Cypress Hill is an American hip hop group from South Gate, California. Cypress Hill was the first Latino American hip hop recording group to have platinum and multi-platinum albums, selling over 18 million albums worldwide. They are considered to be among the main progenitors of West Coast rap and Hip hop in the early 1990s, being critically acclaimed for their first four albums. The band has also been important for the advocacy of medical and recreational use of cannabis in the United States.
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 from Cuba. They initially lived in South Gate, California. In 1988, the two brothers teamed up with Lawrence Muggerud (also known as DJ Muggs) 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.
Cypress Hill released 8 studio albums, 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), and are rumoured to be releasing a 9th album in 2016 titled Elephants on Acid.
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 describes 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 says, “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.”
The sound and groove of their music, produced by Muggs, has spooky sounds and stoned aesthetic; with its bass-heavy rhythms and odd sample loops (“Insane in the Brain” has a pitched-altered horse neigh looped in its chorus), it carries a psychedelic value, which lessened in the later albums.
For using rock/metal instrumentation the band is sometimes classified as a rap rock/rap metal group.The double album Skull & Bones consists of a pure rap album (“Skull”) and an entire CD of rap/rock/nu metal songs (“Bones”).
In the 1980s, Sen Dog was affiliated with a Bloods gang set known as “Neighborhood Family”, and later introduced B-Real into the set before B-Real was shot in the lung in 1988. Sen Dog is known to be an avid marijuana smoker and Cypress Hill has made songs about the use of marijuana, including “Legalize it”, “I Wanna Get High” and “Hits From the Bong”. Sen Dog and B-Real were childhood friends and Sen Dog gave B-Real his first joint when Sen Dog was 13 years old.
The artists have each had successful solo ventures, releasing albums and also working with some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem.
Check out one of my favourite Cypress Hill songs, Rock Superstar, below.