The early 2000s stoner-stereotype anthem “Because I Got High” seems like an unlikely catalyst for a psychedelic cumbia punk band, but Afroman’s leisurely anti-productivity jam was actually the jump-off for Thee Commons‘ latest. The track took some twists from there, of course, but “Milk and Honey” does sounds a bit like its original inspiration — and not only because founding brothers David and René Pacheco exchange-rap verses throughout.
Though pulled from the East L.A. outfit’s forthcoming project Paleta Sonora, out July 28, the track was almost buried; David says he didn’t like it on first take. It wasn’t until the Afroman inspo and a fresh harmony emerged that he got on board. The LP is really two combined, the duo notes. They’d recorded 10 songs already, but while prepping for another tour (they’re basically always on tour), more songs materialized. The super-sized end result is an ambitious collection that lines up house and disco vibes — they’re calling it tropidisco — alongside their signature cumbias. Still, “Milk and Honey” stands out as undeniably atypical, not only on the album, but in their entire five-year repertoire.
“We were goofing around with the idea of Little Red Riding Hood being in L.A. Rene had an initial rap about a wolf, and we were like, ‘We should make it getting elotes and raspados,’ so the first takes of it had more [of her] literally cruising down East L.A.,” David says.
That storyline led René into a political allegory: “Once a friend/ Now an enemy/ Because I bleed all over the white fence they put in front of me,” he rails. The seriousness of that symbolism might feel like a stretch knowing the song’s jokey origin, but a few years ago, Afroman actually released a remake that repositioned his hit as a protest in support of marijuana legalization, and in the extended version of the original, he closes with a fuck-you to the corporate world. And while Afroman is problematic in other lines and an outright misogynist on other numbers, in those two iterations, we get a couple ideals worth rooting for.
“Milk and Honey,” however, we can confidently get wholly behind. A leisurely, feel-good tune with a tinge of pro-Chicanx activism? It transcends its inspiration, superseding the summer jam status quo in the process.
Thee Commons’ Paleta Sonora is out July 28.