|Origin||South Gate, California, U.S.|
Cypress Hill is an American hip hop group from South Gate, California. They are the first hip-hop group to have sold multi-platinum and platinum albums, having sold over 20 million albums worldwide. They are considered to be among the main progenitors of West Coast and 1990s hip hop. The group has been critically acclaimed for their first five albums. All of the group members advocate for medical and recreational use of cannabis in the United States. In 2019, Cypress Hill became the first hip hop group to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Senen Reyes (also known as Sen Dog) and Ulpiano Sergio Reyes (also known as Mellow Man Ace) are brothers born in Pinar del Río, Cuba. In 1971, their family immigrated to the United States and initially lived in South Gate, California. In 1988, the two brothers teamed up with New York City native Lawrence Muggerud (also known as DJ Muggs, previously in a rap group named 7A3) and Louis Freese (also known as B-Real) to form a hip-hop group named DVX (Devastating Vocal Excellence). The band soon lost Mellow Man Ace to a solo career, and changed their name to Cypress Hill, after a street in South Gate.
Early works and mainstream success (1989–1996)
After recording a demo in 1989, Cypress Hill signed a record deal with Ruffhouse Records. Their self-titled first album was released in August 1991. The lead single was the double A-side "The Phuncky Feel One"/"How I Could Just Kill a Man" which received heavy airplay on urban and college radio, most notably peaking at #1 on Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks chart. The other two singles released from the album were "Hand on the Pump" and "Latin Lingo", the latter of which combined English and Spanish lyrics, a trait that was continued throughout their career. The success of these singles led to the album selling two million copies in the U.S. alone. In 1992, Cypress Hill's first contribution to a soundtrack was the song "Shoot 'Em Up" for the movie Juice. The group made their first appearance at Lollapalooza on the side stage in 1992. It was the festival's second year of touring, and featured a diverse lineup of acts such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ice Cube, Lush, Tool, Stone Temple Pilots, among others.
Black Sunday, the group's second album, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in 1993, recording the highest Soundscan for a rap group up until that time. Also, with their debut still in the charts, they became the first rap group to have two albums in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 at the same time. With "Insane in the Brain" becoming a crossover hit, the album went triple platinum in the U.S. and sold about 3.26 million copies. "Insane in the Brain" also garnered the group their first Grammy nomination. Cypress Hill headlined the Soul Assassins tour with House of Pain and Funkdoobiest as support, then performed on a college tour with Rage Against the Machine and Seven Year Bitch. In 1993, Cypress Hill also had two tracks on the Judgment Night soundtrack, teaming up with Pearl Jam (without vocalist Eddie Vedder) on the track "Real Thing" and Sonic Youth on "I Love You Mary Jane". The soundtrack was notable for intentionally creating collaborations between the rap/hip-hop and rock/metal genres, and as a result the soundtrack peaked at #17 on the Billboard 200. The group later played at Woodstock 94, introducing new member Eric Bobo, son of Willie Bobo and formerly a percussionist with the Beastie Boys. That same year, Rolling Stone named the group as the Best Rap Group in their music awards voted by critics and readers. Cypress Hill then played at Lollapalooza for two successive years, topping the bill in 1995. They also appeared on the "Homerpalooza" episode of The Simpsons. The group received their second Grammy nomation in 1995 for "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That".
Cypress Hill's third album III: Temples of Boom was released in 1995 as it peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 and #3 on the Canadian Albums Chart. The album was certified platinum by the RIAA. "Throw Your Set in the Air" was the most successful single off the album, peaking at #45 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #11 on the Hot Rap Tracks charts. The single also earned Cypress Hill's third Grammy nomination. Afterwards, Sen Dog took a break from the group to form a Los Angeles-based rap rock band, SX-10. Meanwhile, in 1996, Cypress Hill appeared on the first Smokin' Grooves tour, featuring Ziggy Marley, The Fugees, Busta Rhymes, and A Tribe Called Quest. The group also released a nine track EP Unreleased and Revamped with rare mixes.
Continued success and crossover appeal (1997–2002)
In 1997, the members focused on their solo careers. DJ Muggs released Soul Assassins: Chapter 1, with features from Dr. Dre, KRS-One, Wyclef Jean, and Mobb Deep. B-Real appeared with Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man on "Hit 'Em High" from the multi-platinum Space Jam Soundtrack. He also appeared with RBX, Nas, and KRS-One on "East Coast Killer, West Coast Killer" from Dr. Dre's Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath album, and contributed to an album entitled The Psycho Realm with the group of the same name. Sen Dog also released the Get Wood sampler as part of SX-10 on the label Flip Records. In addition, Eric Bobo contributed drums to various rock bands on their albums, such as 311 and Soulfly.
Cypress Hill released IV in 1998 which went gold in the US. The lead single off the album was "Dr. Greenthumb", as it peaked at #11 on the Hot Rap Tracks chart. It also peaked at #70 on the Billboard Hot 100, their last appearance on the chart to date. In 1999, Cypress Hill helped with the PC first-person shooter video game Kingpin: Life of Crime. Three of the band's songs from the 1998 IV album were in the game, "16 Men Till There's No Men Left", "Checkmate", and "Lightning Strikes". The group also did voice work for some of the game's characters. Also in 1999, the band released a greatest hits album in Spanish, Los Grandes Éxitos en Español.
In 2000, Cypress Hill then fused genres with their fifth album, Skull & Bones, which consisted of two discs. The first disc Skull was composed of rap tracks while Bones explored further the group's forays into rock. The album peaked at #5 on the Billboard 200 and at #3 on the Canadian Albums Chart. The first two singles were "(Rock) Superstar" for rock radio and "(Rap) Superstar" for urban radio. Both singles received heavy airplay on both rock and urban radio, enabling Cypress Hill to crossover again. Following the release of Skull & Bones, Cypress Hill and MxPx landed a slot opening for The Offspring on the Conspiracy of One Tour. The group also released Live at the Fillmore, a concert disc recorded at San Francisco's The Fillmore in 2000. Cypress Hill continued their experimentation with rock on the Stoned Raiders album in 2001; however, its sales were a disappointment. The album peaked at #64 on the Billboard 200, the group's lowest position to that point. Also in 2001, the group made a cameo appearance as themselves in the film How High. Cypress Hill then recorded the track "Just Another Victim" for WWF as a theme song for Tazz, borrowing elements from the 2000 single "(Rock) Superstar". The song would later be featured on the compilation WWF Forceable Entry in March 2002.
Till Death Do Us Part and Rise Up eras (2003–2012)
Cypress Hill released Till Death Do Us Part in March 2004. It featured appearances by Bob Marley's son Damian Marley, Prodigy of Mobb Deep, and producers The Alchemist and Fredwreck. The album represented a further departure from the group's signature sound. Reggae was a strong influence on its sound, especially on the lead single "What's Your Number?". The track featured Tim Armstrong of Rancid on guitar and backup vocals. It was based on the classic song "The Guns of Brixton" from The Clash's album London Calling. "What's Your Number?" saw Cypress Hill crossover into the rock charts again, as the single peaked at #23 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.
Afterwards, DJ Muggs took a hiatus from the group to focus on other projects, such as Soul Assassins and his DJ Muggs vs. collaboration albums. In December 2005 another compilation album titled Greatest Hits From the Bong was released. It included nine hits from previous albums and two new tracks. In the summer of 2006, B-Real appeared on Snoop Dogg's single "Vato", which was produced by Pharrell Williams. The group's next album was tentatively scheduled for an early 2007 release, but it was pushed back numerous times. In 2007 Cypress Hill toured as a part of the Rock the Bells tour. They headlined with Public Enemy, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and a reunited Rage Against the Machine.
On July 25, 2008, Cypress Hill performed at a benefit concert at the House of Blues Chicago, where a majority of the proceeds went to the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness. In August 2009, a new song by Cypress Hill titled "Get 'Em Up" was made available on iTunes. The song was also featured in the Madden NFL 2010 video game. It was the first sampling of the group's then-upcoming album.
Cypress Hill's eighth studio album Rise Up featured contributions from Everlast, Tom Morello, Daron Malakian, Pitbull, Marc Anthony, and Mike Shinoda. Previously, the vast majority of the group's albums were produced by DJ Muggs; however, Rise Up instead featured a large array of guest features and producers, with DJ Muggs only appearing on two tracks. The album was released on Priority Records/EMI Entertainment, as the group was signed to the label by new creative chairman Snoop Dogg. The album was released on April 20, 2010. The single "Rise Up" was featured at WWE's pay-per-view Elimination Chamber as the official theme song for the event. The song managed to peak at #20 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. It also appeared in the trailer for the movie The Green Hornet. Cypress Hill commenced its Rise Up tour in Philadelphia on April 10, 2010. In one particular instance, the group was supposed to stop in Tucson, Arizona but canceled the show in protest of the recent immigration legislation. At the Rock en Seine festival in Paris on August 27, 2010, they had said in an interview that they would anticipate the outcome of the legislation before returning. Also in 2010, Cypress Hill performed at the Reading and Leeds Festivals on August 28 at Leeds and August 29 at Reading. On June 5, 2012, Cypress Hill and dubstep artist Rusko released a collaborative EP entitled Cypress X Rusko. DJ Muggs, who was still on a hiatus, and Eric Bobo were absent on the release. Also in 2012, Cypress Hill collaborated with Deadmau5 on his sixth studio album Album Title Goes Here, lending vocals on "Failbait".
Elephants on Acid era and continued career (2013–present)
During the interval between Cypress Hill albums, the four members commenced work on various projects. B-Real formed the band Prophets of Rage alongside three members of Rage Against the Machine and two members of Public Enemy. He also released The Prescription EP under his Dr. Greenthumb persona. Sen Dog formed the band Powerflo alongside members of Fear Factory, downset., and Biohazard. DJ Muggs revived his Soul Assassins project as its main producer. Eric Bobo formed a duo named Ritmo Machine. He also contributed to an unreleased album by his father Willie Bobo.
On September 28, 2018, Cypress Hill released the album Elephants on Acid, which saw the return of DJ Muggs as main composer and producer. It peaked at #120 on the Billboard 200. Overall, four different singles were released to promote the album. In April 2019 Cypress Hill received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They became the first Latin-American group to receive a star.
One of the band's most striking aspects is B-Real's exaggeratedly high-pitched nasal vocals. In the book Check the Technique, B-Real described his nasal style, saying his rapping voice is "high and annoying...the nasal style I have was just something that I developed...my more natural style wasn't so pleasing to DJ Muggs and Sen Dog's ears" and talking about the nasal style in the book How to Rap, B-Real said "you want to stand out from the others and just be distinct...when you got something that can separate you from everybody else, you gotta use it to your advantage." In the film Art of Rap, B-Real credited the Beastie Boys as an influence when developing his rapping style. Sen Dog's voice is deeper, more violent, and often shouted alongside the rapping; his vocals are often emphasized by adding another background/choir voice to say them. Sen Dog's style is in contrast to B-Real's, who said "Sen's voice is so strong" and "it all blends together" when they are both on the same track.
Both B-Real and Sen Dog started writing lyrics in both Spanish and English. Initially, B-Real was inspired to start writing raps from watching Sen Dog and Mellow Man Ace writing their lyrics, and originally B-Real was going to just be the writer for the group rather than a rapper. Their lyrics are noted for bringing a "cartoonish" approach to violence by Peter Shapiro and Allmusic.
The sound and groove of their music, mostly produced by DJ Muggs, has spooky sounds and a stoned aesthetic; with its bass-heavy rhythms and odd sample loops ("Insane in the Brain" has a blues guitar pitched looped in its chorus), it carries a psychedelic value, which is lessened in their rock-oriented albums. For using rock/metal instrumentation the band is sometimes classified as a rap rock/metal rap group. The double album Skull & Bones consists of a pure rap disc (Skull) and a separate rock disc (Bones). In the live album Live at The Fillmore, some of the old classics were played in a rock/metal version, with Eric Bobo playing the drums and Sen Dog's band SX-10 as the other instrumentalists. 2010's Rise Up was the most radically different album in regards to production. DJ Muggs had produced the majority of each prior Cypress Hill album, but he only appeared on Rise Up twice. The remaining songs were handled by various other guests. 2018's Elephants on Acid marked the return of DJ Muggs, and the album featured a more psychedelic and hip-hop approach.
- Cypress Hill (1991)
- Black Sunday (1993)
- III: Temples of Boom (1995)
- IV (1998)
- Skull & Bones (2000)
- Stoned Raiders (2001)
- Till Death Do Us Part (2004)
- Rise Up (2010)
- Elephants on Acid (2018)
Awards and nominations
|1994||"Insane in the Brain"||Best Rap Performance by a Group or Duo||Nominated|
|1995||"I Ain't Goin' Out Like That"||Best Rap Performance by a Group or Duo||Nominated|
|1996||"Throw Your Set in the Air"||Best Rap Performance by a Group or Duo||Nominated|
|1994||"Insane in the Brain"||Best Rap Video||Nominated|
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
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- Coleman, Brian. Check The Technique: Liner Notes For Hip-Hop Junkies. New York: Villard/Random House, 2007, pp. 122–123.
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- Baird, Saxon (May 6, 2010). "Cypress Hill: Rise Up". PopMatters. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
- "New Cypress Hill Album 'Elephants on Acid'". Hiphopdx. February 11, 2016.
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