B-Real: Pay It Forward
Cypress Hill's mouthpiece explains how EPMD helped the group out hugely, and how he's doing the same, and the root of Source/XXL magazine beefs of yesteryear.
B-Real prefers to pay it forward. While the nasal voiced emcee and his partners DJ Muggs and Sen Dog didn’t get any handouts in the Rap ladder during their come up, they certainly got some help thanks to early, and unexpected, backing from established acts, particularly EPMD. With that in the mind the half Cuban, half Mexican is the guiding hand behind, The Harvest, Volume 1 a compilation album of handpicked talent, rhyming over the beats courtesy of B-Real and production partner J. Turner.
Cypress Hill’s eighth album Rise Up—the group’s first after a six year hiatus—only dropped in late April 2010, so we got the O.G. marijuana advocate to touch on the topic of veteran acts get marketed and promoted in a changing music business, potentially working more with old nemesis Ice Cube and that beef he had with not one but two Hip Hop magazines.
HipHopDX: How did the seed get planted for this project, The Harvest, Volume 1?
B-Real: Well basically I was working on [The Harvest, Volume 1] in between my solo record [Smoke N Mirrors] and the Cypress Hill record [Rise Up]. I had a little bit of time to do something different in between records and I wanted to follow along the same vein of how [Dr.] Dre did The Chronic. Not necessarily doing all the songs and shit like that, but mainly focusing on producing the beats and finding other talent to highlight. Instead of just picking out cats from the west, I decided to get cats from everywhere. [I tried] to highlight some new kids from all over the world. That’s where the idea came from really.
DX: So are you handling all of the production?
B-Real: It was basically split half and half between my partner in production; it’s Audio Hustlerz Productions which is myself and my partner J. Turner. He did half of the beats and I did half of the beats.
DX: Was everything recorded in your studio?
B-Real: Yeah. Everything was recorded in my studio. It’s called the Temple Studios in Chatsworth, California.
DX: How did the actually recording processes go down?
B-Real: Well basically we started asking for submissions throughout websites and all that stuff. We got over a thousand and we picked the best 20 and then we sent them beats, and they picked the ones that they liked and from there we just set up a date where they would fly in from wherever they were coming from and record in the Temple.
Sometimes we did little video snippets to let people know we were actually doing this record. ‘Cause a lot of people try to do records like this like a fucking scam. I wanted people to know this was for real shit. We had them come to the studio, film, do drops…stuff like that and applied it to our website. We had them submit songs and if we liked how they were coming off, we would send them the beats that we wanted them to knock out. They would just come to L.A. whenever they had a chance to do it.
DX: So these aren’t cats that you were grooming, or that you went out and found, they came to you..
B-Real: We didn’t to do it where we give them the track and they record it there and then they send it back to us because you can’t really have any good input as a producer doing it like that. We wanted to make this record come out a certain way. Quality control can only be handled if you have the artist come down so we made it a point to convince every artist…Look, hey we can send you this beat, but most likely if we don’t like it, we’re going to ask you to change it and it’s better if you’re just here 'cause it ain’t going to cost you anything to come back to our studio to change it. If you record it in your studio, I don’t know how much you’re paying for it over there, if you want to waste your money and take the chance it’s cool, but come to our shit, we’ll get to where we like it, you like it and everybody is going to be happy. Fortunately, everybody was like "Fuck that, we’ll definitely come to your studio." It ended up working in our favor.
DX: Was there any other motivation for you to do this? When Ice Cube said he wasn’t giving anybody handout because no one helped him you came out in support of his stance.
B-Real: I look at it like this, Cypress Hill we came up on our own, we don’t owe anybody shit. We didn’t come up under anybody’s flag or camp. We definitely made our own way. We were inspired by groups like Public Enemy, EPMD, and N.W.A. and ya know, Boogie Down Productions, Run-DMC and the list goes on. A lot of those groups, when they heard about Cypress Hill, they started playing those records for other artists. EPMD was one of the main groups that was taking our CD around, or our cassette, that had the sample music on it and were like, Hey man, "These are the new fucking cats here, you gotta check them out." So they had a lot to do [with] why a lot of artists in the beginning were hearing about us and took interest in us.
When you look at that, they gave so much to us in doing that. So I figured if I an established artist that I look at us one of my idols one of influences was doing that for me, then that’s something I feel I should be doing for artists that I think are dope, that I think can make some noise and do something. That’ll be my contribution. I’ve always wanted to produce and develop so it was just a step in that direction and to give people some light that I think maybe should have some light on them.
DX: It's funny how you mentioned “How I Could Just Kill a Man” because when the video dropped a lot of people thought y’all were from New York City thanks to all the local artists you have in the video. The east coast was really showing y’all love.
B-Real: Yeah man. When I started meeting all these other rappers that I respected, the first thing that they would say was, "Oh, I heard y’all shit through EPMD. They played it for us and we were bugging out." Ice Cube told me that, Busta Rhymes told me that, [DJ] Premier, the list goes on of the motherfuckers that were put on to us by EPMD. My whole thing is, I love music. If I can find someone that can put their own flag up in the game and make a career for themselves and say what they want to say and do what they love, that’s a great contribution to the game. Just keep contributing to music in anyway that I can whether it’s through Cypress Hill or my solo shit or actually finding other artists and putting them out there.
DX: When can we expect the next proper B-Real solo and Cypress Hill record?
B-Real: Well I know we’re going to start working on the next Cypress Hill record later next year, towards the summer. I have plans on recording a B-Real vs. [DJ] Muggs record. That’s something that I’m looking forward to doing before we start the next Cypress Hill shit. That’s definitely something I’m looking forward to.
DX: Have you started the project with Muggs yet or is it still in the planning stages?
B-Real: Not yet. I know he has a lot of projects that he’s working on and Cypress Hill right we’re pretty much just touring off the record we just put out, which is Rise Up. We’re knocking out the touring for that. Once we get a break where we’re home for a few months that’s when we’ll probably start the process.
DX: How have you seen the perception to Rise Up? It doesn’t seem like its got out there as much as past project?
B-Real: With six years in hiatus it’s kinda hard to come back unless you have a really Pop album, and that’s definitely something that we don’t do. We had a joint with Marc Antony and stuff and it got us a little heat, but in today’s fucking climate, man, it’s hard to get your shit out there. For us, we’ve never really depended on radio too much and never looked at our [sales] numbers that well. If it was successful, it was great. If it wasn’t, then back to the drawing board for us. Knowing that selling records is a whole different deal these days, we’re not really looking at the numbers the way we used to.
We’re looking at, "Are they still coming to the shows?" That’s what’s most important. Because if you don’t have the radio out there and the marketing didn’t hit everywhere to let everyone know that your record is out or people just ain’t coming to it because they don’t know about it or they’re not hearing it, the one way to win people over is to go do the live shows. That’s where we’ve always flourished. So as long as people are still coming there we know we still have a career and that there’s always a chance you can win new people over with that new record playing it live.
That’s what we’re doing. We went back to step one. If it catches on it catches on. If it doesn’t, I feel we made a great record regardless whatever numbers it hit, or not. As long as when you’re playing it live people are going crazy to it you know you did your job.
DX: Cypress Hill was on Sony/Columbia for most of its career, so what’s the relationship your new EMI label like?
B-Real: EMI [Records] been cool. They’ve been doing the standard stuff that most major labels do. I think that being that the game is a little different, to market a group, especially with our history and background, you gotta think of some shit out the box to create more awareness of these records; from veteran artists and new artists. Most major [labels] still gotta grasp that idea. Trying to market and promote that record in the old standard…it’s not going to carry across the board like it used. There’s other things that I think we can do that EMI might want try to do with our album. But if not, so be it, it’s all good. It’s been a good relationship and they’ve done the standard. That’s great, that’s all you can ever ask for. They believed in our record, they pushed, it’s all about us from here going out on these tours and winning people over. It’s been cool so far.
DX: Are you still on Duck Down as a soloist?
B-Real: Really, that was a one off record. If I go do another solo record, I’ll probably just put it out myself under my Audio Hustlerz imprint.
DX: Over the years you’ve worked with a who’s who of Hip Hop artists. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with yet that you would like to?
B-Real: Well, ya know, on my list of people that I’d be down to work with I don’t necessarily go seek them out to work with. Eminem, he’s always been one of my favorites. I’ve done stuff with him on the D12 record [D12 World], but it wasn’t really like a song with just us. Em is one, Busta Rhymes is definitely one, really, and Ice Cube. I’d like to get something off with Ice Cube. Our beef was a long time ago and we were able to squash it. We did two songs after that; one was on Shaquille O’Neal’s record [“Men of Steel”] and one was on Warren G’s record, a remix [“Get U Down Part 2”]. I want to do something certified with him and I or Cypress Hill and Ice Cube. That would be something for the west coast, that would be pretty cool.
DX: Mentioning Eminem reminded me of your verse on OutKast’s “Xplosion,” when you said, “Fuck double XL you’re a size too small / I should hire Eminem so we can kill you all.” What was the history behind that?
B-Real: [Laughs] Wow. Originally, our beef started with The Source through this writer called James Bernard and he had a partner Reginald Denny or some shit like that.
DX: Reginald Dennis.
B-Real: Yeah, Reginald Dennis. They both went from The Source to XXL. When they went to XXL, they started dogging us over there. I was good friends with James Bernard up to a point. It all started over a Source magazine cover. It was the Source cover where they put TLC on the cover and he asked me what I thought. I said, "Look, I love The Source, but I don’t really agree with the cover. You guys have a bunch of stipulations on getting the cover, these girls meet the criteria of what you guys are asking for to be on the cover? You guys gave them the cover, they’re not even gold yet. We got two albums out there, both of them are platinum and we just barely got a cover. I think it’s politics but I still love The Source." He was going to express his opinion [and] somebody pulled me away to do some sort of interview. After that he started spewing a bunch shit in The Source, and we eventually went to war with The Source. They eventually got driven out of The Source and went to XXL, and started popping shit on us over there at XXL. We decided, "Okay from The Source to XXL, so fuck it, we’re going to diss XXL too." But we’re cool with The Source and XXL now. Those dickheads ain’t a part of it no more so…
DX: So at the point of that TLC cover, y’all hadn’t been on the cover of The Source yet?
B-Real: We didn’t get a Source cover until our second album [Black Sunday]. Our [self-titled] first album had went gold and platinum already, both of our albums were on the Top 10 Billboard; Black Sunday was at #1 and I think the self-titled was at #5. No other Hip Hop group had done that but we had just barely got a Source cover and TLC had just barely come out. Even though their record was estimated to do really well they hadn’t done anything yet. It wasn’t really huge yet but they got the cover and it wasn’t really Hip Hop. It was Pop-Rap or whatever they wanted to categorize it at. I was just stating my opinion on what their so-called rules were for getting the cover at the time. I thought I was talking to a friend and eventually he turned that shit into some fucked up shit where it got racial, it got real fucked up for a second with The Source. It was all over because I stated an opinion of the cover of that particular issue. We started burning Source covers all over and talking shit on those two writers. Once XXL got rid of those two dickheads, we stopped dogging XXL and we were able to maintain a cool vibe with them again.
DX: What’s your take on this new lawsuit over the publishing for “How I Could Just Kill a Man”?
B-Real: I don’t believe there is a lawsuit over “How I Could Just Kill a Man.” For us, the lawsuit that we have right now is over Black Sunday. We’re trying to deal with that shit. We paid for the sample clearance and the record company that supposedly owned the song took the money and then the artist was claiming that he didn’t get paid from it. For us, that was an issue between him and his record company. We were doing what we thought was the right thing so now we’re dealing with the litigation of it all.
DX: Well “How I Could Just Kill a Man” is the subject of a lawsuit by Drive In Music, go to HipHopDX when you get a chance and you’ll see the story.
B-Real: Drive In Music? Well that’s new to me. Well thank you for the info, shit! [Laughs]
DX: Seems like these lawsuits don’t happen to often for y’all?
B-Real: Nah, I mean usually [DJ] Muggs and Sony were good for clearing all those samples. I think it’s sometimes people wait after 20 years to try to sue you for a sample because maybe they’re at the end of their fucking rope. We’ll deal with it like we deal with all the other ones.