For a couple years the overwhelming majority of what I listened to was either Kottonmouth Kings or came from their label, Suburban Noize. High Society and Rollin’ Stoned are to this day still a couple of my favorite albums, and without a doubt my favorite KMK albums. That said, starting with the album Fire it Up I began to lose interest in KMK, even while I still followed other bands on their label’s roster. Partly because I was getting older, partly because I was discovering a lot of other new artist but mostly because starting with that album the group was starting to feel a little flat to me. With the release of their self-titled album after that in 2005 I simply lost interest altogether. That album just sounded like it was forced; trying just a little too hard to make songs that might get radio play. I remember joking with a friend at the time that it seemed at least once a song rapper D-Loc would feel the need to spell out his name. Four major albums releases followed that I can’t say I ever listened to more than once each, as well as the inclusion of a new member in label-mate Dirtball. At the time I remember thinking a new member might be what the group needed, but still wasn’t too overly impressed with what I heard in the album Long Live the Kings that followed.
As a result I was a little out of the loop and actually had no idea that Sunrise Sessions was slated for release till I came across it in a Best Buy ad. Deciding why not, I picked up the album on a total whim. At the very least I knew it would be interesting to hear how the band has changed since I last really paid attention to them back in 2005. What I found was a bit of a mixed bag, but overall surprisingly enjoyable from the standpoint of this once big fan.
Sunrise Sessions is apparently about the imagined world of Stonetown, or so some of the literature on the album claims. I find it probably best to ignore that and just look at the album as what it really is, a summer soundtrack. KMK has had many varied styles over the year, from their rap/reggae style roots, to an infusion of punk/rap and even dabbling in a mixed attempt at producing club tracks, one thing has always been a constant; their ability to make an upbeat and positive track. The kind of songs that can get you going on a gray morning or simply makes for great background music while lying by the pool. Most of Sunrise Sessions follows this “feel good” style.
I have to say though I was a little worried when the hook for the first song came on a few seconds into the album. Let’s face it, Stonetown isn’t the cleverest concept and the leading track’s hook was less than impressive. Luckily though the verses start in and I immediately began enjoying the album. To put it simply, KMK felt more on point than I had heard them be in quite some time. Much of the first half of the album reminds me a lot of Rollin’ Stoned; a solid mix of feel good tracks with a couple of “harder” banging tracks mixed in like Down 4 Life ft. Jared of (hed) p.e. (The only collaboration on the entire album). The album moves forward strongly up through track eight, She’s Dangerous, which is a catchy reggae inspired track. Unfortunately the album derails a bit after, starting with the ninth song, Ganga Daze. The tracks that follow, Stay Stoned and Stoned Silly were also less than impressive. This was partly because the album, which is obviously influenced by weed and weed culture throughout suddenly becomes about nothing but being stoned for three tracks straight. Ganga Daze just simply has a horrible hook and Stay Stoned isn’t so much bad as it isn’t good. It’s probably best compared to Grow Room Jam from High Society, had it been placed elsewhere on the album it might be more enjoyable. Stoned Silly actually has a solid hook and some very interesting production but the verses all seem incoherent; as if all written for a different song but put together just because they were all about weed.
The album picks up again after those tracks though, starting with Closing Time, which is not a remake of the Semisonic hit. The song manages to work despite Johnny Richter’s bridge after the first verse almost ruining the whole thing. Cruzin and Great to be Alive both pick the album back up a bit (the attitude shifts downward for a while, starting with Ganga Daze). The album ends in KMK’s usual style of having something laid back and chill to cap things off.
This is Dirtball’s second major release as a member of the Kings and he still sounds a little out of place at times, but in the vast most of the tracks it sounded like he had been a member all along. Though he is still nowhere near replicating the back and forth Richter and D-Loc have and they still seem to have some trouble mixing his vocal style in with some of the tracks (he almost sounds like background noise in the opening verse of Stoned Silly) his addition has clearly been for the better. Richter and D-Loc were more on point with this album than I have heard them be in a long time, and Daddy-X manages to deliver another solid performance as he usually does. All told, while Sunrise Sessions won’t be bumping High Society or Rollin’ Stoned from my favorites list, I feel I can say that it is the best outing from KMK since Rollin’ Stoned. It is always a good sign when you find yourself starting to sing along on the second listen.
An additional note, the Best Buy version of the album comes with a bonus disc with five additional songs. The bonus album isn’t bad, but not worth the extra effort (or price) if the regular version is available for less or Best Buy is simply out of your way. It is a nice bonus though if you pick up the album on sale.
Final Rating: 8/10
CBR Break Down:
Album length: 75 minutes
Best heard on: Headphones
Price Bought at: $7.99
Notable tracks: Down 4 Life, Kalifornia, My Garden, She’s Dangerous, Cruzin
Recommend Purchase: Yes / Full Album