B-Real: The AllHipHop Interview
B-Real was first introduced to us back in 1991 as the front-man for the South Gate, CA group Cypress Hill. Fueled by B-Reals trademark nasal rap voice, Cypress Hills self-titled debut album took the rap world by storm on the strength of cuts such as How I Could Just Kill A Man, Hand On The Pump and Stoned Is The Way Of The Walk.
Although the use of marijuana had been lightly discussed in previous rap songs by other artists, Cypress Hill took the subject matter to a much higher level as the entire album was dedicated to the smoking lifestyle. The momentum continued for B-Real and Cypress Hill as their next album Black Sunday contained the huge cross-over hit Insane In The Brain and found themselves to be the first rap act to have two albums in the Billboard 200 at the same time.
Nearly 14 years, 6 albums and countless tours later, the group is still going strong and will be preparing their next release sometime in 2009. However, this February will also mark the release of B-Reals long-awaited solo release, Smoke N Mirrors, in which the rapper will also be showcasing his very own skills as a producer. B-Real took the time to speak to us in this exclusive interview about his career, the upcoming solo release and of course the new Cypress Hill album which will also feature music production from a variety of producersa first for a Cypress Hill group album.
AllHipHop.com: Youve finally gone out and completed a solo album. Tell us about the Smoke N Mirrors.
B-Real: Smoke N Mirrors will be released on Duck Down Records in February 2009. Its my first solo release. Ive put out a few mixtapes in between now and the time that I started the record. Its been a long time coming and we are going to try to set it off with this one.
AllHipHop.com: Sen-Dog just released his first solo album a few months ago and now you are about to release yours. After nearly 17 years since your group release, what has taken you so long to release this solo LP?
B-Real: Sen has records out there. Hes done stuff with his brother and their group, The Reyes Brothers, and with his other group called SX-10. For me, aside from the work Ive done with Psycho Realm, this is my first album outside of Cypress Hill. Cypress Hill is such a functional group that we are always off touring and stuff like that to where it didnt give me time to do a solo record. Besides that, I didnt really have any aspirations to do one for a long time because Cypress Hill was the machine and my main focusand it still is.
The thing that sparked me to do the solo album was something that Busta Rhymes told me. He was like, You need to do a solo record. Keep Cypress Hill the way it is, but also go and do some solo s**t, that way you can give people a different look. I thought about that for a long time but I didnt have a set time frame that I could do it in. After our last Cypress record we were done with our deal with Sony so we could take our time with the next group record and do the projects that weve always wanted to do. I took my time in doing this new record. It took three years but I took my time to get the right kind of music together in order to make a good and cohesive album as opposed to just throwing a bunch of songs together.
Cypress Hill "Real Estate" Video
AllHipHop.com: Whats the difference between your solo album and a Cypress Hill album?
B-Real: A Cypress Hill album consists of me, Sen-Dog and Muggs and all of our contributions together. Its mainly Muggs doing all of the beats with me and Sen Dog doing the writing and the concepts. With this solo album I did most of it on my own back. I did all of the writingwell not at all of itI collaborated with Young De and he contributed a lot to my record. Hes one of the new cats in my camp that we are trying to bring up. The other thing that is different is that Muggs didnt produce anything on this album.
AllHipHop.com: Any reason for that?
B-Real: Well, I didnt want this record to be an extension of Cypress Hill. If me and Muggs do something then it will get looked at as that. I wanted to stay away from that. I know that he would have given me heaters because Muggs is one of the best producers out there, but I had to carry this on my back. I produce as well and I wanted to get my production out there and I wanted to do a different style of beats than what we do on Cypress Hill records. Doing that would make my own record distinct and I wouldnt be piggy-backing off of Cypress Hill because that is something that people would naturally think that I would do.
Cypress Hill songs are real street and gritty with a lot of obvious weed references. My solo record is a combination of street s**t and social content. There arent a lot of marijuana references in the songs because thats also a Cypress Hill staple. I didnt want to take too much from that. I did one song that is in reference to weed, but I didnt make the whole album like that.
AllHipHop.com: When Cypress Hill was founded, was it in your plans to be such huge pro-marijuana advocates?
B-Real: No, it was just one of those things that happened. We smoked a lot of weed and we wanted to be as real as possible and just be ourselves. It wasnt like we got together and decided to do it because there wasnt anybody in the rap game reppin weed. Its something that came about naturally because its who we were and are to this very day. I never foresaw that it would become what it has. It was unintentional but its been a good look for us.
AllHipHop.com: When you guys first came out, I thought you all were New Yorkers. Have you heard that a lot?
B-Real: Yes, because there is a place on the border of Brooklyn and Queens called Cypress Hills, so people thought that we were from there. Muggs is actually from Queens but hes lived out in Los Angeles for a long time so hes bi-coastal. People were confused because our sound was East Coast but our lyrics and content were West Coast.
Cypress Hill "How I Could Just Kill a Man" Video
AllHipHop.com: Whats the history on your nasal sounding rap style? Have you been using that from day one?
B-Real: I didnt always use it. When we were doing our demos and were in the middle of being good as opposed to ok, I just tampered with that style. Me and Mellow Man Ace were tampering with it and he actually put it out first with this song called Rhyme Fighter. We both came up with it but he did it first. When I started writing for our Cypress songs, I started f**king with it but I put a higher tone on the style. Mellow Man tried it once but I was going to do it for the whole f**king record. The group liked it but I didnt like it at first. It took a minute for me to like it because the voice that I rapped in before that is the voice that you hear me talk with. My regular voice wasnt cutting it so the group was like, You better come up with something otherwise we are just going to have you write for Sen Dog. I didnt want just be a writer for someone else, so I started developing this style. Sen Dog found a way to compliment my new style deep beta voice. We came up with that formula and it worked.
AllHipHop.com: Are we ever going to hear a song with your normal voice?
B-Real: I dont think so. Maybe, you never know it just depends. There was one song that came kind of close and its called Prelude To A Come Up with MC Eiht. I started my voice on a low tone like I was talking. Then in the middle of the song I got louder with my voice projecting harder. Thats about as close as I have come to rapping in my normal voice. So the song starts off soft and mellow and then goes hard. A lot of people bit that f***in style. If you go back and listen to that song and then listen to certain popular and classic rappers, they bit my f***in style from that song. If you check the year on that song Prelude To A Come Up and compare it to all of these other rappers that started doing that in their songs, you will know that they got it from B-Rizzle. I can make claims for a lot of things that n***as took from Cypress Hill but I wont even start to get in to that.
Its a combination of three things: quality music, great live shows and fan interaction that have kept us in the game When you start thinking that you are the best dude out there, thats when you start slipping on your game and get complacent.
AllHipHop.com: Youve been in this business for a long time and you have seen a lot of artists fall by the wayside. How have you been able to remain in the rap game?
B-Real: We just try to be real with ourselves. Youve got to put out quality music consistently, which we have done, whether its a hit or just a dope ass record out there. On tour our fans love it regardless of it being a hit or something that doesnt get played regularly. If your music is good people will still come to your show. Our live shows have always gotten better. We never go backwards, its always been an entertaining show. Another thing we do is that we interact with our fanbase. We go out there, talk to them, take pictures, sign autographs, chill and smoke out with them. We make them feel like they are part of our family. Its a combination of those three things: quality music, great live shows and fan interaction that have kept us in the game.
The most important thing is checking our egos. We look at whats out there and try to be better than that. I never think that we are the f***in answer to all things. When you start thinking that you are the best dude out there, thats when you start slipping on your game and get complacent. You cant be complacent in this game. This is like being an athlete or a boxer. When you beat everybody that there is to beat, you stop training because you think there is nobody out there that can beat you. You get complacent and then some new guy out there pops up. You dont train that hard in your bout against him because you think hes going to be a pushover. Next thing you know, he knocks your motherf***in a** out! Its the same thing with rap music. People are always trying to get this so-called title of being the best rapper but there is no f***in best rapper alive. There are a lot of best rappers out there. Its just a matter of opinion on who you think that person is. There are rappers that are more successful than others, but that still doesnt make them better. Thats my opinion of it all.
AllHipHop.com: When you first came out there was a lot of money to be made in the rap business. Todays industry is so different. How do you survive in these times?
B-Real: Selling records is not the same as it used to be obviously. You have to live by your shows, merchandising and other methods that come your way like the ringtones, video games or commercials. There is always money out there to get. You have to have material out there that people want to hear. People have to want to go see you live. Rappers need to rethink their approach on how they are going to promote and market their records. There are artists still selling records, but as a whole, artists are not selling like they used to. The economy is f***ed up and people dont have the money to just go and buy records anymore. If they can get it for free, then they are going to get it for free. You being an artist knowing that, have to think of different ways to reel them in. You have to say, They liked my album and got it, now let me do a show because a live show experience cant be bootlegged. They can bootleg your T-Shirts and CD but they cant bootleg your show and thats the one way that we still make a lot of f***in money. If you have interaction with your fans, they will support you. They will not devaluate your music by not contributing to what they just saw and heard.
Some older artists give opportunities to the newer artists and some dont. Some are bitter and think that these new cats dont know the history. All of us that came up in our era had to know what Hip-Hop was and who started this s**t. There are kids now that dont respect any of that s**t, but there are also some that do.
AllHipHop.com: How long are you going to remain an active artist?
B-Real: I am going to be an artist for as long as I am happy still being one. I will always be involved with music though. My whole deal is that after I am done as an artist, I want to produce other artists. I want to produce and develop other artists, do scores for videogame and movie soundtracks, thats what I want to get in to. I want to give new artists the chance that I got from my boy Joe the Butcher from Ruffhouse Records. I want to help other artists out while at the same time building my own brand as a producer with my own production company Audio Hustlaz.
AllHipHop.com: A big gripe from newer artists is that they dont get much help from the older ones. How do you feel about that?
B-Real: Some older artists give opportunities to the newer artists and some dont. Some are bitter and think that these new cats dont know the history of where they come from. Its a valid thing because all of us that came up in our era had to know what Hip-Hop was and who started this s**t. There are kids now that dont respect any of that s**t, but there are also some that do. They are out there just like the ones that dont give a f**k who came before them and just want to do this to be famous and get money. I look at it like this; the young cats are the ones that we pass the torch to. They can be inspirational just like we have been in the past. When its your time to go, they are taking over and hopefully you can instill something in to them that will make them carry this game further. That way we can all contribute to this life and game that we call Hip-Hop.
A lot of kids dont understand the kind of push that it took to get in this game and then there are those that do understand it but because some of the vets are bitter, they cant get any help from them. That makes these younger cats get bitter and start saying, F**k these motherf***k! They dont want to look out for us so we will just go take the throne! Eventually somebody is going to bridge the gap and who knows who that will be. Me personally, I work with the younger cats. They keep me on my game. I hear them and know that I have to be better. Young De for instance is one of those new cats. Ive been working with him and putting him on a lot of my s**t as well as being on his own songs. Its a good look because it validates him in the game and then all of the young cats that like his stuff check out us veterans that are stomping him.
AllHipHop.com: Cypress Hill is in the process of making another album. Can you tell us about that?
B-Real: Yes we are. Its in the finishing stages now. We are done recording. Its going to be a f**king hot album, a lot of fire on that s**t. So far, its titled Smoke. Thats because we rise like smoke.
AllHipHop.com: Sen Dog told us recently that he had a lot of fun making this new Cypress Hill record.
B-Real: We made it fun. We tried to make sure that there was no pressure and that we got the sh*t right. Its not cool to make a record when you are not having fun doing it. Tension ends up getting in the way and your creative abilities end up getting stomped out. It ends up being hard to come up or want to come up with anything and you start saying, I dont want to be here. When you start looking at it like a job, its time to go on vacation and clear your head or call it quits.
AllHipHop.com: We heard that DJ Muggs is not doing the whole album and that you all have brought in different producers. Why did the group do that?
B-Real: We started out that way just to get the ball rolling. We reached out to my boy Apathy, this kid named Jake One and then I did some of the production myself. We also reached out to Pete Rock. Muggs ended up doing half of the album. We really didnt go to too many different producers for this. It started out that way because the album needed a jump start but in the end most of it was produced by Muggs and myself. Then of course there are the Pete Rock joints and the ones produced by a few up-and-comers. We didnt want to have too many because that makes for an album of gumbo with too many different sounds. You have to have s**t that is cohesive that makes the album sound like one piece.
AllHipHop.com: Did you just start producing?
B-Real: Ive been doing it for years now. I am just not someone that people know as a producer. To me its like this; whenever my s**t comes up and people hear it, I want to make sure that I did my job right. I dont want to be making beats and putting them out just because I can make beats. I didnt go out of my way to make a big deal out of me being a producer or go handing out beat CDs to people. I believe that if you are going to be a producer, then you have to have someone to develop so that your sound and their sound is one piecekind of like what Dr. Dre did with Snoop Dogg, Eminem and others. DJ Muggs did that with Cypress Hill. He focused his sound to us and we all developed this s**t together. This is what I am doing now with Young De. We get beats from other producers for the mixtapes but we will be doing most of the stuff on his record. People will start hearing my stuff. For me it was just timing and making sure that the right material that represented me got out there because I dont want some wack s**t getting out and people thinking that I do wack beats.
AllHipHop.com: Its very common for groups in the music world to break up. What has Cypress Hill done to avoid that so far?
B-Real: We all grew up together and knew each other before we were making music. The fact is that we dont spend all of our time together. When we are on the road we are all tight but off of the road we kick it together every now and then. We are not in each others faces all of the time so we dont end up getting on each others nerves. We are all very different thinking individuals but when it comes to Cypress Hill, we are all on one page. Thats been the factor. Weve had some disagreements at times and some rough patches together but we are brothers. You get rough patches, work it out, and go back to handling business.