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Ten Minutes with: Cypress Hill

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"So you wanna be a rock superstar, and live large--a big house, five cars?" Well, nobody knows best how to get there than B-Real and Sen Don of Cypress Hill. Before the SoCal-based hip hoppers ever made it big, they had to overcome their own demons on the streets of Los Angeles.

Their newest studio album, Rise Up, released on Snoop Dog's Priority Records, has the duo revisiting the story of where they came from, as well as rapping, rocking and toking up some of their most in-your-face jams yet. To celebrate the launch of their album, Cypress Hill recently paid a visit to FUEL TV's The Daily Habit, where Fabio Periera caught up with the guys in the green room before a live in-studio performance.

Fabio Periera: To start off, I would like to get a general idea of where you guys were coming from with this album.

B-Real: We wanted to make something aggressive for pretty much the live setting. We've always been geared towards touring and live shows and winning people over that way. So, when we went in to make this record, we didn't have a conceptual idea down yet. But definitely wanted to make something that was more in your face and fortunately we were able to do that.

Yeah, you have Slash and Tom Morello as featured artists on the album too.

B-Real: Well, the Slash thing was really good, but due to some sample clearances we couldn't sue that one. So we're gonna, um, use it somewhere down the line once we clear it. But definitely the songs with Tom Morello were really exciting to do because we've known Tom for a long time. He gets what Cypress Hill is and we totally, obviously are big fans of his sound, of his production, the things that he's done. So, it was something that we wanted to do for a long time and Sen Dog made the initial call to Tom, you know, "Hey we've been recording our album. We wanted to see if you had the time to come get down with us on it." And fortunately, he had the time to blast us with two monster tracks. And the next track that followed suit was the one with Daron Malakian of System of A Down who gave us a very aggressive track. It was just what we wanted, man. That's what we needed to make them go the way we wanted to go--'cuz we had all the hip hop stuff there. All the hip hop stuff was solid, tight, just what we wanted. And we figured, ok, before we figured, 'Ok before this goes out, we need that over the top touch" and that's when Sen-Dog reached out to Daron and Tommy to make it happen.

Sen Dog: Well, B-Real basically seaid it all but the guys we chose to do the live stuff on the record were the correct choices and it just came together well. Morello and us--we'd always talked about doing something together. This goes back to the '90s, so, it's about time we got it done. (Laughs.) And then, thanks to our management--we share the same management with Daron--but I think the most challenging one was working with (producer) Mike Shinoda because he pays attention to the very smallest detail that you could even think of. So, when he asked us--when he heard the song, he said, "That's pretty good, but could you do it again?" And he wanted to come from more of an intimate place, something that affected us at some point in our lives--that strong feeling type of thing. And he got that from us, you know? And it was interesting to work with him because now I see why he is so successful.

What was that point for you?

Sen Dog: Well, there's been many points from where I sit here now and going backwards. But I think the days that stand out to me the most are the days when both of us were out on the street doing knucklehead shit and putting ourselves in the line of fire. I mean, B-Real even took one and we were living a dangerous life. And you don't even think about it while you're doing it, I think you're just trying to prove yourself as a man to those around you. But when you get older, and you have a chance to get older and you don't end up somewhere worse, I think about those days and I'm like, "Man, I'm glad that one of us guys wasn't seriously injured or killed or something like that," Because there was definitely greater things ahead of us in life, you know? A lot of times, you don't think about that in detail until you have the opportunity and when (Mike) came with what he wanted us to be about on that song, it took you there, you know what I mean? And for that reason, you have a real spiritual feel to that song, which is great for the record, I think.

Going back, you mentioned that the people you collaborated with really felt what Cypress Hill was all about. For where you guys are right now, what is Cypress Hill about?

B-Real: The sound has basically evolved through time, but we stay the same. We're the same guys that started off the block--more experienced, obviously, because you learn about this business and this game and you grow as an artist, creatively and with your skill set and everything. So, in that regard, we're different--grown up and more experienced--but we're still those same guys that tell it like it is and we don't water it down and that's basically it. There's no complication to us that much. We are who we are, we tell it like it is. We represent the pro-marijuana legalization movement and we're the dudes that speak for those kids on the street that come from the places we come from.

On the subject of marijuana legalization, do you think things are politically moving in a direction you find advantageous?

B-Real: I don't know. It's up inn the air. As far as politics go, there's some things that are cool and obvious things that are very much f***ed up.

About eight years ago, you had maybe three states that had medical marijuana legalization in place. Now there's seventeen and in November, now you have a proposition to make marijuana legal here in California. So, I mean, that's--those are definite positive steps.

Sen Dog: Just the fact that we have medical marijuana available in seventeen states is a victory. When I was a kid growing up, obviously I was a stoner from a very young age, and I thought I would never see the day when something like a medical marijuana dispensary would be open to the public. So that's one huge major victory, but there's so many more out there to gain on the front lines, you know what I mean? People now are getting educated to the righteousness of the cannabis hemp movement and it's taken its time. And seventeen (states) are in line now, and more will fall in line eventually?

What motivates your support of cannibis, apart from any recreational usage?

B-Real: Well, there are so many things, man. When you think of how many actual medical patients there are who don't like taking pills or doing that sort of therapy. Obviously, prescription drugs f***s people up just as much as anything else, and they're just as addicting as any other hardcore schedule A drug. So, people would rather use the marijuana to either--I wouldn't necessarily say "heal"--but suppress some of the pain they're feeling or going through the chemotherapy to help them regain their appetite. That's one aspect to it: people should be allowed the medicine that they feel is advantageous to them and does less damage to them. Because sometimes when you're taking medication, you're taking it for one thing but it's f***ing you up in another area, physically. So, people are paranoid like that and if marijuana can treat the certain thing that you take a prescription drug for, people want that option.

The other thing is, (with) the number of medical marijuana dispensaries out there, it's creating revenue for the state. Obviously, we know that the state of California is f***in' broke as hell--(Everyone laughs.)

You know? You wanna create a revenue stream and (marijuana) is proven to be the number one cash crop in the country and the world. So, why wouldn't you want to have these dispensaries that are creating capital for the state. And I would say the other states need to follow suit. There fuckin' broke as fuck--so is the United States. We're borrowing so much goddamned money from China every goddamned year--billions of dollars--and they can't think of anything that would be a boost to our economy? Well, hey--open your f***in eyes and legalize this thing in every state and you'll see a boost in the economy. It's guaranteed.

There is also the other side, to point it out, that recreational use would probably increase and that might be bad for some people.

B-Real: Well, you could say the same thing about when they lifted Prohibition. I mean, hell, you've got people that died from that shit and cigarettes every day. There hasn't been one reported death of medical marijuana use or marijuana use period unless somebody was driving and dropped the f***in joint on their lap and ended up getting in a horrific crash.

Sen Dog: And recreational use is already on the rise, so you might as well get up on it and be part of it.

(Everyone laughs).

Fabio: Circling back to the music, are you guys heading out on tour?

B-Real: We'll be going out on a couple of dates in May. I can't exactly remember with who, but we also have a tour scheduled in Europe in June, so yeah we're definitely gonna make the rounds. Anytime we put out an album, we always do a lot of road work because in the early days we didn't have the luxury of having a lot of radio play. I mean, "Insane in the Brain" and "Rock Superstar" are the ones that got significant radio play for us. But everything else was us going out and touring and winning people over that way. So, that will be the mode of operation for us for this album, regardless of whatever radio play that we might be getting now. We've never been a radio group, so to get this love right now, it just adds to what we're doing.

Last question, guys. This is your first album on a new record label, Priority Records. What's it like working with Snoop Dog?

B-Real: It's good, he just let's us do what we do. He knew we were working on an album (and) he wanted to sign us. He knew we were free agents and for him to come calling at uys from Priority Records, which is a place that broke a lot of major records on the West Coast hip hop scene, we felt that's the best place for us. We couldn't have ended up in a better situation. We're definitely appreciative and we're glad to be ona label that gets the vision and appreciates us, so it's a great feeling.

Fabio: Sen Dog?

Sen Dog: Yeah, I'm just glad that my boss is a stoner. Just like me.

B-Real: And he's also a dog.

Sen-Dog: And he's also a dog. (Laughs.) We've got two things in common. Two important things.

(Everyone laughs.)

Cypress Hill's new album, Rise Up, is now available in stores. FUEL TV's The Daily Habit is broadcast daily at 9pm ET (6pm PT).