This Saturday, The Gaslamp in Long Beach gets lit up by one of Orange County's longest active, not to mention hyperactive, MCs. Johnny Richter, formerly of stoner-rap posterboys Kottonmouth Kings, has been blazing a trail as a solo artist for 18 months now. Currently working on a new album, his first full-length since leaving the group, we spoke to Richter about readjusting to rocking crowds by himself and keeping thing positive.
Your most recent release, 2013's FreeKING Out EP, was said to be a “transitional project” for you. With this new album, what was that previous transition into?
It's back to rapping again. Back to just making music and fun raps. I did FreeKING Out as a break because there was a lot of talk at the time, a lot of “he said, she said” stuff. A lot of stuff was being said about me, a lot of allegations were being made. It was what was going on at the time. It came together pretty easy, I put it out to show I'm still making music. Everything I was writing seemed to have more of a negative overtone. I just put everything down. It took a while to start cultivating, I put up my greenthumb for a year. It started one weekend, I had some beats I put on Friday and by Monday, I had five songs written. It started coming back, so I started diving into it. I got 10 songs recorded, with other beats I like that I wanna write too, and I'm still seeking out new stuff. I'm going to be playing material off it Saturday at the show, I'm already that hype off it. There's only one way I'm going, and that's too the next show.
Have you had any communication with your former group since parting ways?
Not really. Just recently, I've had a few text messages with Brad X. The Gathering of the Juggalos last year I saw them there. But before I left the group, I didn't have much interaction with them anyway. I'd see them either at a show or at a meeting. We really didn't do much writing together, it was just a big email game. “Send me the beat” “You got the last half of the third verse.” It just got pieced together like a puzzle, that's how it was for years. That's why, it came as such a shock to everybody else that [thinks] we hang out with each other every day. “How could you leave this group, you're so close!” Well yeah, we were. For five years, we haven't been. Everybody kinda does have their own thing going. We just sort of grew apart.
You mention the fan reaction to the initial split. 18 months later, do you find the fans have stuck by you?
Well, my Facebook page numbers went up. They're into it, they're down for it. I only do four verses live from songs from my former group. They're just my verses, only one has the hook on it, and these are song we'd hadn't played live for many years. These are different songs we used to play live, and I liked them, so I brought them back. I've had kids react weird differently, but it's overwhelmingly positive.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?
I definitely think people think I'm a little more wild than I am. I was built up in Kottonmouth that I was the “super, super crazy guy!” I am an original member, but I wasn't on the first record. It started with me, D-Loc and Saint Dog, with Brad X as our manager. Then, we recorded 20+ songs, and I left the group from disagreements with someone else in the group. Then, they re-recorded the whole thing and added a few songs. They got signed to Capital, but I was still friends with them, I would go to all the shows, I just liked hanging out with them. Then, two years later Brad said “I think we got rid of the wrong guy. Would you like to be back in the group?” That's why I came back in on the second record. But they put in the bio that I wasn't on the first record because I was in jail for smoking weed or something, which I've never been. I've gotten two possession tickets. I'm definitely not as crazy as people would think.
Considering how much material you've released, do you have a particular song you're proud of that you think is overlooked?
The first record was just a jewel in itself. I think “Nice Cold One” should have been a beer commercial, to be quite honest with you. A lot of people have said they don't understand why it wasn't a beer commercial because of the flow and the good time of it. But, I think this new record is going to blow people away. I've sharpened my skills up, I'm coming from the heart with it. There's a lot of meaning behind these words, and they all rhyme.