LIFE IN 32 BARS - CYPRESS HILL
Published: Music Australia Guide #80, September 2010.
Cypress Hill’s woozy, smoke-hazed sound and stoned charisma eschewed classic west coast hip hop to make them the first figureheads of Latino rap. Percussionist Eric Bobo tells Dan Rule new album Rise Up is a visceral new chapter.
Mid 1980s Cuban-born brothers Senen (aka Sen Dog) and Ulpiano Sergio Reyes (aka Mellow Man Ace) hook up with fellow South Gate, Los Angeles kids Louis Freese (aka B Real) and Lawrence Muggerud (aka Muggs) under the name DVX.
1988 Mellow Man Ace leaves the group to start a solo career and they rename themselves Cypress Hill, quickly garnering an underground reputation for their blend of Latino street slang and slow, undulating hip hop beats.
1991 Their following on the rise, thanks in part to B Real’s distinctive nasally delivery and the group’s predilection for marijuana, the trio sign a deal with Columbia Records offshoot Ruffhouse.
1992 Release their self-titled debut to massive underground acclaim with Muggs’ eerie, lurking beats and B Real and Sen Dog’s blasé street sketches offer a fresh perspective on Dr Dre’s rolling G Funk sound.
1993 Debuting at number one, second album Black Sunday takes the stoned Cypress sound worldwide and is proclaimed an instant hip hop classic. Iconic single Insane in the Membrane becomes an international smash.
1994 Percussionist Eric Bobo joins the group following a stint with Beastie Boys.
1995 Release sinister, gloom riddled third album III: Temples of Boom sending their sound back on a darker, more underground route.
1998 Cypress return with the decidedly lukewarm IV.
2000 Double-disc epic Skull & Bones sets the quartet back on course with the group adding a harder, rock-based sound to their repertoire.
2001 Release sixth album Stone Raiders.
2004–2009 After releasing the Caribbean-influenced Till Death Do Us Part, Cypress go on hiatus, with first Sen Dog and then B Real releasing solid solo records.
2010 Release pointedly political eighth record Rise Up, featuring collaborations with Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello.
On the state of hip hop: “I think a lot of the new hip hop today is really interchangeable. You don’t really know who’s who because the beats are kind of sounding the same, the flows are kind of sounding the same. But with us and other groups of the era who are coming back, it’s showing that, ‘Yo, this is where hip hop really is at. We’re still here.”
On Rise Up: “We’re known for having the darker, really gritty, kind of grimy beats and whatnot, but we really wanted to focus on making an aggressive record that could translate to the live environment. We really wanted to focus on the strengths of Cypress and I think that those main strengths are hip hop and rock.”
On politics: “With the state of the world at the moment, I think it’s really important that people like ourselves, who have the opportunity to express themselves in a public forum, actually do that. Cypress, aren’t really a political band, but if we feel that the government aren’t doing enough and state legislators aren’t doing enough, and the biggest voice we have is the music and the people, then we’ve just got to get it out there.”
On Tom Morello: “He produced the title track for the record and I think that really set the tone for Rise Up. We’ve been friends with Tom since the 90s, touring together with Rage and so on, but to actually have him producing not one but two slamming tracks on a Cypress Hill record was just great.”
Rise Up is available now via EMI.
Cypress Hill tour Australia from September 23 until October 1.