-miss solo career after the group's 1996 breakup, heard the LCN tracks and wanted in. Non Phixion rapper-turned-solo-rhymer Ill Bill brought some tracks and his gritty voice. And the group's first single, "I'm An American," features a guest appearance by Cypress Hill frontman B-Real, a longtime buddy. The guys donned black baseball caps and bandit handkerchief masks, pretending they were a gang. Having fun with the Scarface imagery, LCN was ready to ride. "Lethal said, 'Man, I can't get you a [record] deal [with a name like that],'" recalls Danny. "I said, 'Fuck that, we're doin' some hardcore shit.' We didn't know what to call it. We didn't know it was going to be a group. They just started spitting. I just started telling them what I wanted to hear and what I didn't want to hear. I wanted some more punch-your-face MC'ing."
The sessions became the group's debut, A Brand You Can Trust. Producers Muggs and Alchemist added their take to the music, bringing murky tracks to complement lyrics about locked-and-loaded guns and new-world-order conspiracies. The record is slated for spring release on L.A.'s Suburban Noize, the indie label that's home to underground figures like Kottonmouth Kings, who headline the Bring the Noize tour, where Everlast, Danny Boy, Lethal, Ill Bill and Slaine are adding House of Pain classics and Non Phixion favorites to a set of LCN tunes.
After a couple of major label stints, the Kings have settled into the rap underground. They're rooted in the punk past of Suburban Noize label head Brad "Daddy" X, who grew up in Orange County's hardcore scene. He played in punk also-rans Doggy Style and the Humble Gods. As Kings' frontman, he presides over their distinctive niche, a punk-rap fusion they call "rip-hop."
"We always incorporated punk-rock into Kottonmouth Kings," says Daddy. "The punk-rock, do-it-yourself thing plays into [everything the band does]. We got that work ethic from the punk-rock days. We make our own records, shoot our own videos, make our own merchandise. We do everything in-house." The Kings' new CD, The Green Album, sprouted from a recording spree that yielded 60 tracks. It has fewer mosh-pit interludes than usual, coasting from Juggalo-style rap to "Where I'm Going?," an introspective guitar-driven cut that plays like an Everlast outtake. Twenty punkier leftovers will appear later this year on an all-rip-hop album. That disc - the band's 12th in 11 years -- will cement Kottonmouth Kings' status as rap-rock's most prolific group. That's especially impressive when you consider the septet's central theme: smoking weed in the suburbs.
"Everybody in the band definitely enjoys smoking herb, no doubt about that," says Daddy. "But to me, it's more about, we're a group, we put on shows, we make records. That's my energy focus. We feel passionately about personal freedom and to make that choice to smoke or not smoke weed. I think we dispel some of the myths around it. We're productive. If you abuse something, it'll abuse you."