By M. Solis
It's hard to believe that 13 years have passed since Cypress Hill emerged from Los Angeles to push Latino hip-hop to global heights. With more than 15 million albums sold worldwide, the trio of B-Real, Sen Dog, and DJ Muggs recently returned with their seventh LP, Till Death Do Us Part.
Their latest offering harkens back to their early work while expanding on their recent shift towards sonic mestizaje. Till Death features strong collaborations with Damian Marley, Tego Calderon, and Rancid's Tim Armstrong, as well as tight extrapolations of the Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere" and The Clash's "Guns of Brixton." In the pantheon of hip-hop, Muggs, the man behind the music, is slept on for the same reason Marshall Mathers is revered: the color of his skin. His production sound is a fusion of RZA's murkiness and the Bomb Squad's urgency, with a knack for experimentation, placing him in the company of heavyweight cats like Pete Rock, Erick Sermon, and Rick Rubin.
Current: Where do you think you rank in terms of all-time hip-hop producers?
Muggs: I can't compare Rembrandt with DaVinci. They're all masters. When you're a master, nobody's better than nobody, everybody's just different.
Now if you want to judge me and my success commercially as opposed to other people, you can't do that. It's an art. It transcends all that. I think I've been overlooked a lot. I don't know what the case was; maybe I wasn't the producer who tried to go get on everybody's album cause I never wanted to take that road because then I become a slave to each artist. I've always prided myself as more than just a beatmaker. I look at myself as a musical inventor because every time I take on a new project I try to invent a new sound and invent new styles and push the envelope of this music and bring something fresh to this music.
Current: How do you approach the process of making beats?
Muggs: Actually, there isn't a process. Every day I go in the studio I might come in with a different thought. I come in with a record one day. I might start with live musicians one day. I hit it from different angles depending on the textures of the style of music I'm trying to do. I can go regurgitate any sound I've created, no problem, but my thing ain't to paint the same picture every time. I've got those beats from them days but I'm like, "What's the next sound in hip-hop?"
I'm constantly trying to invent that next sound. You're gonna fail nine out of 10 times 'til you hit that next sound and revolutionize the music again, but that's something I take pride in.
Current: What are some of the things that you attribute to Cypress Hill's longevity and success?
We ain't getting in front of them with our videos and our records getting pumped on the radio all day, we gotta get out there and do shows. We'll end up on a straight hip-hop tour or we'll be on a straight rock tour, you never know where we're gonna be. We kind of created our own world within a world of music, which basically you want to do at the end of the day anyway. I can't worry about where the music's going and what the new trend is 'cause if I'm trying to do all that shit, I'm just another slave to the rhythm.
Current: How do you feel about the current state of hip-hop?
Muggs: It's become a lot of watered-down shit, a lot of big money. It isn't about how creative you are and how new and inventive you are anymore. It's about "Do you fit the criteria for what radio and video want to play today?" That's pop music, cookie cutter. It's become that. Me being me, I just gotta find a way to coexist and be successful within that realm without having to fall into that category, and I have.
It seems like there's nothing in hip-hop called biting anymore. You used to not be able to dress like anybody. You used to not be able to use anybody's slang words or talk like them or use the same beats. If you did you was just automatically wack and that was it. You used to have to have a live show. That was your only outlet for people to really hear you and see you so you would build up your live show before you would make hit records. Now everybody's making hit records and they don't have a live show. Now everbody's dressing the same and sounding the same. That's the new slang. "Oh, we're doing that on the next record. Oh, that's the hot producer; everybody go and get him." That's where it lost. •
By M. Solis