If you've paid attention to the hip-hop scene at all in the last decade then you know the name Cypress Hill. With monster hits like "Insane In the Brain" and "I Ain't Going Out Like That," the bands' signature sound of thundering beats, insane raps, busted up blues guitar blend nicely into a potent cocktail of original funk. Some call them a mix between Led Zeppelin and Public Enemy except with a lot of badass Gothic imagery. Taking some time in between tokes, I had a chance to sit down with Sen Dog and Bobo just minutes before they were to go onstage at the UIC Pavilion last week.
Livewire: So what prompted you to take an old song title from your '95 album and use it as the title of your current CD?
Sen Dog: I just thought it was one of the dopest titles...songs that we ever came up with. The thought of the Stone Raiders. A stone pirate on the Caribbean on the open seas. Chopping your head off, taking your gold, raping your women. That kind of thing..."Stone Raiders."
Livewire: With this CD in particular, you have a lot of guest artists. Were you ever concerned it might turn into a gimmick much like the star-studded Santana CD?
Bobo: I thought that the way all the guests were used were very appropriate. Having Redman and Method Man on one. Kurupt doing a hook on one song and actually dropping a verse. So it wasn't like a typical hip-hop album that you have 23 songs and 22 of them are with guests. So I just think the way we approached it was not so much to just have the gimmick. But using it in the right spots.
Sen Dog: You'll be surprised how many people are down with Cypress. You know what I mean, from East to West and around the world. A lot of big time artists want to have that chance to play with Cypress. I'm glad we had that opportunity to work with those cats.
Livewire: With the last two albums you've proved to be a multi-faceted band. Releasing songs to both the "rock" and "hip-hop" stations. Do you ever see yourself releasing an all rock record. Much like Ice-T did with "Bodycount"?
Sen Dog: Well, I've done that already with my other band. When it comes out of Cypress there's just so many different things that come to the table. When we get together to make a record. There's Eric's (Bobo) influences, my influences, Mugg's musical influences. Everybody's got something to put in. To just say we could make one album as Cypress with one style of music...I think that would be pretty much impossible.
Bobo: Well, of course we can if we wanted to. We could put 15 songs out. But the way we like to do things and approach it with different styles....would definitely become more monotonous.
Livewire: You've been around since the birth of Gangsta rap. Your songs often focus on the violence of the real world. In fact, you've lived it first hand. So do you think you have an obligation to preach the consequences of your actions?
Sen Dog: I think you definitely got to put intelligent lyrics down. You just can't come up and rap to the beat, shuffling my feet, sound so sweet. Rhyming isn't about putting no riddles down. It's about reaching people in their mutha f*ckin' brain. It's cool to party, listen to Cypress, get high whatever. But at all times you must watch your back. This is real life. This is the world out here. As easy as you can have a good time you can just get jacked. It's just that easy. You have to put some reality into your lyrics. Or else it makes no sense to be from the streets and know what you know and see what you've seen and not relate that to the people that are out there. Maybe someway change a life a little bit. Or maybe have someone think it over before they rob somebody or steal a car. Nowadays, anything can get you f*uckin' shot. Even lookin' at a bitch wrong can get you smoked. You know what I mean? You have to put that kind of reality in there.
Livewire: With that in mind, do you think your songs encourage or deter violence? You're obviously concerned with that. Or do you just write what you know and let the message do what it's going to do?
Sen Dog: We never encourage violence. If you listen to any kind of records from "Killer Man" to "Insane in the Membrane"...
Livewire: I'm not suggesting you're trying to I'm just wondering if you think your lyrics might be misinterpreted?
Sen Dog: Well, theres knuckleheads out there that's going to listen to it and hear what they are going to hear. And then there's those intelligent people out there that will listen to it and hear what they're going to hear. But if you listen clearly to a lot of the messages that we put in. It's not to abuse anything or to encourage anything. It's to more or less think about your overall situation. Your circumference where you stand at on this planet. Because your feet can be taken off of you at anytime. Real easy! So it's more I think about recognizing your situation and make your decisions from there. I know a lot of knuckleheads, Cypress fans that take "Kill a Man" for what they think it is to go blast on somebody. But it's all about self-defense.
Bobo: It's all personal interpretation. We can write a song and have a certain interpretation. Once it's out in the public everybody is going to get their own thing about it. Like you said, some people might take it in a more offensive way. Some might take it in more defensive ways. It's not something we are trying to encourage but we realize it can happen.
Livewire: Another reoccurring subject is of course smoking pot. You're very open about your drug use to the point you bring out a HUGE bong on stage. Why do you think the authorities have never gone after yourself or the band to use as an example?
Sen Dog: Because they smoke weed too.
Bobo: They like us (laughs).
Sen Dog: The police smoke weed, the firefighters smoke weed, the lawyers smoke, the doctors smoke it. A lot of the parents smoke it.
Livewire: So there's an understanding and a respect in someways.
Sen Dog: Definitely. We're coming from the generation of the '60s where a lot of those cats and those chicks were on weed. And they grew into families and had kids and all that shit. And their kids smoke weed and they know where we are coming from. If we could be out there, you know singing about -"Hey smoke crack cocaine." That might be different. That might get everyone alarmed. But the fact that it's a universal plant. The majority of people on Earth besides those of Congress and governing the mother f*ckin' states, know. We know there ain't nothing to it , but to do it. It's just a f*ckin' plant. But other people want to put labels on it and make it illegal and shit. And make it look like heroin or PCP and shit. That's just ridiculous.
Bobo: It is ridiculous. They've been smoking weed on this Earth since Jesus Christ walked the Earth. There's nothing wrong with it then and nothing now.
Livewire: Do you think there will be a day that you'll give up pot smoking forever?
Sen Dog: Yeah, when some doctor tells me to stop. I'll stop you know what I mean. But, other then that I've been smoking since I was twelve. I've got this far (laughs)!
Bobo: There may be a time. I think I've smoked some of the best weed in the world. So there may be a time that I slow down.
Livewire: What in your opinion is the best weed?
Sen Dog: Kush!
Bobo: What we have (slight laugh)!
Livewire: What do you think went wrong with the Smoke Out Tour? You tried to get a big tour going last year. You've been doing the single shows in California for 3 years in a row. So what went wrong with getting it actually out on the road?
Bobo: There were two out of a possible four or five. One in San Francisco and one in New York. So we did half of it. It was just circumstances.
Livewire: Some of it being September 11th.
Bobo: That also affected a lot of things too. I just think timing. You want to do a festival like that it's got to be done right. It's kinda difficult.
(You've got TEN MINUTES -a man yells in the background)
Bobo: But it's something I think can be done. We'll definitely do it this year. .
Livewire: So you haven't given up on it?
Bobo: Oh no, no. It's too successful of a thing. There's so many different things to do. It's an all-day mind experience. And that's what you want. You want to be able to do that where ever you go. If you just do a concert in a shed...amphitheater and call it a Smoke Out. And it doesn't have all those things that made the Smoke Out special. What's the point of doing it?
Livewire: With the current unstable environment of the world. Has your patriotism gone inward or outward?
Sen Dog: Outward man. F*ck anybody who's trying to mess with America. We'll blow your ass off the planet. That's the attitude I think the whole country has. You know what I mean.
Livewire: Were you this patriotic prior to the attack?
Sen Dog: Yeah man. I was born in a communist country (Cuba). And the fact that we were allowed to come here and live our lives. Shit, me and my brother doing what we've ended up doing. I'm successful because of America.
Livewire: Well, you've come from a different background then many Americans.
Sen Dog: Yeah, definitely. I know what it's like to not have shit. And have all your shit taken from you, but the clothes on your back and you know, get the f*ck out. I believe in America. I don't care what anybody thinks or anybody sez. America has been in deep shit, but that's because we are the ones that have to go in there and save all you punk ass countries from getting your asses kicked. They call America. That's who we are. In my opinion, anybody who wants to be a terrorist or that kind of shit...it's a cowardly way out. Instead of facing the mutha f*ucker head-on. Because we'll kick your ass. So they want to go around it be sneaky this and that. That's cool. We'll eventually catch up to their ass.
Bobo: War is definitely not wanted anywhere. But with what happened on September 11th, really effected the whole outlook of life.
Sen Dog: They bought it fifty years ago when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. They dropped a bomb on their ass. The country's not going that way, but we're definitely taking care of things.
Bobo: It's not good to feel violated. That's exactly what we felt like.
Livewire: So what's your opinion on George W?
Sen Dog: I don't vote. But to tell you the truth I wouldn't vote for either one of those cats. I think that President right now is handling things the best way that he can and keeping his chin up. Demonstrating that America is not to be f*cked with. And I'm behind him for that. Do I agree with everything he agrees with? I think it's going to take someone much more liberal, much more open minded to actually connect with the nation. As long as you have marijuana illegal everybody knows you're full of shit. The person that takes care of that is going to be widely respected for years and years. Even after their presidency is over.
Bobo: I admire his strength you know. Being able to stand up and do what needed to be done. I still don't really like him so much (laughs). But he has the country's best interest at heart.
Livewire: What are your thoughts on the success of what they are calling "nu-metal"? And how big of a part do you feel you had in it's creation?
Sen Dog: As far as the nu-metal goes, I think we're talking about Incubus and bands of that nature.
Livewire: I would even put Linkin Park in that category.
Sen Dog: Well, I think groups like Cypress Hill, Public Enemy and N.W.A. had a lot to do with what the kids listen to now and what the kids perform now. I definitely think that those three groups overall had an influence of the singers of that era. That will grow up to be the entertainers of this era. If you didn't have hip-hop placing that element I don't think the world would be the same today. Similar to like the NBA or the NFL. If you didn't have the black athlete in there it wouldn't be the same game. Same thing with this street element right here. If you didn't have that hip-hop element, cats like Kid Rock would never exist. The Beastie Boys would never exists. What we've done overall as musicians not even knowing it has affected these younger kids. To the point that now they're taking it and freaking the f*ck out of it. I look at it and yeah that's cool. I respect these kids (Linkin Park) a lot. Not because they're six million deep or whatever. But because they are modest kids and they hang with us and they chill. And you can tell when they shake your hand that they mean it.
Bobo: I think there's some groups that are doing it right and approaching it right. And there's other groups that are doing it cuz it's just a trend. And you can tell by the way they sound. But I'm glad that the torch is still being taken. As far as combining hip-hop, rock, metal whatever you want to call it. I don't know if I would call it nu-metal. I think the name is kinda of more off-base. The kids nowadays are growing up with both hip-hop and alternative music all on the radio. You hear it and it's way more accepted then when we were doing "Judgment Night" and stuff like that. It was pretty much black and white. Now, it's a mixture of stuff and now you have to decide from the good and the bad.