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By Amanda Savage
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The rapid rise of the rap and stoner-folk-rock duo would make a movie even more incredible than Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
In 2000, Malibu rocker Cisco Adler, son of legendary '60s folk mogul Lou Adler, formed a rock outfit called Whitestarr whose musical efforts were often eclipsed by their hedonistic image and the starlets Adler dated (Mischa Barton, Paris Hilton). In 2007, Adler became more notorious when the contents of Hilton's storage unit went up for auction and a nude photo featuring his legendarily large scrotum was widely circulated on the Internet. Then, there's Whitestarr's reality show on VH1, The Rock Life, which was cancelled just as a side project Adler had been working on with then-19-year-old rapper Aaron Smith was signed to Geffen. Just as quickly, the duo got its own reality show, MTV's Buzzin', chronicling the release and promotion of its first record, including all the day-to-day minutiae any decent movie would excise.
The pairing of the duo — which occurred onstage before a Whitestarr show when the band's drummer Alex Orbison (son of Roy) invited Smith onstage to freestyle — would've happened overnight in reel time. In reality, Adler and Smith first performed together in 2005. The leisurely pace with which the guys recorded the songs on their just-released, self-titled debut is probably key to what made "Buzzin'," "Corona and Lime" and "Don't Be Shy" widely accepted SoCal chill music.
"It was a couple of months between that show and when we started working together," says Smith, who's also known as Shwayze as an individual. "I was a big fan of Whitestarr. They were the local Malibu band that kind of blew up. All the Whitestarr shows had all the hot girls, y'know — that was always a reason to go to their shows. There were a couple of girls with me and I was showing off and jumped onstage."
"At that time, I didn't know that Cisco made tracks," Smith continues. "Then somebody told me Cisco makes beats? What? Really? I wasn't really working with anyone at the time. A little after that, I started going to his house — after-parties and stuff — and hounding him to lay beats for me. Eventually, he was like 'Yo, if you're serious, come over during the day. Don't talk to me at parties. I'm drunk and you're drunk.' So I came over and we laid that first track."
Next thing you know, they're on MTV together. No one is more shocked by the Shwayze story than Smith himself. The duo just returned from Germany, where they appeared on German TV. "I didn't know they just started playing [the TV show] in Germany. We touched down and people are stopping us on the street like it's Los Angeles," Smith says. "It was definitely a wild feeling. We played a show and all the kids knew our shit, all those songs. [A year ago] I was sleeping on a couch making music. Now I'm traveling the world and people are singing it back to me — that was definitely wild."
The people out there following this story step by step, wanting to hook up with Mischa Barton and sing songs about Corona, are saying, "How do I get me one of them reality shows?" If you're lucky, you can fire up the interest of Jordan Schur, Geffen president and head of Suretone/Geffen. Schur, who signed Shwayze, plays the band's manager on television and in real life.
"Jordan did a similar thing with Ashlee Simpson, the reality show about the making of a record, and Cisco had been a reality show, too. So you had two guys that had been working in reality shows. The weird thing about the Whitestarr show is that it was about a band's last chance, and our show was about doing things for the first time and probably that's more exciting to watch," Smith says.
Appearing unkempt alongside Adler — a man who is to the dirtstache what Rick James is to the Jheri curl — presents its own challenges for Smith. No reality show is exempt from the roll-outta-bed cam, and Buzzin' is no exception. "You see me wake up. Nappy hair, not looking my best whatsoever."
Did having cameras rolling around Smith all the time make him more or less self-conscious as the series rolled on? "I think about what I'm wearing, to an extent," he starts, before countering, "I'm not self-conscious. I don't give a fuck, dude. I'm just myself. You either love me or hate me — hopefully not for what I'm wearing."
"We only wanted to do the show to expose the music, get some more people — because MTV doesn't play videos," Smith continues. "No drama, no fake shit."