By Brian F. Johnson
In 1993, Cypress Hill released their second album Black Sunday. The album contained the track “Insane In The Brain,” which was later nominated for a Grammy. Black Sunday debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, recorded the highest Soundscan for a rap group up until that time, and it went triple platinum selling over three million copies. That release cemented the legacy of the band not only in hip-hop history, but it also firmly rooted Cypress Hill in the annals of stoner culture worldwide.
Cypress Hill actively campaigned for the legalization of marijuana, and their signature sound of rolling bass and drum loops pioneered a stoney funk that was undeniably influential in ’90s hip-hop, popping up in everything from Dr. Dre’s G-Funk to English trip-hop.
The group had a few stop-starts over the years, as members went off to explore other projects, but throughout the last two-and-a-half decades they’ve always remained Cypress Hill. Late last year the band made an announcement that many fans had been waiting for, stating in various interviews that they would release a new album — their first full album since 2010’s Rise Up. But lead rapper B-Real (born Louis Freese) said in a recent interview with The Marquee that they may have jumped the gun on that announcement.
“We’re finishing up the album, but I don’t necessarily know if it’s coming out this spring, like we had hoped,” Freese said. “We’re done. Muggs [DJ Muggs, Cypress Hill’s DJ and producer] is putting the last finishing touches on it, production-wise. But we don’t want to rush it out. We want to make sure we put it out at the right time. In my opinion it makes a bit more sense to put it out next year because of all the things that are happening then.”
Freese explained that the new album, which they are currently calling Elephants on Acid as a working title only, is “on the fence” because of some milestones that both the band and the marijuana movement have on the horizon. “Next year is the 20th anniversary of our third album Temples of Boom,” Freese said. “It’s also the 25th anniversary of our first self-titled album, and God willing, next year we’ll be celebrating legalization in California too! So to me it just makes more sense to put it out next year.”
Freese said that despite the delays, he’s excited to reveal the new sound of Cypress Hill when Elephants on Acid, or whatever it will end up being called, is eventually released. He and fellow Cypress rapper Sen Dog (Senen Reyes) put a lot of faith in DJ Muggs who has tweaked the Cypress Hill sound for the new record. “It’s got a Cypress Hill feel, but it’s not a ’90s Cypress sound. It’s what Cypress sounds like now and it’s part of our evolution. It’s dark and moody, at times very energetic, and a little bit more psychedelic but with an edge on it. Whereas a lot of producers are going for a more polished or electronic sound, Muggs is going the total opposite route,” Freese said.
While it’s normal for a lot of hip-hop groups to write and record their parts separately these days, B-Real said that Cypress Hill revels in the moments when ideas are flying around the studio and therefore work closely together in person, in the same studio. “We like to be together throwing ideas around and so there’s no one set way that we do things, we just go by the vibes. Muggs will play us beats and we’ll note a few things and sometimes whole songs and ideas just hit us in the studio,” he said.
This summer Cypress Hill will launch a massive European tour, and with that out of their system, it could very well lead to a one-two punch of the new album and a U.S. tour next year. “We’ve neglected touring in the U.S. because Europe is so off the hook for us and we have so many offers over there, but the States are our roots, so we want to make sure we’re solid here. There will definitely be a couple of different options for tours in the States,” he said.
When Cypress Hill touches down in Denver this month though, B-Real will have his sights not only set on the “420 In the Streets” concert in front of Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom but he’ll also be wearing his hat as a budding ganjapreneur at the High Times Cannabis Cup. As Dr. Greenthumb, B-Real has been testing the waters of medical marijuana at home, and his delivery service Dr. Greenthumb, has already brought home a few Cannabis Cup awards in California, including a second place finish in the Best Sativa category for his Tangerine strain. “No longer am I a spectator on the outside,” Freese said. “I’m in the game now.”
Dr. Greenthumb applied for and won a lottery that will allow Freese to open up a storefront this fall. He explained that they are currently still going through paperwork and building renovations, but that the actual cooperative should open its doors, hopefully in October.
Freese has also launched a product line called Phuncky Feel Tips with RooR glass. The small glass tips that joints and blunts can be inserted into, were first created under a Cypress Hill merchandising license, and Freese said that was one of the steps for bringing his two worlds together. “I knew that if I started things right away with Cypress Hill there would be some extra scrutiny,” Freese said. “So I went in first to show that we could do it responsibly and put out good quality meds, do it right and show the city that this creates jobs, and creates revenue and tax dollars. We want to be one of the templates for others to follow. The next step will be bringing Cypress Hill into the fold.”
For B-Real, even as a legend in marijuana culture, he said he’s always very cognizant of the impacts he can make by being respectful and keeping things on the up and up. The man who has smoked in more places with more people than most of us can imagine, isn’t just a champion of weed, but also an example setter for how to handle certain situations. Last year in fact, when Cypress Hill was performing in Gulf Port, Miss., the band, who is known for lighting up on stage, nearly got into trouble, and most likely would have, if Freese didn’t lead a rational response to the situation. During Cypress Hill’s set, as the group was in the midst of their marijuana medley, law enforcement approached the stage and told one of the band’s techs that “Someone has to tell these motherfuckers this ain’t Colorado. I’m gonna say this as nice as I can: If he sparks that joint up one more time, you and all your buddies are going to jail.”
That warning might have elicited a flippant response from some, but Freese and his bandmates kept their wits about them and quickly diffused the situation.“It’s easy to get standoff-ish and start arguing your point, but if there’s not legislation in Mississippi then your point is invalid and you’re arguing to a wall at that point. If you push too hard you’re going to end up in jail and there’s no protection for medical marijuana users in Mississippi,” he said.
Freese, who earlier this year put out his solo mixtape The Prescription, said he has used that incident and others like it over the years to help further the cause of legalization, not by confronting authorities over it, but by respecting them and their demands, and he said it’s something that a lot of people in both legal states and non-legal states could easily do to promote the marijuana movement. “If you’re respectful and they see that, they become a little bit more open minded. They expect us to be standoff-ish and blow smoke in their face or whatever. They’re expecting to do battle. But when you comply and show them that you’re respectful and not out of your mind they change a bit and think ‘Maybe these people ain’t so bad.’”
420 in the Streets
Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
April 20 noon to 11pm
Go If You Dig:
- Method Man & Redman
- House of Pain
- Snoop Dogg