Sen Dog Explains Near Fatal Heart Attack, Solo Debut
After being honored by Vh1, Cypress Hill's Sen told DX about the group overhaul, and how he almost wasn't there.
Cypress Hill was the recipient of a Hip Hop Honor award Thursday night, which will air on Vh1 tomorrow evening. Speaking with HipHopDX this weekend, Sen Dog explained the tribute, performed by a who's who of Hip Hop. "It was overwhelming. Fat Joe set it off, dressed with the bucket hat and the flannel shirt and whatnot, and I was like, 'Oh man, that's awesome.' The theatrical aspect of [Hip Hop Honors] was incredible. Having Mack 10 and Gym Class Heroes doing 'Insane In The Brain,' and having Jim Jones doing 'We Ain't Goin' Out Like That,' all that was just awesome. I'm still kind of like dumb. Wow. I can't believe that we actually got our band to get this far."
Mack 10 in particular, made the tribute special, as someone who was not always amicable with the group.
This year finds Sen Dog, just as B-Real, going out to record his first solo album. Diary of A Mad Dog, available now on Suburban Noize Records, is a special project to Sen. "When I got approached to do the album, I really wasn't doing much. Cypress was going through an overhaul of sorts. We were doing four or five shows a year. My manager Kevin Zinger hit me up, with his own label and said, 'Hey, why don't you do a record for me?'" The gesture meant a great deal to Sen, who's often been in the shadow to critics of his band-mates. "I had never been approached to do a solo album for anybody."
Diary of A Mad Dog allowed the emcee to expand his horizons as an artist. "With Cypress, I never really felt that comfortable to put personal aspects of my life into the music. It feels good to have the opportunity to be the quarterback, if you want to call it that, in the studio, and be creative. I definitely found that I had more in me than I thought I did."
2007 also saw the veteran challenge a near fatal heart attack. "I appreciate everything more: the band, the family, everything," says Sen Dog. The emcee added that with a group in "overhaul," it added to appreciating each other, after 20 years together. "When the heart attack went down, the guys [realized] that something serious could have happened to a very important part of the band. B Real was like, 'You were given a second chance; you've got to take everything way more serious, and appreciate things more. It definitely made me appreciate being part of Cypress way more." That culminated in the awards. "As I was sitting there, being honored, I thought back to how just a little bit over a year ago, I was in the worst position I've ever been in my life."
Sen Dog also spoke on the significance of Cypress Hill raising the appreciation and profile of Latinos in Hip Hop. Going back to the early days, Sen recalled, "You could tell by the way we looked and the way we talked, we were Latinos. I think our success helped open doors and knock down barriers for a lot of Latino artists. You see guys like Pitbull [click to read] and Tego Calderon having success and all that stuff, and I think that's it's a direct effect of the work we put in years ago that the bigtime labels are checking for Latino kids; they are signing them." He cited Kid Frost, Charley Chase and Mellow Man Ace - who is featured on Diary of A Mad Dog as pioneer peers. "Puerto Ricans have been in Hip Hop since the beginning. They make contributions. Why it was overlooked? I don't know." "To us, it just mattered to be a Hip Hop group. We wanted to be a good Hip Hop group. It didn't matter to be Latino or from la raza. It was music first, before anything. I think that's why fans respected us." Looking at his own group, less than 24 hours after being honored, Sen deduces, "We laid down the blueprint."