Eight long years have passed since Cypress Hill lit up your radios with a new album. The wait is finally over as the group released Elephants on Acid last week, their ninth full-length project.
Consisting of B-Real, Sen Dog, Eric Bobo, and DJ Muggs, the group’s new single and accompanying video “Band of Gypsies” takes you on a spiritual and literal high through the Middle East.
The Weekly recently spoke with pioneering member Sen Dog (born Senen Reyes) about the band’s spiritual journey to get here, adding a new high-profile member on tour, and the current state of hip-hop from an OG’s perspective.
OC Weekly (Michael Silver): Congrats on the new album being released. How long was this project in the works?
Sen Dog: Conversationally about five years ago we talked about working with (DJ) Muggs. I think three years ago it really got serious and a lot of tracks were coming down the line and guys were going hard on it.
There’s a heavy dose of Middle Eastern vibes on the record, where did those influences come from?
Muggs being the producer of the album, he’s been traveling the world to get new insights and get fresh ideas on recording with musicians from other parts of the planet. I really respect that about him. His life inspiration is to create music. He went to Egypt, Jordan, Italy, and Joshua Tree to get creative.
You guys added the legendary Mix Master Mike as your touring DJ. How did that relationship form and what has it been like working together?
Mike is our live DJ now and Muggs does the producing stuff. It’s a new dynamic now because each DJ plays differently. Everyone brings his or her own twist to the live show. We’ve only done about ten shows with Mike so we’re still in the process of learning each other on stage and in rehearsals. It’s all been adding up so far! We’re having fun with him up there.
Your group has been in the game since 1991. Did you foresee it lasting this long?
No, we never foresaw it lasting this long. We thought we would be around 6-7-8 years or something like that with two or three albums. We didn’t know if people were going to like our music because it was too hardcore underground and we were wrong about all that shit (laughs).
Looking back now, I guess we made some really good moves and we just love what we do so much. Our fans have been around for almost 30 years? It’s been wild, a long ride and at the same time a short ride. I get to do what I love for a living which is to entertain.
What’s your take on the auto-tune and mumble rappers currently flooding the airwaves?
Before answering that I’d like to give respect to everybody out there doing it as a career, making money, touring, being successful weather I like the music or not. I give props to the businessperson that makes it happen. Some of the rappers now, you can tell they’ve paid attention to the old school, you can hear it in their music.
I find that a lot of what they call rappers or hip-hop today, I call it ‘Glam Rap,’ similar to the rockers in the ‘80s suddenly went from hardcore heavy scene in the ‘70s to glam rock. Hip-hop is in a similar state right now, its more about the fashion and how you look then how you actually sound. To me these guys are getting more attention for what they do off stage. It’s definitely gone commercial and there are a lot of styles that are not say anything, there just songs you know to dance to? I think like everything else, hip-hop will go 360° and comeback to meaningful stuff.
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— Cypress Hill ™ (@cypresshill) September 24, 2018
You’re originally from Cuba, is that right? Is being bilingual more of a challenge or seamless when making rhymes?
Yeah my family came to the United States when I was seven. It’s natural, to me when I rap in Spanish I tend to go off and put in curse words I heard my parents use growing up. Using it as an avenue to express myself for who I am as a Latino. I didn’t come from a glamorous neighborhood, or anything like that growing up, I come from the streets.
My Spanish lyrics like (the track) “Latin Lingo,” it describes that lifestyle you know? It was important that we put that in (to the music). At first we didn’t want to because other groups like A Lighter Shade of Brown were doing their thing, but our label talked us into it last minute. Representing my Latino side was very important and it’s an added feature when you can rap in more than one language.
The band has a couple of LA shows lined up later this month. What can fans expect and how much of the new album do you want to perform?
We start our North American tour in a few days and have rehearsals tomorrow, so if we talked a day after that I’d have a better idea (laughs). When you come to a Cypress Hill show, man expect the classics “Insane in the Membrane” and “How To Kill a Man,” all the jams. Now we have new material so add that to the whole thing and jump around, get high, mosh pit a little bit. Based on the reaction we’ve gotten from “Band of Gypsies” people have gone crazy for it so I think they’ll have a good time with the new material. Cypress Hill 2018, we’re coming brand new man, it’s crazy.
Cypress Hill perform at the El Rey Theatre Oct. 25 and the Roxy Oct. 26. Their full tour begins February 2019 in Anaheim, CA.
Michael Silver is a journalist and photographer based in Southern California. He covers music, sports, technology, and streetwear. Tips & pitches: firstname.lastname@example.org