DJ Muggs is a rap legend. Not only is he the man behind the blunt-rolling, bong-toking, timeless sound of his group Cypress Hill, but he’s also responsible for producing some of the biggest hip-hop records from the early ‘90s, like House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” and Ice Cube’s “Check Yo Self.” And that’s just a fraction of what he’s done over the past two decades.
Muggs has collaborated with an endless list of major artists: Dr. Dre, RZA, GZA, KRS-One, Beastie Boys, Mobb Deep, MC Eiht, Redman, Erick Sermon, and Kool G Rap, building his Soul Assassins brand into a coast-to-coast empire using dark, dusty samples and boom-bap beats. He’s also done plenty of work outside of rap, too, remixing records for U2, and fusing with Sonic Youth and Pearl Jam.
In 2013, Muggs is still pushing the envelope of music innovation with his new, electro-heavy, dubstep-influenced project Bass for Your Face (available on iTunes now), which features some of the most talented MCs on the scene, such as Danny Brown and Roc Marciano.
In part one of our sit-down with Muggs, we go back to the early days of Cypress Hill, as he tells us the stories behind creating classics like “How I Could Just Kill a Man” and “Insane In The Brain” with his group mates B-Real and Sen Dog, from the production to the videos. He also talks in-depth about their past beef with Ice Cube, reveals which artists passed on the “Jump Around” beat (and who bit its chorus), shares memories of a young Alchemist working in the lab, and so much more.
As told to Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
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Cypress Hill "How I Could Just Kill a Man" (1991)
Album: Cypress Hill
Label: Ruffhouse Records
DJ Muggs: “Originally, it was to a different beat, and it was called ‘Trigger Happy Nigga.’ Back in the days, we would always do the songs at my house on a cassette 4-track. So we did it, and B-Real rapped the song, and one line in the song said, ‘Here is something you can’t understand/How I could just kill a man.’ But I didn’t pay too much [attention] to it.
“Time went on, and I made the ‘Kill a Man’ beat. And when I made that beat, he came to the house, and kicked the same ‘Trigger Happy Nigga’ rhyme, and I heard [the line], ‘Here is something you can’t understand/How I could just kill a man,’ and then he went right into the second verse. And I was like, ‘Hold up. That’s the hook right there.’ So we made that the hook.
“Then, Sen [Dog] had created this voice that we called the psycho-beta voice. It was kind of like Chuck D a little bit. Deep voice, baritone. And we flew that in, and I swear to God, we had a little 4-track demo driving around with that song, and it was like, yo, you felt the energy of the song.
“From the time we did that to the time we actually got our deal was probably a year. During that year of time, [I put in] the breakdowns in the middle, and all the little extra parts I added to the song.
The first single we wanted was ‘Hand on the Pump’ and ‘How I Could Just Kill a Man.’ The label was like, ‘No. We want ‘The Phuncky Feel One,’ and we’ll throw ‘Kill a Man’ on the b-side. So they shot the video for ‘Phuncky Feel One.’ Crickets.
"The record came out, we sold zero records in the first three months. But in New York, ‘Kill a Man’ started bubbling. It was getting played every day, so there was demand for the video.
“So we had two days off while we were on the Naughty by Nature tour, and we were in New York. So we shot the ‘Hand on the Pump’ video in Red Hook with Kevin Bray, and we shot the ‘Kill a Man’ video for 10 Gs in Manhattan with Shadi, David Perez. He walked around and shot it. It was just him, and one person with him. That was the whole crew.
“So, we happened to shoot one of the scenes down on Astor Place, and [Ice] Cube was in town, so Cube came down [to be in the video]. Q-Tip just happened to be walking by, and that’s why Q-Tip’s in there. And I didn’t know this, but Prodigy and Havoc [from Mobb Deep] were there, too. They were young, just in the crowd. Alchemist told me that.
“So that shit came out, and Dr. Dre and Ed Lover on Yo! MTV Raps had everyone running home from school to watch it. They were playing it two, three times a week. Plus, you had Video Music Box playing it, and the shit The Box, where you used to pay a dollar to play a video or whatever. And with that, it took off. That, and it being in the final scene in Juice, we started selling sixty, seventy thousand records a week. We went up the charts.
“Those were the days when it wasn’t about first week sales, it was about the legs of a record, and working the record for a year. From there, it took off, and everything else fell into place.
“[Also, I remember before the album was released], the demos went out early, and [EPMD] was on Columbia with us, because Def Jam was on Columbia. And we were at a club downtown, I forget which one, and we walked out, and we heard ‘Kill a Man’ bumping from a car across the street. And we looked over, and it was Erick Sermon. And we were like, ‘Damn!’ Because we were huge EPMD fans. They were a super big influence on us.”
Cypress Hill "Hand on the Pump" (1991)
Album: Cypress Hill
Label: Ruffhouse Records
DJ Muggs: “The streets were talking at that time. The Source had a major influence on what you would do, and on the climate and the pulse of the people. And the staff up there was amazing at that time. And they were like, [‘Hand on the Pump’] is song two. And at the time, we felt [it too].
“I had did the beat when I lived at this apartment complex in L.A. A lot of people had moved in there after I moved in there. Dave ‘Funken’ Klein, who used to be with Def Jam and then started Hollywood Records. Whipper Whip moved into that building, Grandmaster Caz, Special K. And me and DJ Aladdin lived together.
“So I had the ‘Hand on the Pump’ beat, and I did it with Grandmaster Caz originally, and it was called ‘I’m a Living Legend.’ It was a demo. Then I did the song with Funkdoobiest. Then, I was staying at this apartment with 7A3, which was my group originally, and I was living with them. And I was doing the ‘Hand on the Pump’ beat, and Brett from 7A3 was like, ‘Yo, that’s ill. I got an idea. I’m gonna write this little thing for B-Real and see if he likes it.’ So I’m like, ‘Whatever.’
It was cool on the 4-track. But when we went into the studio and recorded it, it just came alive. I had never heard anything like it before.
“So he wrote this shit, and B-Real came through, and we recorded it on the 4-track. Brett wrote the first verse, the hook, and the beginning of the second verse. B-Real wrote the rest of the second verse and the third verse. And it was cool on the 4-track. But when we went into the studio and recorded it, it just came alive. I had never heard anything like it before. The fucking energy of it was like, ‘Yo, this shit is ridiculous.’ It just all came together. Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. was in the studio with us, too.
“I don’t even know how that record came together actually, because usually on the 4-track demos, I can tell, ‘This is gonna be dope. We just need to go take it in the studio now.’ But that song, I didn’t like it on the 4-track. But then, we started doing all the ad-libs, and little melodies, and everyone’s in there, and with the energy in the studio, it just came alive. It was a good vibe that day. Lotta weed smoke, lotta 40s.”
Cypress Hill "Stoned Is the Way of the Walk" (1991)
Album: Latin Lingo
Label: Ruffhouse Records
DJ Muggs: “We had finished the album already, and mixed the album. So we went back to L.A., and Joe ‘The Butcher,’ who owned Ruffhouse Records with Chris Schwartz and he mixed the first album, he was like, ‘We need a couple more songs for the record.’ So I’m like, ‘Alright, I got these two beats.’
“So we’re sitting in the car in front of Sen Dog’s house on Cypress Avenue, and I played the ‘Stoned Is The Way of the Walk’ and ‘Hole in the Head’ beats. And B-Real was kicking his rhymes, and Joe thought ‘Stoned Is The Way of the Walk’ rhymes should go on ‘Hole in the Head.’ And I was like, ‘Nah, nah, nah, it should go this way.’
“So we went in the studio, and we did both songs in one day. And ‘Stoned Is The Way of the Walk’ was pretty much the style from ‘Hole in the Head.’ That’s where it originated from. But it would have been interesting if we did the songs on the other beats. I don’t think they would have been what they are. But the fact that they worked out like this ended up better for us.
[A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Vibes and Stuff’ and ‘Stoned Is The Way of the Walk’] came out at the same time. I didn’t know. At that time, I almost pulled ‘Kill a Man’ off the album because EPMD used [the same sample] with LL Cool J [on ‘Rampage’]. And the thing at that time as a producer was you never wanted to use anyone else’s sample. Don’t look like nobody, don’t sound like them.
“A lot of times when we do records, we record the album, and then after we mix the album, we end up doing a few more records right at that time. And it always seems like we come up with the best shit when we’re not thinking or trying. The album’s done, and it’s just like, boom. In the studio in Philly, we squeezed in ‘Latin Lingo.’ Then when we got back to L.A., we did those two.
“That was funny, because [A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Vibes and Stuff’ and ‘Stoned Is The Way of the Walk’] came out at the same time. I didn’t know. At that time, I almost pulled ‘Kill a Man’ off the album because EPMD used [the same sample] with LL Cool J [on ‘Rampage’]. And the thing at that time as a producer was you never wanted to use anyone else’s sample. Don’t look like nobody, don’t sound like them. Don’t use their slang, don’t dress like them. Don’t flip their shit. But if they weren’t like, ‘Nah, it’s dope, it’s dope,’ I might’ve pulled it. I was serious about not using any samples anyone else used. I’m glad I didn’t. [Laughs.]”
Cypress Hill "Latin Lingo" (1991)
Album: Latin Lingo
Label: Ruffhouse Records
DJ Muggs: “I had the sample, and we just started working on it live in Philly. I did the beat. I left, and Joe ‘The Butcher’ had some people come in and add the percussion. Then the next day, B and Sen just locked themselves in one room and wrote the rhymes, and they came up with that. I thought it was ridiculous.
Sen was the first one kicking Spanish rhymes in our neighborhood.
“Sen was the first one kicking Spanish rhymes in our neighborhood. He had this rhyme he would always do called ‘Deena.’ It was a dirty, XXX rhyme he used to always do. There was this Cuban club in L.A. that we would always go to, and they were a little bougie, so when Sen ripped into that, and this is like ‘88, ‘89, people would be like, ‘Whoooaaa.’ So Sen used to always have that rhyme for the Spanish heads back in the days.
“B-Real played that back on the song and did the accents, which was [not the norm]. B-Real pretty much took the lead on the first album. So the way that worked out, it was just a whole other dimension for the album. It opened up a whole other world for us.
“At that time in L.A., the Latin groups were coming out, and their things was, ‘We’re Latin, we’re Latin.’ But a lot of times, you shut another part of the world off, especially in L.A., where the black crowd is fucking with the Mexicans. There’s a lot of gang shit going on in L.A. A lot of penitentiary stuff stems over into the streets. Our whole thing was, ‘We’re not even gonna talk about that. That’s not gonna be our gimmick.’ Because you end up doing the car show circuit. And you don’t get out of the car show circuit. So we just left it alone. People are going to hear you, and see you, [without having to put a ‘Latin’ or ‘Spanish’ stamp on it]. We just said that it was going to be all about the music, and just left it up to that.”
House of Pain "Jump Around" (1992)
Album: Fine Malt Lyrics
Label: Tommy Boy Records
DJ Muggs: “Right after we turned in the Cypress album, I started making beats again. And I came up with the ‘Jump Around’ beat. I played it for B-Real, but I think we had just finished the album, and he wasn’t into writing or anything. But he kicked this freestyle [over it] that was ridiculous. I think if we ended up doing that song, it would’ve been on some other shit.
“I thought of the hook because all of the clubs we would go to in New York all the time, they would be like, ‘Jump, jump, jump, jump!’ Leaders of the New School would do it in their shows a lot. So I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s a fucking hook.’ So I put that in the back of my brain.
“So, me and Funkdoobiest did it, because I used to do a lot of demos with Son [Doobie]. He was at my house all the time. But it wasn’t that good. I played it for Cube, but he wasn’t into it. I sent it to Funkmaster Flex when he was working for Profile, for Special Ed. Special Ed was like, ‘Yo son, these beats are a little too dusty for me.’ Hung up the phone, you know what I mean? Fuck outta here.
“Then, I was back in L.A., and I did the song ‘Put Your Head Out’ with Everlast, and thought it was cool. B-Real and Sen were like, ‘That’s dope. You need to work with him.’ So I was like, ‘Alright.’ So [I told Everlast], ‘Yo, come to my house. I got this song ‘Jump Around.’ I want you to write lyrics to it.’ So he wrote the first verse, and I was like, ‘Yo, this part of the first verse? Write the whole rhyme like this, in this cadence.’
I played it for Cube, but he wasn’t into it. I sent it to Funkmaster Flex when he was working for Profile, for Special Ed. Special Ed was like, ‘Yo son, these beats are a little too dusty for me.’ Hung up the phone.
“So he wrote it in my aunt’s house, in the backyard, and banged it out. We did it on the 4-track, then went to the studio and recorded it. We shopped the deal. Nothing. For a month, nothing. Profile wanted to sign it, but no money. Then Ruffhouse, where we were, was ready to sign it. Then all of a sudden, they didn’t sign it. We were like, ‘What the fuck?’
“Then, Jermaine Dupri comes out with ‘Jump,’ [with Kriss Kross]. And I know Joe [at Ruffhouse] played it for Jermaine, and was like, ‘What do you think of this?’ That kind of thing. And then all of a sudden, it comes out. So I was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna let that one slide.’ That’s why at the end of the song, Everlast goes, ‘This is dedicated to Joe ‘The Biter’ Nicolo, you get the bozack, punk.’ Because Jermaine comes out with it, but then you don’t sign House of Pain.
“We had the song way before [‘Jump’ came out]. I heard the Kriss Kross demos, going to one of these events in a van, you know, you’re with everyone from Columbia, and they’re playing it. It wasn’t on their little demo.
Then, Jermaine Dupri comes out with ‘Jump,’ [with Kriss Kross]. And I know Joe [at Ruffhouse] played it for Jermaine, and was like, ‘What do you think of this?’ That kind of thing. And then all of a sudden, it comes out.
“But we got it signed to Tommy Boy, which ended up working out best for us, because Monica Lynch was there, and she was Irish. And she goes, ‘This reminds me of my brothers. We go to church, then after church, they go to the bar and get into fights. This is my brothers.’ So marketing the record, and her knowing how to put it out to the world, ended up working out perfectly for us.
“And Everlast, he was coming off the suits, and the Armani, and all of that. And I was like, ‘Yo dog, people are weird. I don’t think they’re going to accept an Everlast right now. Why don’t you come up with a group name?’ And he came a couple days later with Danny Boy, like, ‘Yo, we got this group, House of Pain.’ And it was pretty much Danny Boy’s concept. You know, Irish, straight razors, this and that. And I was like, ‘That’s fucking amazing.’ So Danny Boy came with the visuals, and a lot of the ideas, and Everlast had the rhymes, and it came together like that.
“But fuck, I would have never imagined the record to get that big. I thought it was gonna be cool, you know, it’s a nice record. But it’s still fucking going. I’m like, ‘Jesus fucking Christ.’ I’m doing a remix pack now for the 20th anniversary of it, which comes out this St. Patrick’s Day. From hip-hop remixes to electronic remixes. I can’t say right now [who is definitely a part of it] because I sent things out, but don’t know what I’m actually going to get back. My boy 6Blocc already sent me something back, and Alchemist is doing something, but the other guys, I’m not sure of yet, so I don’t want to throw their names out there yet.
“Back then, I used to just go out, by a gang of records, spend like a hundred bucks, and come home and sample records. I didn’t have a lot of records then. I had a couple crates of records. The first time, there might be nothing on those records. But I’d keep going through them, and find the littlest pieces.
“I had the SP-1200, so all we had was ten seconds of sampling time. So what I would do was put the drums in the sampler, put it on track one, wipe the memory out of the SP-1200. Play the beat on the 4-track, find the rest of the sounds, sample them onto the [SP-1200], save them on another disc, put them on track two. Then empty the [memory]. And it was just all these little sounds. Whatever you have, you’re going to adapt to it. So I just adapted to what I had.”
Beastie Boys f/ Cypress Hill "So What'cha Want (Soul Assassins Remix)" (1992)
Album: "So What'cha Want" 12 Inch
Label: Capitol Records, Grand Royal
DJ Muggs: “The Beastie Boys reached out at the time. Anyone who comes out that’s hot at the time that the streets are loving, that’s usually who everyone wants remixes from. Everybody wants that sound. So the Beastie Boys reached out to me, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ I was the biggest Beastie Boys fan. Anything from Def Jam, I didn’t give a fuck what it was, I was buying every Def Jam record. All I had to see was ‘Def Jam,’ it was getting bought. Anything Rick Rubin did. We were trying to tap into that rock and roll energy that Run-DMC has, Public Enemy has, the Beastie Boys have, Wu-Tang has it, and we have it. It’s that rock and roll energy that just transcends.
“So, I went in the studio with them, and did the remix. Then I called B, because all the remixes I would get, I would call B to get B-Real on it, because I thought it was good for us, and at the same time, he’s my best friend. So I called him in to spit on that, and fuck, it was dope.
I was the biggest Beastie Boys fan. Anything from Def Jam. I was buying every Def Jam record. All I had to see was ‘Def Jam,’ it was getting bought.
“I think that was the first time I got five Gs for a track. I think I got maybe eight grand for the whole Cypress album. So when I got five grand [for the Beasties remix] I was like, ‘Damn!’ See, I was DJing, and getting into a lot of DMC battles and stuff like that at that time. So I was like, ‘Damn, I’m getting fifty dollars to DJ a club for four hours, and I’m getting five grand to do a beat. Let me just stick with the beats.
“We went on the Beastie Boys and Henry Rollins tour, and we opened up for them, which was great. That’s how we met Eric Bobo, who became down with us. Those guys were so cool, just taking us, and being fans of our music, and us being brand new.”
Funkdoobiest "The Funkiest" (1993)
Album: Which Doobie U B?
Label: Epic Records, Immortal Records
DJ Muggs: “Son was Sean from 7A3’s friend. Sean was always younger than us, so they were like in 10th grade, and I had just gotten out of high school and I was 18. They were probably 15, 16. Son was originally 7A3’s DJ, then I came along, and I became the DJ, because he really couldn’t DJ. And he was just the little homie that would rap. And he would come and ditch school and come over to my house, and just rhyme. I’d go, ‘Hey, rap on this beat,’ because I’d be playing acapellas over the beat. To try and get a feel for the beat, you wanted to hear an MC on the beat. Son never made no sense. He just rhymed and shit. He had character, he was a quirky, funny kid.
'The Funkiest’ was supposed to be the first single, but the label wanted to put ‘Bow Wow Wow’ out. There you go again. They didn’t listen to the streets.
“After Cypress came out, we had Ralph M, who was our homie that was DJing for Kid Frost, and T Bone who was in our group DBX prior to Cypress Hill, and that whole crew had a lot of MCs. So here was Son, and we were like, ‘Let’s put them all together and make a group.’ B-Real had did a song called ‘The Funkdoobiest,’ that was over the ‘A to the K’ beat. So we were like, ‘Let’s call them ‘The Funkdoobiest.’ So we gave them the name, and it came together.
“‘The Funkiest’ was supposed to be the first single, but the fucking label wanted to put ‘Bow Wow Wow’ out. There you go again. They didn’t listen to the streets. And I think that kind of made the record not do what it was supposed to do. That was the runaway street smash. It would have been interesting if that would have came out big with a video at the time.”
Cypress Hill "I Wanna Get High" (1993)
Album: Black Sunday
DJ Muggs: “I was living in New York full time in Queens, [where I’m originally from]. And B-Real and Sen had came out to New York, and stayed at my apartment with me. We pretty much did the album in like a month. The first album took three years. Second album we did in like a month.
“We rushed it, because, we were some kids, man, and all of a sudden, we were on tour. Nonstop. We toured like a punk rock band because we knew what it takes to make a record work. So we just toured and toured. We jumped on everybody’s tour. We were gold, opening up for fools who weren’t gold. We were platinum opening up for people. We were like, ‘You know what? We’re gonna go steal their fans.’ It wasn’t about how much we were going to make. We were going to go on tour with you, and steal all your fans.
With Black Sunday, I was going to change the whole Cypress sound. But I figured that the world didn’t get enough [of that sound]. The first album was really good, but I could still use the sound a little more.
“I think with the Beastie Boys, we made $500, $1,000 a night. We didn’t make any money on that tour, and we were already gold. We went to Europe, and we were already platinum, and we opened up for House of Pain. We were just going to steal fans. That was our thing. Build for the future, because, we might not be making the cash tonight, but we’re gonna build this shit, make our publishing later, make our merch later, and we’re gonna come back come back and cake up. Invest in your future.
“‘I Wanna Get High’ was pretty much, I would write some of the hooks for B-Real, but he wrote most of them. That was basically the Rita Marley song [‘I Want to Get High’], but with his vocal tone. He kicked it. And, you know, when we do albums, I like to fuck with the [song structure]. All that 16, 8, 16, 8 is dead. I never liked that. I like making interesting song arrangements. I always liked doing songs with one long verse, and breaking the song down in the middle. And that was pretty much in the same spirit as ‘Stoned Is The Way of the Walk.’ It was the same structure as that song.
“With Black Sunday, I was going to change the whole Cypress sound. But I figured that the world didn’t get enough [of that sound]. The first album was really good, but I could still use the sound a little more.”
Cypress Hill "Insane in the Brain" (1993)
Album: Black Sunday
DJ Muggs: “That record started off in the house. I think the BPM is like 102, but it started off at 93. I made the beat slow. It sound more like [De La Soul’s] ‘Plug Tunin’’ than what it is now. And there’s some shit in L.A., where the gangs would be like, ‘Crazy insane, got no brain.’ It’s some L.A. shit. And B-Real came, and I said, ‘Yo, I got this idea for a song called ‘Insane in the Brain.’ So he flipped it, with that, ‘Insane in the membrane.’
“We did it, but it was a little slow. So I sped it up, and he kicked his rhymes on it. And even after he did it, I sped it up maybe one more BPM at the end. It wasn’t the best song on the album, but I knew it was the single.
“At that time, I was deep into industrial rock. I was into Ministry. And that inspired a lot of the stuff with all the skulls hanging in the video, and the skeletons. The guy who did all the stuff for Ministry built all those skulls for us. And we did the video at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco because our shows were nuts. So we did the video there. And we recorded that song in New York, and mixed it in Philly.
“Even the structure of that song, I kind of used the ‘Kill a Man’ format, the way it breaks down in the third verse, you know, when you hear the little carousels. Like when you hear the carousels in ‘Kill a Man,’ when B goes, ‘It’s gonna be a long time...’ Same thing with, ‘Like Louis Armstrong...’ Putting bridges in songs was a big thing. Rock and roll fools put bridges in songs. Putting bridges, and making the songs move. I was always into different song formats. I listen to The Beatles, and you hear four bar verses, and different things. So I always tried to do interesting arrangements.
We never went out of our way to make a radio record.
“That’s probably our biggest single. That or ‘Rock Superstar.’ Probably that, though. It’s like I tell people, man. We never went out of our way to make a radio record. Even with ‘Jump Around,’ we just did what we did. It happened to get on the radio, and happened to blow up. If you hear what was on the radio at those times, we never said, ‘Let’s try to get a single to fit in on the radio.’ We did our shit, and it happened to take off.’
“And fuck, I know we worked hard. And we were in tune. But we worked our fucking asses off. We were playing in front of people at breakfasts at One Stops. We would go on promo tours, and all the Mom and Pop record stores would come to the One Stop, and they would tell them the new shit and sell them on the records they could take back to their stores. And I remember doing a breakfast for twenty people, eating eggs watching us. I was like, ‘Wow. This is it? This is what we signed up for?’ Six of us driving around in a van, sharing one room on tour. Rotating the bed every night. We did all that.”
Cypress Hill "Hits From the Bong" (1993)
Album: Black Sunday
Label: Ruffhouse Records, Columbia
DJ Muggs: “We did that in L.A. And we were trying to figure out another way to approach doing a weed song. Like, ‘We’re gonna smoke weed again? Fuck.’ So we were like, ‘Nobody’s done a song called ‘Hits from the Bong.’ Let’s record a bong hit, and we’ll put it throughout the song.’
“We always smoked a bong, being around rock and roll fools. More white boys smoke bongs. The hood didn’t know what a fucking bong was. But I grew up with my uncle, and it was all velvet posters and black-lights and fucking lava lamps. And weed and incense. I didn’t know what the weed was, but I remember the smell of it, and the incense, looking back on it.
We always smoked a bong, being around rock and roll fools. More white boys smoke bongs. The hood didn’t know what a bong was.
“So we came up with the idea, and B-Real was writing it, and we were just throwing ideas around, like, ‘You know the bong water? How when it spills it stinks?’ And just talking, and thinking about all the things about a fucking bong. B wrote that shit, and it came out fucking good.
“Yeah, [we bring a huge bong on stage]. It was called an Excalibur I think. They got like a six foot or eight foot one. I think Bobo just retired from hitting it. [Laughs.] That thing is big. I can’t smoke out of it. When I hit a bong, I’m like coughing out of it for ten minutes. But these guys, they got the fucking iron lungs.
“We also used to take this giant ass joint, a six foot joint, on the road. We like to put a show on for people, using different props and stuff. The bong came, and the bong just stuck. It was easy to take apart. You’d take it apart like a rifle, put it in its case, and put it back together. It was really easy to travel with, so it became a staple in our show.
Cypress Hill "When the Shit Goes Down" (1993)
Album: Black Sunday
Label: Ruffhouse Records, ColumbiaDJ Muggs: “When I found that sample, I was like, ‘This shit is sick!’ That might’ve been one of the first songs we recorded for the Black Sunday album. And B-Real wrote it, and the shit was dope. But the problem was, we couldn’t clear the sample because the owners of the sample didn’t want us to call it ‘When the Shit Goes Down.’ So we changed it to ‘ship,’ but we didn’t even change the word [on the actual song]. But we told them we changed it, and we wrote ‘ship’ on the record, so they were like, ‘Okay, cool.’
“That was a funny thing, though. We get asked about that a lot. And I think De La Soul used that sample later, too, [on the intro to Buhloone Mindstate].”
Ice Cube f/ Das EFX "Check Yo Self" (1993)
Album: The Predator
DJ Muggs: “I had done a couple songs with Cube, ‘We Had to Tear This Mothafucka Up’ and ‘Now I Gotta Wet Ya,’ in L.A. And I was in New York, and he was here, and wanted to record. So I was like, ‘Cool.’ And he was like, ‘I got Das EFX, they’re gonna kick the chorus.’ And I was like, ‘Word?’ Das EFX had just dropped, and they were sick.
“Cube picked that beat, and that was supposed to be an interlude on the Funkdoobiest album. But he called me, and was like, ‘Yo, you got any beats?’ So I just put everything on a cassette and went over there. And you know, when you’re playing someone beats, and you don’t like one, you hear the two first bars and start to fast forward? And he goes, ‘No, what’s that? Go back.’ And I’m like, ‘You sure?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah.’ I’m like, ‘Alright.’ But in my head I was like, ‘This beat is wack! He’s trippin’. Fuck!’
You know, when you’re playing someone beats, and you don’t like one, you hear the two first bars and start to fast-forward? And he goes, ‘No, what’s that? Go back.’
“So even when he spit on it and I heard it, I liked the song, but I didn’t like my beat. But it fuckin’ blew up. Then he did the remix with ‘The Message,’ and it went to another level. The song ended up becoming a #1 record, a fuckin’ platinum single.
“Then it was funny, Salt-N-Pepa used [the same sample] a couple years later on ‘Shoop.’ When I heard that, I was like, ‘Oh, it must’ve been a good sample then.’ [Laughs.] But the difference is, I sampled it on the SP-1200, where you only have 2.5 seconds on each pad. So I would have to sample it on 45, and then slow it down. But when you slow it down, that’s what makes it all dirty. My shit is all dirty and dusty. Theirs was all clean and concise.”
Sonic Youth & Cypress Hill "I Love You Mary Jane" (1993)
Album: Judgement Night Soundtrack
Label: Epic Records
DJ Muggs: “Yeah, [The Sonic Youth song stands out more than the Pearl Jam song on the Judgement Night soundtrack]. For the Pearl Jam one, I had sent Stone [Gossard] the beat. We were really close back then. And they recorded it up in Seattle, sent it back, and we put the vocals on it, so [there wasn’t much to it].
“But I got in the studio in New York with Sonic Youth. And I had never been in a studio with a band before. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I knew my drum machine, and that was it. There was no way to learn back then. You had to go to music school. You know, we made collages out of records. We were just some broke kids with a crate of records and a drum machine.
I had never been in a studio with a band before. I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew my drum machine, and that was it.
“In the middle of the session, I called my manager, like, ‘This ain’t gonna work, man. It ain’t dope.’ But he was like, ‘Just try it. Try and make it cool. Work it out.’ So I recorded the drummer, sampled the drums, and chopped them up. Got the guitar player to play a bunch of shit, and took that one thing, and tried to make it sound more like one of our records. Then Kim [Gordon] killed it with that hook. Then B kicked his thing, and I was like, ‘Alright.’
“A couple hours after that phone conversation, I started getting into it, and started to understand the process of a live band. And they were looking at me like, ‘What the fuck is this guy doing?’ They didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It would’ve been nice if I had actually seen a live band record before. It was all on the spot. But the song was recorded and mixed in one session. It was on the job training, and I was learning, and we did it all in a twelve hour session.”
U2 "Numb (Soul Assassins Remix)" (1993)
Album: Melon: Remixes for Propaganda
Label: Island Records
DJ Muggs: “U2 were big Cypress Hill fans. So they reached out to us to do this remix. And I guess it was Edge’s first time singing as the main vocalist. And when I heard it, [the style of his vocals] reminded me of a rap. So I said, ‘I’m gonna give him something slow. A Cypress Hill, De La Soul, mellow, bluesy type track.’
“We used to do all the remixes in one night, because the studio was $2,000 a night. Shit was expensive. So we went in the studio and banged it out in one night. But I was like, ‘Wow, U2 is calling me? This is fucking big.’ I was excited to do that record, because I was a fan.
“I met Bono, but not until later, at some event. Super cool cat. They like music. They remind me of like Thom Yorke, who is super in tune with what’s going on, and super cutting edge, and knows what’s happening, and is involved.”
Cypress Hill "Illusions" (1995)
Album: III: Temples of Boom
DJ Muggs: “We’re the underdogs. We’re like the Raiders, we were always dark and mysterious. Now, all of a sudden, we got big. Sell fucking four million records. People are like, ‘Oh, they sold out.’ No. ‘We didn’t sell out, you guys bought in.’ We never changed our music. So I was like, ‘Fuck that. I’m making the darkest, non-commercial record I can possibly make.’
“‘Illusions’ was the first song we recorded. I made the beat, B-Real recorded the vocals, and I loved it. But I didn’t know what to make of it. It had the vibes, and it was some different shit. I just wanted to make a dark record.
All of a sudden, we got big. Sell four million records. People are like, ‘Oh, they sold out.’ No. ‘We didn’t sell out, you guys bought in.’ We never changed our music. So I was like, ‘I’m making the darkest, non-commercial record I can possibly make.’
“I was spending a lot of time in England. I was working with an artist named Ingrid Schroeder, working on her album with Howie B, who produced U2. And Goldie, I did a few songs with him as well. And being in England, at that time, it was Massive Attack, Tricky, and Portishead, owning and running that whole fucking country. So I was soaking that energy in. And I hadn’t started the album yet. So I was soaking that energy in, and starting to make my little beats on the side. And I think that’s where that energy came from, for that record to just be dark.
“I remember, I was reading an article about us, and it was called ‘Temples of Boom.’ I think it was in the San Francisco Enquirer. I was like, ‘That’s the name of the record.’ Even with the cover, we were anti-everything. Just like, ‘Fuck this.’ And this was the record that came out from the energy we were feeling. It’s like, we wanted to smash everything we created, and rip it all down.
“The hard thing for it, though, was performing it. Because the record is so slow. And our shows, and the songs on the first two albums, are so hyped. I have about ten or eleven songs still from those Temples of Boom sessions. I’m going to release them one time, and call it The Lost Temples. I don’t know when, I will eventually. People get mad at me for not just giving them away on the Internet, calling me names. But I want to put them out the right way.”
Cypress Hill "Boom Biddy Bye" (1995)
Album: III: Temples of Boom
Label: Ruffhouse Records
DJ Muggs: “We were in the studio fucking around, just putting on different sounds. I think Alchemist played that on the keyboard, if I remember right. He was a little kid, who would come by after school. He was hanging out with me. When I met him, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool kid.’ He wasn’t Alchemist yet, he was Mudfoot, a rapper. But he wanted to learn to make beats.
“He reminded me of me though, and I never had a big brother to be like, ‘Come with me, I’ll show you the game.’ I just let him be around, because I knew he was smart. And he would just be a sponge. I was making sure he was in the studio sessions, and making sure we took him on tour to sponge it up. And he would be in the studio going through records, like, ‘What do you think of this? This sample’s dope, you should use this one.’ And I think [‘Boom Biddy Bye’] was that kind of thing. And he ended up playing those on the keyboards.
[Alchemist] would just be a sponge. I was making sure he was in the studio sessions, and making sure we took him on tour to sponge it up. And he would be in the studio going through records, like, ‘What do you think of this? This sample’s dope, you should use this one.’
“I think me and B wrote the chorus together. The chorus was about a home invasion that happened to some people we knew. They had been tied up on the floor and shit.
“But the shit was kind of jazzy, and we ended up doing the remix with The Fugees. We did the video in New York. They didn’t want to push it out big, and they didn’t Lauryn on it, because The Fugees were so big, and everyone wanted a piece of them at the time. So me and Wyclef went into the studio in L.A. and did the remix. He pretty much did it, I was just like, ‘Yeah, that’s it right there,’ helping him and Jerry Wonder out a little bit. Super cool cats. It was fun.”
Cypress Hill "No Rest for the Wicked" (1995)
Album: III: Temples of Boom
Label: Columbia, Ruffhouse Records
DJ Muggs: “That was a direct message to Ice Cube. He had called us to work on a song for Friday, for the soundtrack. And we had recorded our album, and already had ‘Throw Your Set in the Air.’ So Cube came to the studio, and we played him ‘Roll It Up, Light It Up, Smoke It Up.’ We were like, ‘This is for you, for the Friday soundtrack,’ because it was dope.
“Then, he was like, ‘What are you guys working on? Play me a few cuts.’ So we played him ‘Throw Your Set in the Air.’ And he was like, ‘Yo! That’s ill. Let me get that for the movie. Play it again, let me hear it.’ We played it again, and he was like, ‘Let me get that one.’ But we were like, ‘Nah, that’s our shit. Fall back.’
We played him ‘Throw Your Set in the Air.’ And he was like, ‘Yo! That’s ill. Let me get that for the movie. Play it again, let me hear it.’ We played it again, and he was like, ‘Let me get that one.’ But we were like, ‘Nah, that’s our [song]. Fall back.’ Two, three weeks later, we’re driving, and we hear [his new song for Friday on 106, where he says ‘throw your neighborhood in the air’ on the chorus].
“Two, three weeks later, we’re driving, and we hear [his new song for Friday on 106, where he says ‘throw your neighborhood in the air’ on the chorus]. We’re like, ‘Fucking cocksucker!’ B-Real called him, and he was like, ‘I didn’t take your shit.’ B-Real was like, ‘Fuck you, man.’ B-Real was hot. Then B-Real went in on ‘No Rest for the Wicked.’
“The reaction was that Cube came back with Westside Connection, and wrote [a diss song] on the Westside Connection album. See, I used to live with DJ Aladdin, and WC and Coolio were in the Maad Circle. And we were all homies, doing demos. When I was in my bedroom doing the Cypress demos, they were in their bedroom doing the Low Profile demos. So when it came time for them to do the diss record against us, WC was like, ‘No, those are my boys. I’m not jumping on the track with you.’ But Mack 10 didn’t know us. He had to back up his boy, so Mack 10 jumped on the record.
“But it got to the point where Westside Connection would be playing at the Power Jam, and Mexicans were throwing bottles at them and shit. Real racial tension. They were on the radio talking, and B would call up on the radio, grab his gun, and drive down to the fuckin’ radio station looking for him. It got a little heated.
It got to the point where Westside Connection would be playing at the Power Jam, and Mexicans were throwing bottles at them. Real racial tension. They were on the radio talking, and B would call up on the radio, grab his gun, and drive down to the radio station looking for him. It got a little heated.
“And then, Cube kind of made up with B-Real. They squashed it at some point, eventually. It’s funny because, a lot of Cube’s people were calling us at that time, like, ‘Yo, he took your shit.’ King Sun called us. Kam called us. You know, that whole Muslim shit that he was into, that was Kam’s whole life. And then, the Torture Chamber called us, saying they never got paid for ‘Wicked.’ J-Dee was calling us, from Da Lench Mob. We were like, ‘It is him. This really happened.’
“But anyway, the squashed it. It was cool, whatever. Let bygones be bygones. But then Sen ran into him one night, at one of our shows. And Sen never got to say his piece. And Sen let him have it. He was in his face, and it was kind of uncomfortable for everybody.
“I wish it never happened, because I’m a huge Cube fan, and still am. He’s one of the greatest of all-time. I think if that didn’t happen, we could’ve done so much more together. But looking back, we were young, dumb, hotheads. Everything is aggression. First reaction is anger and aggression, instead of thinking about it, and sitting back, like, ‘Let’s try to win this war instead of trying to fight every battle,’ which is what we were doing at that time.
“After they came out [with their diss], we came back, and grabbed their beat, and did another song about him. It was called ‘Ice Cube Killa.’ It never came out officially, but we printed up 500 copies, and we were just ripping into Cube. And we got one of our homies that sounded like Cube to open up and do the first verse, ripping Cube. Some Crip from L.A. At that point it was like, ‘Alright, we’re cool. Everybody said what they had to say. We’re cool. Let’s move on.’
“Now we’re super cool. I did some shows with Cube in Europe, B-Real’s done some shows with him since. We’re grown men. I love everything he does. That’s one thing, when I look back, I’m like, ‘Man, I would’ve rather just done a Cypress Hill and Ice Cube album.’ We could’ve done something at that time. Right after Black Sunday and The Predator, we could’ve done an album together. It would’ve been big.
“I don’t think he ever admitted [that he jacked our chorus], but I know he did, so you don’t got to admit it. At this point I don’t even really care.”
Cypress Hill "Everybody Must Get Stoned" (1995)
Album: III: Temples of Boom
Label: Columbia, Ruffhouse Records
DJ Muggs: “I was going to redo the Bob Dylan song. Me and Joe ‘The Butcher’ went in with a band from New Orleans and recreate that track. But I don’t think B-Real was feeling it. Because we wanted him to do Bob Dylan, you know, his voice? And I don’t think he was really feeling the idea. I was really excited about the idea, and I know Columbia was excited when they heard the idea, and the beat was sick, with the brass.
“So we ended up doing this version, and when we sent it in, I think Donnie Ienner was like, ‘Waaaah. This ain’t what I wanted. I thought I was getting a Bob Dylan song. Have B record this shit and send it.’ But it never worked out. The music is still on the reel somewhere.
So this is the version we turned it. It was one of the bonus tracks, because they wanted a bonus track [for the import releases]. It was cool.”
Cypress Hill f/ Erick Sermon, Redman, and MC Eiht “Throw Your Hands in the Air” (1995)
Album:"Throw Your Hands in the Air" 12 Inch
Label: Columbia, Ruffhouse Records
DJ Muggs: “We put the album out, and it was running its course, and then, we wanted to give the album a little boost. So you give it another three months of life. So at that time, that was that. And it came out so gangster.
“I had always been an Erick Sermon and Redman fan, so I had reached out to them, like, ‘What do I have to do to get you guys on a record? How much is it gonna cost?’ And they were like, ‘Nothing. We’re fans. We want to do it.’ Fuckin’ A. Then I wanted to get somebody from the West. So I got MC Eiht.
I had always been an Erick Sermon and Redman fan, so I had reached out to them, like, ‘What do I have to do to get you guys on a record? How much is it gonna cost?’ And they were like, ‘Nothing. We’re fans. We want to do it.’
“Fuckin’ MC Eiht wrote his verse in fifteen minutes and laid it in one take. I was like, ‘Wow.’ It blew me away, man. I wasn’t used to seeing people write their shit that quick. And [he was so animated]. We went and shot the video in L.A.. My boy McG, who ended up doing the big show The O.C. and Charlie’s Angels. So we did some of the first videos he shot. Fuck you McG for never calling me for a song on your soundtracks. [Laughs.] I did your first three videos. But the video was great. The concepts and the ideas he had, like putting MC Eiht in front of all the hubcaps, and the way he shot from the side.
“Redman was the funkiest, sickest motherfucker. Cypress Hill had a lot of influence on Redman early on. It’s funny, because he had a big influence on us, but we had a big influence back on him. It was like an exchange of energy. We used some of their samples, and they used some of ours, and nobody ever sued. There was more respect at that time for things, and people using samples.
“Even when I had used the samples on the first album from Wild Style, Fab 5 Freddy was like, ‘That’s hip-hop, I’m glad you used that.’ Mark the 45 King [said the same thing]. You see fools now, they’re trying to sue you off a fucking mixtape like, ‘Oh, you’re making money off your shows, and selling t-shirts.’ It’s like, ‘Wow, it’s getting that bad? Shut up, it’s a fucking mixtape.’”