By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
But that was 15 years ago, and Cypress haven’t gone platinum since 2000’s Skull and Bones. Had B-Real released Smoke and Mirrors a decade ago, it would’ve easily gone gold. But times are tortuous for a veteran rapper in 2009, with the industry ever fixated on youth, and radio reticent to spin songs from even the most lionized local legends — save for Snoop and Dre, who continue to get a free pass from the payola powers that be.
“The radio stations here are different from the ones in New York. They don’t support local up-and-coming artists,” Real opines. “Sometimes, the veterans get overlooked too.”
Despite its preternatural catchiness, Real’s local roots and its Marley guest spot, “Fire” has yet to be added to Power 106’s playlist, a fact likely attributable to Real’s decision to release Smoke and Mirrors on venerable New York indie Duck Down Records. (At the present moment, Los Angeles’ leading urban-radio powerhouse does not have a single independent song in rotation.)
“I had other deals on the table but had to turn them all down because they wanted me to do what Cypress does,” Real relates. “I couldn’t do that. I needed to have a distinction between my shit and Cypress. I didn’t want to use the Cypress sound or imagery or feel. It had to be different.”
With Cypress Hill still together and tentatively slated to release their eighth studio album later this year, it’s understandable that Real would eschew leaning on his brethren. Accordingly, Smoke and Mirrors boasts no Muggs beats, with the brunt of production handled by local heavyweights Scoop DeVille, Soopafly and Real himself.
“I’ve been making beats for seven or eight years, on and off,” Real says proudly. “I never put them out there because I wanted to develop my style. I learned from watching Muggs put stuff together. He taught me that just because you make a beat, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to throw it out there.”
Ultimately, though, Real may have created Smoke and Mirrors from his own stash. Even sans Muggs and the weed anthems, his style remains singular enough to satisfy the core cadre of Cypress Hill heads. Besides, he’s still far from shying from the pothead persona, issuing a recent YouTube smoke-off challenge to Juelz Santana, and releasing the lone marijuana missive as the lead single. “Mary Jane and I are as close as ever,” he grins.
Indeed, mid-interview, as he articulates his desire to break free from the typecasting, a lanky brunette woman dressed like Xena the Warrior Princess approaches. Apologizing for interrupting, she introduces herself and hands him a business card for her weed-delivery service. The stoned raider laughs and tells her that he’ll take her up on the offer.