Amidst the cacophony of talented rappers and rap crews that have emerged from the West Coast, one group has been breaking barriers with a distinct style and voice for more than 20 years. Cypress Hill, with their hyper-realistic street poetry and smoke-filled party records, continues to speak to the weedheads, the Lowriders, the Latinos, and anyone else within earshot of their rhymes.
Rocks Off spoke with MCs B-Real and Sen Dog on a surprisingly smoke-free tour bus prior to their show Monday night at Scout Bar.
RO: Good evening, sirs. Throughout your career, your sound has been constantly evolving, from straight-up OG West Coast rap, to rock, psychedelic/hardcore, Latin and now dubstep. Can you explain why this is necessary for your success?
Sen Dog: We don't worry too much about labels or formats. We are who we are as a band. We try our best to cross lines and transcend with the music and rhymes. At the end of the day, we're hip-hoppers... and always will be.
B-Real: We can't afford to discriminate on our music anymore. It's not the '90s when everyone pretty much stayed in their clique or circle and did the same thing over and over. Nowadays, you need to listen to a lot of different stuff and stay current.
RO: Is that how the Cypress x Rusko collaboration came about?
BR: I've always been a fan of EDM. I would always showcase some on my Web site www.BReal.tv. Over the years, we would get requests or receive lots of submissions, and Rusko just happened to be behind some of my favorite tracks.
So I ran it by Sen and sold it to him, told him we could really vibe out to this dubstep shit. Then we all got together and one song became two, then four, then six. I'm proud of the work we did with Rusko, he's a good dude.
RO: You guys took a long break between 2003's Til Death Do Us Part and Rise Up in 2010. That's a long time for anyone, especially for rap. What caused that break and did you benefit from it in any way?
SD: Our run with Sony Music pretty much came to an end. Neither party has any interest to continue the relationship. We also changed management during that time, and dealt with a few legal issues over some samples. I'm not gonna lie, I was worried, but the adversity made us stronger.
BR: We also continued to tour, and that way the fans were never totally without our music. There is a lot of competition in this business, so you can't be out of sight for too long. We did our thing on the road, took care of some business, and then came back strong with Rise Up.
RO: The Lowrider culture has always been a big part of your fan base, yet it seems to be at a standstill or on the decline. Do you think that demographic will ever die; and what is your dream car/vehicle?
BR: You can never stop Lowriding. The spirit of the Lowrider will never be played out. The economic downtown makes things like parts and transportation more difficult, but nothing beats riding slow in a nice old car. It's a piece of the American culture. My dream car is a '57 Bel Air.
SD: I'm a chopper guy, so a "47 Harley Panhead, dropped with ape hangers, that would be my choice.
RO: Any plans/thoughts about retirement?
SD: Naw, man. We still have lots of energy and passion. As long as we are competitive and have fun, we will continue this run as long as we can.
RO: What are your thoughts about Colorado and Washington passing new recreational marijuana laws?
BR: Of course we think this is a big step in a positive direction. I always thought Cali was gonna take the lead, but now it seems the rest of the country can use the Colorado example as a model for future legislation.
What I also find remarkable is how strong the support is for both medical and recreational weed. Weed is the future, and we will always support the cause.
After the interview, I hung around and was once again amazed by the sheer amount of energy Cypress Hill leaves on the stage during their shows. Scout Bar was packed shoulder to shoulder, and each one of the fans bobbed their heads, waved their hands in the air, and rapped along to every song. The ages ranged from barely legal to almost geriatric, bikers to stoners, cholos to chulas. It was one big, happy family, held together by their love for the Latin Lingo.
"Are y'all ready to get crazy, Houston?! Wanna get CRAZY?! Let's get crazy!" shouted B-Real in his nasal stage voice. The unmistakable sounds of "Insane In the Membrane" caused the crowd to erupt, and the litany of hits played on for a full ninety minutes. Sen Dog's menacing baritone complimented the dynamic, and DJ Julio G. and percussionist Eric Bobo tried their best to keep pace.
Was I ready to get crazy? Of course! Don't you know I'm loco?!
Personal Bias: I was a nerdy, skinny pre-teen in 1991 when Cypress Hill's debut album was released. I remember my cholo cousins in Pasadena blasting that record in their lowrider Monte Carlo as we cruised to the store for some fajitas and cerveza. Good times.
The Crowd: Scout Bar shakes you down pretty good at the door, but some of these fans still managed to get high. Now that's determination!
Overheard In the Crowd: Her: "I've been down with Cypress Hill since 1985!"
Me: "But they released the first album in 1991..."
Her: "Man... I was so high back then..."
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Random Notebook Dump: This was my first time at Scout Bar, but definitely not my last. Great club to catch a show. Now if only it wasn't so far away!