When South Gate hip-hop group Cypress Hill released the album Black Sunday in 1993, they literally helped to redefine the musical landscape. Everybody loved that album. As was the case with Rage Against the Machine, the album brought fans of rock and rap into harmony in a way that even Run-D.M.C.'s collaboration with Aerosmith couldn't achieve, despite Cypress Hill not really featuring any rock elements, musically. It just clicked.
The album, with its Gothic artwork, dark themes and heavy stench of weed, broke down barriers alongside RATM (whose Tom Morello recently has been working with Cypress Hill's B-Real in supergroup Prophets of Rage), the Anthrax and Public Enemy slam through “Bring the Noise” and the incredible soundtrack to the average action movie Judgement Night. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album charts, and songs such as “Insane in the Brain” and “I Ain't Goin' Out Like That” were worldwide smashes. Cypress Hill were on top of the world, reaching all sorts of ears.
The next few albums didn't quite reach Black Sunday levels, but they were hardly failures. But certainly by the time the 2000s came to an end, enthusiasm for the band had waned, even within the ranks. Side projects happened and, following 2010's Rise Up, band members took a good long break. Then, in September, the ninth studio album, Elephants on Acid, was released. According to rapper Sen Dog, it marks a return to form.
“The reaction we've seen from our world tour so far, in South America, Canada and Europe, has been very good — turnouts at the concerts and people excited to see the band,” he says. “It's good to have a new album out, and support that album, and to see where our real fans are at after so many years. It's proving that they still have our backs and they've been waiting for us to come out. So we've been pleased with the reaction of the fans, and we've been getting some writeups, too. They say in this business, you can't please everyone.”
The members of Cypress Hill are 26 years older than they were when they recorded Black Sunday and, perhaps more pertinent, eight years older than they were when they recorded Rise Up. Naturally, they've evolved as humans and as musicians.
“In those eight years we had time to think and look back, wonder about the future, wonder what we're gonna make happen,” Sen Dog says. “We grew in the sense that we made our brotherhood strong again — for a while guys were off doing their own thing and taking care of their own business, and we started to focus back on the group, on Cypress Hill. We got DJ Muggs to come back into the fold and produce the album, and his producing talent had grown extensively since the last time we worked with him. I think that helped us come up with more interesting content for the record, for sure.”
The return of Muggs is important. The DJ left the fold in 2004 after Til Death Do Us Part, and didn't produce Rise Up (though he did act as executive producer on a couple of songs). But he's back on Elephants on Acid, and his presence is most welcome.
“It makes a big difference, because that was how the formula worked when we first started,” Sen Dog explains. “It was the two of us [B-Real and Sen Dog] and him, together all the time, coming up with stuff. He's the one who made that great Cypress Hill sound, the vibe, when you listen to those records. He's responsible for that. So bringing him back into the mix, I felt like we brought that vibe back, but in the sense that it's in the now. We're not trying to do 'Insane in the Brain' or 'How I Could Just Kill a Man' again. But we went in and brought those roots back out.”
Much has changed with the world since Rise Up. Chaos reigns in Trump's America, and that must have had an impact on the songwriting, as well as the general mood in the camp.
“There's a couple of things that B says on that album that makes me feel he's politically aware of what's going on,” Sen Dog says. “As far as I think, we need to get serious again about that position [the president] again in America. Right now, it's a joke. I don't know what's going on. There's drama every day. We need more stability in the country, and less chaos. I attribute that to the person at the top.”
Meanwhile, recreational marijuana was legalized in California while they were away. For a band that plays so heavily on weed themes, that is surely reason to celebrate.
“That's cool, but that's something I feel was going to happen anyway,” Sen Dog says. “That should have happened a while back. That was a no-brainer, if you ask me.”
On Feb. 19, Cypress Hill kick off the West Coast High tour with rap rockers Hollywood Undead, as well as Xzibit and Demrick, at the House of Blues in Anaheim. They'll then spend February and March traveling around the country, returning to SoCal for a date at the Wiltern on March 23.
“I'm excited about the tour. It's always great to be able to tour the United States,” Sen Dog says. “And I'm a fan of everybody that's on the tour. It's always more interesting when you're a fan of everybody and you have history, like we do with Xzibit and Demrick. So it's a big family thing. We've been hanging with the Hollywood Undead guys, we've known them for a couple of years now. They're very into what they do, and they're very serious and very entertaining. It's gonna be a hella tour. People better not miss this one.”
As for the set? You pretty much know what to expect by now.
“People can always expect a run-down of the catalog,” Sen Dog says. “But now with this new album, we've been out with it for a little while and performing, coming up with some new routines and stuff. So people can expect to hear the classics along with new stuff. And of course, our whole 420 get-down. That's part of every tour we do.
“The Cypress Hill experience is a party. We want people to just have a good time, forget about their problems for three or four hours, and just get down with us.”