|Label:||Audio Hustlaz/Duck Down|
|Next Project:||Smoke N' Mirrors|
With all the history hip-hop has already seen, it’s easy to forget that the genre is still a fairly young one, and many of the acts that pushed the game forward are only just beginning to receive the official recognition they deserve. At VH1’s 2008 Hip-Hop Honors ceremony, rap-rock giants Cypress Hill joined an elite circle of the genre’s most influential artists and groups. Frontman B-Real, however, is far from done making musical history.
After 21 years in the industry, B-Real is getting ready to make his official debut as a solo act. Set to hit store shelves February 24th, Smoke N’ Mirrors will find the South Gate, CA native throwing back the curtain to show fans the true nature of the game, while serving up more of the genre-bending beats and hot rhymes that made him and the Hill legends. As evidenced by Damian Marley-featuring lead single “Fire,” and Young De collaboration “Don’t Ya Dare Laugh,” Smoke N’ Mirrors should be music to the ears of old-school listeners, and is sure to bring plenty of newcomers into the fold.
In an exclusive interview with our very own DJ “Z,” B-Real steps into the Booth to discuss his most exciting moment with the Hill, how the industry has changed since ‘88, and who comes out on top in a battle of “Dude VS. Homie.”
Listen to the Interview
B-Real Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a 21-year veteran in the music industry who just last year became a VH1 Hip-Hop honoree. Preparing to release his first solo project ever, please welcome the frontman from the pioneering rap/rock group Cypress Hill – how you doin’, man?
B-Real: How’s it goin’? Just chillin’ out here in L.A., enjoying the weather.
DJ Booth: You had to throw that in there, knowing that Chicago is colder than the North Pole – thanks, B!
B-Real: [laughs] My bad, man. But, you know, on another note, I love Chicago, so it’s all good.
DJ Booth: I love it, too, especially when it’s not looking like a snow globe. Cypress Hill was formed back in ‘88, so we’re talkin’ 21 years. What are your fondest memories from when this all began, your musical journey?
B-Real: You know, there’s a lot of good memories from when we started with the Hill. One of them definitely was hearing our song, “Kill a Man,” in the Juice movie. That was a big deal for us, ‘cause’ we had been out for quite a while up to that point, and the record company was like, “Well, is this thing gonna take off or not?” As soon as people started playing the “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” song on the mix shows, the people from the Juice soundtrack, they wanted that song for a particular scene, which was the main scene where ‘Pac and the other guy go at it.
DJ Booth: And Bishop kills him.
B-Real: Yeah, and when that song came on in the movie, immediately people started jumpin’ up like, “Oh, sh*t!” It bugged us out, ‘cause we didn’t know how big of an impact we had with that song. That was one of the most memorable things, when we first started.
DJ Booth: What one aspect of the recording industry which was prevalent when you first started – so, late ‘80s, early ‘90s – would you like to see make a return here in 2009. And you can’t say “more CD sales,” ‘cause that’s the obvious answer.
B-Real: I dunno, man. There was more creativity back then – they had their own sound, they had their own distinctive formula of recording and whatnot. It seems like these days you hear less and less of that. A lot of sh*t is generic and sounds the same, and sometimes you can’t even tell who’s the artist on the song, ‘cause it all sounds the same. So if there was any one thing, probably back to that. And as far as the record companies are concerned, I would like to see them go back to the artist development times, ‘cause right now it’s real cookie-cutter – there’s no artist development, they don’t care if you have longevity or not. They’re looking for that quick hit, ‘cause they need something to save the industry, and they think that that’s gonna be the way. But really, throughout the history of music, it’s always been, if you had a quality album that would give you the longevity – you had, like, a whole album that was just bangin’, from beginning to end, and not just a bunch of singles.
DJ Booth: It certainly has become a here today, gone tomorrow industry, and, like you said, longevity is the key, and obviously Cypress Hill was able to thrive and flourish because of just that: the creativity you guys put into your records. Really, the culmination of your success last year was honored at the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors. People were starting to use words like “legendary” and “iconic.” Are these flattering compliments long overdue, or do you feel you’re mostly still unrecognized?
B-Real: What, as far as the Hill goes?
DJ Booth: Yeah.
B-Real: I think it’s partially both. We’ve been recognized for a lot of the stuff we’ve done. You know, some people have turned away from some of the sh*t we’ve done because of who we are, what we talk about. I look at it like, as long as the fans are in support of us and what we do, and they get where we’re coming from, that’s the main thing to me. All the other stuff, it’s extra and it’s great to be recognized and loved and all that stuff, from critics and writers and journalists, and even from your peers, but what the fans think and love and stuff like that, and that’s who we do it for. So as long as they recognize, all the other stuff is cool, it’s extra.
DJ Booth: While recording as a member of a group for 17 years, at what point did you know that eventually you wanted to and you needed to release a solo project, just B-Real?
B-Real: Well, I never felt that I needed to do one or I had to do one, it was just more that I wanted to do one. So many years of doin’ Cypress Hill, and as an artist, you have different creative type of concepts or ideas that you wanna get out, that might not go with the formula of what Cypress Hill is, so sometimes you feel a little bit bottled up within a formula when you have other ideas. You definitely don’t wanna ruin the mothership by bringing in these foreign ideas that might not work for it. I figured, I’ll wait till the time’s right, and I’ll get these ideas out through another project or my own album. And, fortunately, after the last Cypress Hill record, which was, Till Death Do Us Part that was our last record for Sony, so we didn’t really have any deadline to turn in a new album for Cypress. I think we all decided at that point, “Well, let’s just take our time and sort of get all the projects we wanted to knock out out of the way.”
DJ Booth: Well, your time has certainly come, ‘cause on February 24th, Smoke N’ Mirrors is going to be released via Duck Down Records. Does the title of the project, B, imply that, when it comes to your music, there’s more than meets the eye?
B-Real: Definitely – I mean, that’s what the whole Smoke N’ Mirrors concept is: you see these hip-hop videos or rap videos, whether it’s on MTV, BET, or whatever-
DJ Booth: Come on, they don’t play videos anymore!
B-Real: Well, but when they do, and when they did, you see these videos where these rappers are livin’ in mansions and drivin’ Lamborghinis and Ferraris and Bentleys and all this other sh*t, they got all these chicks around, jewelry; people have a perception that that’s what it is for every rapper, that’s how it is when you get in the game, and that’s just really not what it is, because at the end of that video, all that sh*t is going to its rightful owner.
DJ Booth: ...return it, it was rented.
B-Real: Yeah, from the mansion they were in to the girls they cast in the video, they’re all goin’ home, and so are you. And record companies and the video outlets and some of these rappers, they pretty much give you this perception that this is what it is, and it’s really not what it is, and a lot of people are struggling to get in the game and struggling to make a living and to have that kind of success. That’s why the term “starving artist” exists, and a lot of those people who have those nice f*ckin’ videos are those same starving artists, but the way that it’s perceived is a totally different game. That’s pretty much what the concept is: not everything is what it seems, don’t judge the book by its cover, all those f*ckin’ clichés, you know?
DJ Booth: The lead single off the album is the Damien Marley-assisted “Fire.” As its title suggest, it’s hot. Time for B-Real to be real with me: how much weed was smoked prior to, during, and after this record was recorded?
B-Real: Oh, man… probably a couple of pounds. [laughs] We had been working on it for the better part of two and a half, three years. It pretty much started at my house, ‘cause I had my studio here in my house, and all the groundwork was laid here, and then me and my partner acquired a studio. We’ve been at that studio for about two, three years, and we’ve just been knockin’ it out. We recorded somewhere along the lines of 40 songs. We picked the best 15, 16 out of ‘em. It was a long process, but we wanted to get it right; we wanted to make sure that we had the right songs that all went together, to make it a cohesive piece as opposed to just an album full of songs that really don’t go together or mesh well. We’re in the studio every day, comin’ up with something, for three years straight, knockin’ it down. I mean, we had a couple of days off here and there, but it was a long process, so we needed a bunch of weed to help us through it.
DJ Booth: Understandable. Well, it’s important to stay in that creative mindset, so whatever can help you get there, can’t argue with that. Let’s talk about one of the songs on the album that kinda sparked an interest in me: track 13, it’s entitled “Dude VS. Homie.” I’ve not heard the record, but I can tell you this much: I don’t mind when someone calls me their homie, but I cannot stand when someone calls me “dude.” Where do you stand on this [matter]?
B-Real: [laughs] You know, that’s funny you say that, ‘cause back in the day, Muggs couldn’t stand for anybody to call him “dude.” If you called him “dude,” he would f*ckin’ flip the f*ck out, so I totally get that. The “Dude VS. Homie” concept, it’s the story of two dudes, they’re both hustlers, but one is a cool motherf*cker that everybody loves, he’s always on the grind, tryin’ to make sh*t happen for him and his family, and the other guy is the dude who, he’s also a hustler, but he’s more of a theivin’, connivin’ motherf*cker – he doesn’t really wanna hustle; he’d rather let you go hustle and steal it from you. It’s a pretty cool concept, I think, and when people hear it they’ll get it. And actually “Dude” is the good guy. [laughs]
DJ Booth: Okay, who wins in the end – Dude?
B-Real: I’m not gonna tell you that.
DJ Booth: [laughs] Okay, I’ll have to check out the album, obviously, and then I’ll find out for myself. Continuing on with the titles of songs on the album, we’re gonna play a game. It’s called “Title Mad-libs,” so I’m gonna use the titles of three of the songs on Smoke N’ Mirrors, and I’m gonna ask you to fill in the blank. First one: “If I had 6 Minutes left in the world, I would [blank]?”
B-Real: Hm… If I had six minutes left in the world, I would… make love to my wife for the rest of those six minutes.
DJ Booth: I’m sure she’s gonna love that answer. Second one: “Don’t Ya Dare Laugh if I told you that, as a child, I used to [blank]?”
B-Real: I used to… walk three miles to school.
DJ Booth: Three miles? You must have had the best calves in middle school.
B-Real: I got the best lungs in hip-hop!
DJ Booth: Well, that’s evidenced in more ways than one, my friend. Last one: “If I could bring back 1 Life that has been lost, I’d like to see [blank] again.”
B-Real: My father.
DJ Booth: When did he pass away?
B-Real: He passed away two years ago, on Halloween.
DJ Booth: Were you guys able to talk about all the success that you had – did you have a close relationship?
B-Real: We weren’t always close, but as I got older I got a little bit closer to him.
DJ Booth: If you could have a conversation with him right now, what would you talk about?
B-Real: I don’t know. He was a funny guy, so he’d probably be doin’ most of the talking.
DJ Booth: Maybe smoke a joint and just kick back and relax with him?
DJ Booth: Well, B, I appreciate your time greatly, and I thank you for joining me inside the DJ Booth. Give everybody a website or a MySpace page, something so they can find out more about you and, of course, the new album, Smoke N’ Mirrors.
B-Real: They can go to myspace.com/brealonline, and they can get all the videos, all the information, shows, upcoming events, anything from there.
DJ Booth: Beautiful. Anything you need, I got you over here at DJBooth.
B-Real: Thank you very much!