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Music Appreciation: The Dirty Heads

Updated on May 18, 2013
In the front are the vocalists, Dustin Bushnell (who also plays guitar) and Jared Watson. In the back are Jon Olazabal, Matt Ochoa, and David Foral.
In the front are the vocalists, Dustin Bushnell (who also plays guitar) and Jared Watson. In the back are Jon Olazabal, Matt Ochoa, and David Foral.

How can I describe the sound of The Dirty Heads? They provide a wonderful mixture of rap, reggae, punk, ska, hip hop, and acoustic sounds. I've never heard anything quite like them which makes them stand out that much more.

Or, as Wikipedia put it, "The Dirty Heads are perhaps one of the most prominent groups in a sub-genre of reggae heavily influenced by the original incarnation of Sublime."

Dustin Bushnell (Duddy B) and Jared Watson (Dirty J) met in their freshman year of high school in Southern California where Dirty J heard Duddy B's rap demo tapes and immediately, a collaboration was in mind. Soon enough the two began writing songs with reggae and punk influences.

They currently have two albums, Any Port in a Storm (2008) and most recently, Cabin by the Sea (2012). Their first album mainly focuses on the sounds of hip hop, where their second album still has those elements, with more melodic tunes.

Fun fact: "Any port in a storm" is an idiom that means when someone is having serious trouble, they must accept the solution, whether they like the solution or not. This is a great saying that may help somebody to start accepting the things in life that don't go as planned or things that they just can't change.

Now, you may be familiar with this song, whereas it was their most popular single and reached #1 on Billboard's Top Alternative Songs in 2010.

Well it's the story of the two
Always on the move
They got nothing left to lose
'Cept their guns and their wounds
Now they're crossing borders
Sheriff's posse on their tail
They'd rather die together
Than be stuck up in a cell

Lay Me Down - The Dirty Heads ft. Rome

"Disguise" is one of the many songs that perfectly balance rap and instrumental music. A few others would be "Dance All Night", "Spread Too Thin", "Day by Day", and "Smoke Rings".

I got my head up in the clouds now
I’m so high I’m never coming down
I like living up here watching life from the sky
Everything becomes clear

Disguise - The Dirty Heads

"Stand Tall" is one of my personal favorites that is a great example to show their instrumental, melodic style. It sort of gives you that relaxed, at-the-beach feeling -- or at least it does for me. Another song that does the same trick would be "Cabin by the Sea", which is what their second album is named after.

Well I can only take so much
The pressure may come to pressure us
They came to watch us fall
Oh yes, they came to watch us fall
But we will rise up against them all


So I stand tall
It gets a little better
I see the wall that we can break down together

Stand Tall - The Dirty Heads

Here's another fun fact: reggae legend Bob Marley's son, Ky-Mani, recorded a song with The Dirty Heads. This song is a good representation of the reggae sound in their music. Give it a listen, and tell me that I'm not the only one who hears Bob in Ky-Mani's voice.

Remember the first time that hit set in
We were in the backyard listening
We let the songs on the record play
You told me you wanted to stay the night
He sang to us "everything will be alright"
Our favorite songs on the record play

Your Love - The Dirty Heads ft. Ky-Mani Marley

"Believe" is probably my favorite right now. In this song, they tell us about how music has always been with them through an acoustic sound with a soft beat going on the drums.

Well Bob Marley was the tune, little J was in the womb
My mom would put the headphones on her belly, feel me move
And every Jimi Hendrix riff, I'd give her a little kick
Just to let her know to turn it up a little bit
And "Please, when I grow up can I sound like Police?"
That's what I was thinkin' while I prayed on my knees
But now that I'm grown, I found a sound of my own
I'm in the studio now and I feel I'm home

Can you feel it? (yeah)
I'm like, 6 damn strings never sounded so appealing

Believe - The Dirty Heads

Now to mix it up a bit, "Check the Level" is one of their heavier hip hop/rap songs.

Check the level cause something's coming over me
Something's got a hold of me always controlling me
It's in the audio, it's in the air, it's in the way you move
It's everywhere, it's something beautiful, that you don't know
So feel the audio, and let it go

Check The Level - The Dirty Heads

"Neighborhood" is the first song on their first album that has a bit of reggae sound and a lot of rap. In this song, you're introduced to Dirty J and then Duddy B in the second verse. You can hear the distinction between their voices, and while quite different, they balance each other out very well.


Went out of my way, you're feeling alone
As a distance pressures away you could be home where I fit in.
I'm reminiscing about the days were we didn't care
Two dirty kids with no shoes and long hair
No car but front porch and two chairs
No place to go and no way to get there

Neighborhood - The Dirty Heads

Final thoughts

The Dirty Heads can appeal to a wide variety of people. Some may enjoy the hip hop styles more, some may enjoy the melodic styles more, or some may enjoy the reggae feel to their music. Any way you go, they are worth a listen and are extremely passionate about their music which is something you can hear in every single one of their songs.

After giving The Dirty Heads a listen, would you listen to them on your own?

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