DJ Muggs at 44 still rocks his skull cap and looks not unlike the 20-something hip-hop head who first appeared in Cypress Hill's video for "How I Could Just Kill a Man." He sits at a laptop in his Burbank studio, playing a track he recently produced featuring a pair of hit Queens rappers, Action Bronson and Meyhem Lauren. It features one of the famed producer's trademark dark, gritty, neck-snapping beats. "I made that in, like, 10 minutes," he says, adding that his critically acclaimed 2010 album with Ill Bill, Kill Devil Hills, was entirely crafted in three weeks.
The problem seems to be that hip-hop comes a little too easy for Muggs, whose career spans more than 20 years; seven Cypress Hill albums; three compilation albums for his production company, Soul Assassins; and a string of hits for folks like House of Pain, Beastie Boys and Ice Cube. So it makes a bit of sense that he'd want to do something different on his new work, Bass for Your Face, out Jan. 15. What's not so clear is why he decided on dubstep.
"I just fucking loved the music," he says, adding that he first heard dubstep in 2006 while touring Europe. "It reminded me of that same spirit when I first heard hip-hop. It was real raw, it was stripped down, it was all about basslines and drums and the crowds ... The kids loved it! So I go, I'm gonna make a [dubstep] record, but I'm going to do it my way."
The work has electronic wobbles from front to back but doesn't sound like your average Skrillex record. It's more rhythmic, and it features rappers including Chuck D, Roc Marciano and Freddie Gibbs.
Muggs actually has made electronic music before, on his 2003 album, Dust, which was inspired by the sonics of acts like Radiohead and The Prodigy. On Bass for Your Face, however, the beats are harder and louder -- and will rattle the hell out of your trunk.
"When Cypress came out, [non-hip-hop fans] were like, I don't like hip-hop but I like Cypress Hill. So my shit was to tap into that. [Bass for Your Face will] let everybody know that they don't have to live in a one-dimensional existence and do one thing."
It seems that making these electronic tracks opened up something inside of Muggs. Where he'd previously been bored with rap, he says, he suddenly made 60 new hip-hop tracks in about two months. They'll be featured on works including an upcoming untitled Cypress Hill album; oddly, however, Muggs had nothing to do with the group's 2012 collaboration with English dubstep producer Rusko.
"They kind of took over the ship for a few years -- they wanted to go in their own creative direction," Muggs says. (He also only contributed only two tracks to Cypress Hill's 2010 album, Rise Up.) "We sat down and had a conversation. I pretty much steered the Cypress Hill ship up to a point, and they wanted to do some different things and I was in a different creative space, so we shook hands. They've been steering the ship the way they've wanted to steer it. It's all good, but I'm doing the new Cypress album now."
In any case, this isn't the last we'll hear of Muggs' electronica. After Bass for Your Face, which will be released by the New York-based electronic/dance label Ultra Music (Kaskade, Deadmau5), he plans to fulfill a three-EP deal with the imprint.
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