PREFACE: My first interview in the wonderful world of rap music was Cypress Hill. The year was 1993.
Being a big Cypress fan and a rookie at interviewing rappers, I was probably more geeked just meeting the group. To get ready, I constantly re-listened to their first album [on cassette, no less] and must have asked every person I saw— including Taco Bell employees and the UPS guy dropping shit off at the office — “Hey, what would you ask Cypress Hill if you could ask them anything?” That doesn’t sound like much research, but back then it wasn’t like it is now with the Internetz at your disposal. Back then, wiki was just a word that came before wack , not pedia . Back then you had to keep a hawk eye on your TV to catch a glimpse of your favorite rapper being interviewed or keep your ears on the radio stations that would even play rap. You had to religiously buy rap magazines to get info. In fact, it was The Source 1992 cover story on Cypress, penned by Michael A. Gonzales and photographed by Daniel Hastings (two of the coolest colleagues I eventually got to meet in real life) that was one of the few resources I had to prepare. The editors of Rap Pages , the publication who I was doing the story for and who would later become my friends and co-workers, loved that Source feature (as did I) and were inspired to think of ideas outside of the box for their own Cypress story. Their idea was for me to conduct the Q+A in both English and Spanish. (Probably had something to do with B-Real and Sen Dog referring to themselves as “funky bilingual.”)
Looking back, I probably partly got my foot in the door writing about rap because I was Latino. My first rap assignment ever was reviewing Kurious “Spell it with a J not with a G” Jorge ’s album. The Cypress story was probably assigned to me because it was a (mostly) Latino group. I’m guessing the notion was that I could relate and understand these artists slightly better because of my background, even though I grew in L.A. not in NYC and I was raised in the ‘burbs not in the ‘hood. But the thing is I’m not being snide right now when I say that. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and, really, I did feel a sense of “pride” (or whatever you call it) when Latino artists like the Beatnuts or Big Pun made dope records. Nowadays, people will laugh at that sentiment (“Why you proud of someone you don’t even know, for something you didn’t even do yourself?” they’ll mock). But it’s just how I felt.
That first time I was supposed to meet up with Cypress it got canceled. It was quite the let down, considering I couldn’t sleep the night before just thinking about the dang interview. I’d soon learn that this was par for the course in the rap industry. Nothing ever happened when it was first scheduled to happen and you just got used to it.
Remembering shit that happened 20 years ago, especially when you can’t even remember shit that happened two months ago, is hard sometimes. But there is a lot I do remember about this day. I remember Editor-in-Chief Sheena Lester (probably the best boss I ever had) told me right before I left the Rap Pages offices in Beverly Hills to drive the short distance to Buzz Tone in West Hollywood that Muggs would not be there for the interview. When I got there, Sen was there already with a friend, I think, but B-Real still wasn’t. I very much felt like the dorky rap journalist as I sat there quietly in the conference room, while Sen and eventually B-Real did their thing talking with their management. I do recall being genuinely surprised when after taking a massive hit of the yesca , Sen Dog started damn near hacking up a lung. In my mind, Cypress were weed gods and I didn’t imagine they were capable of humanly functions such as coughing while smoking.
When the interview finally did start, Sen and B-Real were cool as fuck. They definitely were not stingy with their weed. Midway through, DJ Lethal from House of Pain arrived. And, boy, did he arrive in style. No sooner than he had sat down that he plopped a half-pound of weed on the table that he had in a backpack or duffle bag. (I don’t know how much it was, but it was a beautifully hefty amount.) He started rolling and before I knew it I was in the middle of a serious smoker’s chain with two fat blunts and a bong being circulated at all times. You’d literally take a hit of one, and pass, and just like that you’d be handed the next hit, with no rest in between. It was insane.
In what these days can only be described as my Nardwuar moment, I remember giving my copy of Cheech & Chong’s Big Bambu to Cypress. “You’ll have to figure out who gets it,” I told them, and Sen snatched up the album before I could finish my sentence. “I’m takin’ that shit,” he said. The LP still had the giant rolling paper in it and Sen said he was goin’ to roll a joint with it, but someone in the room advised him not to. I don’t know if he ever did burn one using that paper, which must have been old as fuck. (Funnily enough, I was given another copy of Big Bambu , with the rolling paper still in it, as a birthday gift years later. What goes around comes around.)
Reading the Rap Pages article two decades later, I think it's a decent interview, but the intro makes me cringe a little, as it's clearly the nerdy voice of a newbie. What's kind of funny now is that I forgot to do what Rap Pages had originally wanted me to do, which is to conduct the interview in Spanglish. Actually, I remembered the idea about three or four questions into the interview, but Sen and B said that they’d rather just keep goin’ in plain (Old) English. I can blame it on the nerves or ganjah smoke, but it was a big fuck-up on my part.
I also have to admit that my casual use of the term “pigs” shows how young and unseasoned I was back then. Another instance of that is when I asked Cypress: “If Ice-T and Ice Cube got into a fight who would win?” My friend and co-worker at the time, Kevin Burke, had suggested that question. We worked at a magazine called Film Threat , and there was an on-going joke in that publication, in which people interviewed were often asked, “If Jesus Christ and Superman got into a fight who would win?” This was before I truly understood how serious rap beefs could get. (For the record, Cube and Cypress were still on friendly terms as this point.)
The other thing probably worth mentioning is the spelling of words like "flava," "phunky" and “muthaphukka” in the article. Well, "flava" was just a sign of the times (thank God at least "fat" isn't spelled "phat") and "phunky" was just going with the way Cypress spelled it, but spelling "fuck" as “phukk” was an editorial rule born out of the fact that the magazine was not allowed to have curse words. Thankfully, we’d end up changing it to “f**k” a few issues down the line, but at the time that’s just how it was. But what makes it sorta funny is that Rap Pages back then was owned by porn king Larry Flynt of Hustler fame, and yet his hip-hop publication couldn’t say “motherfucker.” (As far as I can remember, supermarket chains wouldn’t carry the magazine if it contained adult language, and Larry was about that paper.)
Well, anyways, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Black Sunday , which was released on July 20, 1993, here is the complete Rap Pages interview with Cypress Hill (from an issue that had DJ Magic Mike on the cover).