Whether it's songs like "I Wanna Get High," a music festival dubbed "Smokeout" - fresh with hemp-heavy memorabilia, and a new album due out appropriately on 4.20, Cypress Hill have always been blunt about their love for a blunt. But, take that away, and the same can be said about their lyrics: they're all right to the point and often in your face.
Ever since they leaped onto the hip-hop scene with their trademark Latino-flavored rap, Cypress Hill have dominated the charts, and managed to stay relevant in a genre that even Nas claimed was dead. But, then they faded away... on purpose. As frontman B-Real explained, the group wanted to try new things and realized that too much airplay is not necessarily a good thing. "We wanted to try new things, and people needed to get a break from us anyway," he theorized.
That was six years ago. Now side projects out of their system, the group is fully recharged, and ready to release "Rise Up" next month. The new album features contributions from Tom Morello, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, and Slash. Here's what B-Real had to say - blunt as ever.
Why did "Rise Up" seem like a good album title for you guys?
In the middle of the album, we had a few different titles in mind. They were all within the vein of our previous albums... pretty consistent. But when we started working with Tom Morello, we heard the song "Rise Up" and were writing to it. That's when the title came about. We all genuinely felt this could be the title. We've had pretty long titles and pretty dark titles, but this is more to the point. It set the tone for the rest of the record.
Does the name have specific meaning? Like do you guys have to rise up against anything?
Obviously we've been on hiatus for six years. We all put out records and stuff but not as Cypress Hill. The one thing we wanted to do was to get this back and rolling. Since we took such a long break, "Rise Up" is us coming back and making our f--king voices heard. You listen on any so called hip hop station and there's nothing - just popular record sh-t. Anytime you want to stand up and be heard, you have to rise up and speak your mind. Say whatever you're feeling - the state of what our country is, the state of the world.
Let's talk about that hiatus. Did you guys drive each other crazy or did you just decide consciously to take a break.
Nah. It was just one of those things. We had done our obligation with Sony. Being that Sony is a machine, they wouldn't allow me to do solo projects unless it was on Sony. If I didn't want to do it, then I couldn't do it. I was tied down. At the end of the [last] record, [DJ] Muggs had projects and Sen Dog had "Diary of a Mad Dog" so [Eric] Bobo and I had a meeting of the minds. We had to come up with something to do while they dis this record. What I did was put out three mix tapes the first two years then an actual album. Everybody kept busy. We would occasionally do a Cypress show in Europe or in the states, but after that first three year mark, we were ready.
The back record with Sony, we didn't push it right. It made us look bad, and at the same time, we didn't do much touring. We just shut down shop. In retrospect I wish that would've been different. But it is what it is. A six year break made people miss us, and we came back with a very strong record.
Did you guys have any rust when you came back together?
We were all ready to go. We didn't want to sound like we sounded before, but not too far to the left. We don't like sounding like everyone. In this day and time, everybody does. We go against the grain - always have. We take our time. We wanted to keep it consistent.
Do you guys hope for another huge hit or don't really care. I mean so many of your songs are still on rotation to this day as if they're new.
We just go with what happens happen. We let the music drive us. If something's considered a hit - so be it. It's not something we go out of our way for., because when you do then it's real stiff. We keep it fresh. It's a cohesive album rather than an album full of songs. We did not want to break consistency. Muggs isn't the lead producer on this record. Pretty much, he let Sen and I take the reigns and I give him props. This was his baby and for him to let us do what we felt like doing was a big step.
This record comes at a different time than your last. George W. Bush was president last time out. How'd the change of the guard to the Obama administration shift your lyrics?
Life gives you ammunition if you pay attention to what's going on. Things are still f--ked up but there's optimism. Depending on you ask, the last president f--ked things up. There's optimism, but at the same time, you have to, at the same time, do the work to make things better. That's the sort of ideals that I took on with this particular album. It's raw and gritty but has some positivity.
Lastly, your album drops on April 20 - aka 4.20. You guys are never subtle, huh?
That's what we've been about since day one. There's three aspects about us. We're a hip hop group at our core with a metal image: dark and mysterious and all that sh-t. But our attitude is very punk rock. We just don't give a f--k but it's a different type of don't give a f--k. There's you don't know s--t and say 'f--k it' and then there's you know exactly what's going on in life, but you're like 'f--k it.' We know what goes on, and we go against the grain.