Cypress Hill: Rise & Shine
After a six-year hiatus, West Coast hip hop icons Cypress Hill return this month with their eighth studio LP ‘Rise Up’. An album whose compulsive mix of deep grooves and hard riffs is amplified by diverse guest appearances from the likes of Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello; Linkin Park vocalist Mike Shinoda; Latino singer/songwriter Marc Anthony; Miami rapper Pitbull; plus seasoned comic legends Cheech & Chong.
One of the most successful and influential hip hop/rock groups in history with more than 18 million worldwide sales and a massive international fan-base, the California outfit (famed for their championing of marijuana before it became fashionable and for making it acceptable for rappers to use Spanish in their rhymes) have also on their new album for the first time (in addition to using longstanding collaborator DJ Muggs) brought on board numerous outside producers; including such “name” studio bods as Pete Rock, Jim Jonson and System Of A Down’s Daron Malakian.
All of which has in turn resulted in a diverse-yet-cohesive set that incorporates the traditional Cypress Hill grittiness while injecting an updated, more varied twist in the group’s sound. As is indeed reflected in tracks ranging from the percussion-driven, infectious Latin anthem ‘Armada Latina’ and powerfully-aggressive title track; to the old skool soul groove of ‘Armed And Dangerous’ plus the hauntingly reflective ‘Carry Me Away’.
With Cypress Hill (whose current line-up comprises original emcees B-Real and Sen Dog plus percussionist Eric Bobo) also due in the UK to for high-profile festival dates and headline shows in June, a forthcoming and articulate B-Real hooks up with Pete Lewis to discuss the group’s aforementioned new album. Which - recorded over the last three years at B-Real’s Los Angeles studio The Temple - interestingly also marks their debut release for the Snoop Dogg-helmed, EMI-affiliated Priority Records.
Titling their new album ‘Rise Up’ after its powerful first single, which features Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello
“Well, Sen Dog and myself had been working on the album for quite some time. And we got to a point where we were like ‘Maybe we should call Tom Morello to see if he’d be interested in taking a listen to this album and perhaps contributing to it’... And so fortunately Tom - who’s a friend of ours - listened, liked what he heard - and ended up giving us a great TRACK! And, though at the time we had a few possible album titles prepared that we liked, at that point none of them had actually STUCK. But then, once we recorded Tom’s song and came up with the title for it - ‘Rise Up’ - we knew instantly that had to be the title for the whole RECORD! Because it basically summed up what we were DOING! Like we’ve been doing this for so long, and here we are now getting back up and trying to get this Cypress Hill movement on the roll again! Plus ‘Rise Up’ also ties in obviously with the climate of the country right now. You know, a lot of us are frustrated with what’s going on. So the basic message in the title is ‘Rise up and be HEARD!’.”
What Cypress Hill wanted to achieve musically on ‘Rise Up’
“Musically we wanted a bigger sound, a more AGGRESSIVE sound, and something obviously with a lotta DYNAMICS. You know, our sound has always been raw and gritty, ominous and moody... And, while this time we still wanted it to be raw and dark, we also wanted it to be more UPTEMPO. Because, in terms of the live setting, whenever we do songs that are more uptempo and aggressive people do love them and it makes for a great SHOW. So, while making this album, we definitely had the intention of making songs that would translate well to the live aspect of what Cypress Hill is about. So that, when we play these songs out, we’re gonna get a magnificent reaction from the crowd! You know, there’s gonna be the stage-diving, the mosh-pit crowd-surfing, the jumping up and down… And whatever OTHER energy the people might have!”
The diverse range of musical guests the group have brought on board this time round
“Well, this time around it had to be DIFFERENT - and I think bringing all those people in is probably the most different thing Cypress Hill has ever done to this point! Because, you know, usually we just keep to ourselves, it’s all in-house, and we don’t have too many guests doing ANYTHING. But, with us not having been out in six years, we felt this time we had to give something that was a little bit MORE than what we’d have given the people with an album maybe three years ago. You know, back then we’d probably have done the standard thing Cypress Hill does. Which would have made for a great record, but it probably wouldn’t have been as diverse and or had as much DEPTH - because we’d have just been doing it on cruise-control. Whereas this time, by going after all the people that we WENT after - Evidence & The Alchemist, Everlast, Mike Shinoda, Tom Morello - we were able to bring on board different mentalities from different styles of music. And yet, at the same time, we somehow still got everything to work and to sound cohesive... So yeah I think it worked out perfectly.”
B-Real’s memories of growing up as an aspiring rapper in Eighties California
“Well, growing up on the West Coast during that time there was a lotta DJ crews but very few RAPPERS that were big on the scene. So a lotta the stuff we heard just came from this station called 1580 KDAY. They’d have this thing called ‘The Mixmaster Show’ where this guy named Tony G would drop a lotta New York hip hop, but then once in a while he’d also play some LA stuff too - like Ice T, Kid Frost, Uncle Jamm’s Army... And what was great about that time was the EDUCATIONAL aspect of it all. Because, you know, Tony G and The Mix Masters would be playing stuff from the East Coast that we had no idea even EXISTED - and that in turn inspired us to do OUR thing. Which is how West Coast groups like NWA came along, and then - eventually - US! So yeah, it was great, man. Because from there hip hop went on to have a great run in California – and particularly Los Angeles - and I just wish that the scene today was as vivid and as strong as it was back THEN.”
B-Real’s views on how Cypress Hill’s multi-million-selling global success broke down barriers for Hispanic rappers in general
“I think it’s great - though obviously, at the beginning, we didn’t know exactly what kinda impact we were gonna HAVE. You know, back then we were just trying to do our music without really letting our Latin background be the main factor. And fortunately I guess the fact we were able to achieve what we achieved, being Latino but without really exploiting that side of it, showed like a whole generation behind us how you could have that success without being labelled as just one THING. Because back in the day, when you were labelled ‘a Latino rapper’, the record companies would only try to market you to that Latin fan-base which didn’t really EXIST yet! So, when we were able to break through and show that you don’t have to market Latin rappers as just that and you let the music just be the way it IS, it proved that rappers could be successful no matter WHO they were - whether they were white, black, Latin, Asian -so as long as the music ITSELF was good... So yeah, it feels good to see people recognising us as some of the pioneers that opened the doors for a lotta these other Latino rappers to come through. And so right now we just wanna keep on contributing. We want to keep making good music and, in turn, hopefully inspire MORE people.”
Cypress Hill’s forthcoming UK live dates comprise: Brixton 02 Academy London, June 15; The O2 Academy Glasgow, June 16; Leeds Festival, August 28; plus Reading Festival, August 19
Cypress Hill’s album ‘Rise Up’ is released April 19. Their single ‘Rise Up' Featuring Tom Morello’ is out now. The single ‘Armada Latina' Featuring Pitbull & Marc Anthony follows June 21, all through Priority Records/Parlophone
Words PETE LEWIS