Most artists can name the song or album that set them on their path to musical stardom.
For Oregon-based rapper David Alexander, it was Eazy-E’s 1988 debut, “Eazy-Duz-It.”
“I can remember riding my bike home and putting the tape in my yellow Sony Walkman and going, ‘Oh my God, this has changed my life,’ ” he said.
These days, Alexander — aka “The Dirtball” — is the newest member of the influential Orange County hip-hop rock group Kottonmouth Kings.
Kottonmouth Kings perform April 17 at the Pozo Saloon just north of Santa Margarita. The afternoon- long concert includes performances by local hip-hop collective Public Defendez, reggae- rock group Iration and rappers Afroman and E-40.
“Ten years ago, this was a total dream,” Alexander said. “To see everything come to fruition (has been) amazing.”
Born and raised in the Central Oregon city of Bend, Alexander has been playing music since elementary school.
“I kind of fell in love with the performing side,” said the rapper, whose parents have a bluegrass band. “It’s really been a serious vein in my life.”
Although he started out as a drummer, Alexander branched into vocals as a freshman in high school. He established his reputation as a rapper while studying political science at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, signing with Suburban Noize Records in 2003.
Throughout his professional
career, Alexander said he’s always held the Kottonmouth Kings and their legacy in high regard.
“It’s really crazy to see what they’ve built independently, with no mainstream radio (play), no support like that, just completely fan-oriented independent music,” said the rapper, who’s been touring nationally with the Kings for six years. “They’ve created a heavy catalog of music.”
After 15 years together, however, the Kings were looking for a fresh voice.
“The band really needed to have a solid drive, to reenergize,” Alexander said. “They brought me in and it was just such a perfect fit. It took me 20 seconds on a song to go, ‘Let’s do this. This is such a brilliant thing.’ ”
Now, he said. “Everything’s bubbling back. (The band) definitely has a lot of energy and strength.”
Alexander became an official member of the Kottonmouth Kings in 2010.
Part of his initiation included getting a Kings tattoo on his chest, featuring Mount Bachelor, a snowy tree and the band’s signature crown symbol.
“I’ve been branded,” Alexander joked.
Alexander’s rapid-fire rhymes and deft beats can be heard on Kottonmouth Kings’ 2010 album, “Long Live the Kings,” as well as the upcoming “Legalize It.”
The digital EP, which includes the tracks “My Garden” and “Ganja Daze,” will be released April 20 —known to marijuana users worldwide as “420.”
That’s only fitting for a band whose album titles include “High Society,” “Hidden Stash” and “The Joint Is on Fire.” High Times magazine, the self-described “voice of the marijuana community,” named Kottonmouth Kings “Band of Year” in 2006.
According to Alexander, pot is only one part of the Kings’ public image.
“Freedom of speech and freedom of (action) are underlying everything,” he explained, including the cannabis subculture. “A lot of our fans celebrate that. They come (to a concert) not to get stoned but to really revel in the fact that they can if they want.”
“That’s what’s killer about Kottonmouth Kings’ fanbase,” Alexander added. “You look at how much support that everyone has for the movement (to legalize marijuana) and it’s astounding.”
Fans have been equally supportive of Alexander’s side career — both as a solo artist and a member of the punk rock group X-Pistols. (He and Kottonmouth Kings front man Brad “Daddy X” Xavier helped form the band in 2010.)
In March, Alexander released his fourth solo album with Suburban Noize Records, “Nervous System,” in March. He described the project as a “straight rap record,” citing such classic hip-hop albums as Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” and N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” as inspiration.
“Joining the Kings has provided me an amazing platform as a solo artist,” the rapper said. “That’s what we’re all about. We’re just trying to bring more to the plate.”