It’s been eight painfully long years for Cypress Hill fans, but the West Coast hip hop legends are finally about to release the follow-up to Rise Up. Titled Elephants on Acid, the record hears B-Real, Sen Dog and DJ Muggs return to their roots, but also introduces listeners to a completely new side of the trio.
Take the first single, “Band of Gypsies,” for example. It features the familiar THC-laden bars that we’ve come to expect from Cypress Hill, but it also enlists a cacophony of various instruments—from sitar to oud to flute. Much of the track was written in Egypt, where Muggs would pull musicians off the street and get them to session. “We seen somebody that was good and we just get him to come into the studio, pay him, and let him come in the studio and play,” he explained to Rolling Stone.
So, at the very least, we’ll be hearing some interesting styles on the forthcoming record—which incidentally, is the first that’s produced entirely by Muggs. While we wait for its arrival on September 28, here’s a look at the most iconic Cypress Hill moments.
They outdid their debut album
For many rap fans, Cypress Hill’s self-titled debut album is regarded as hip hop scripture and by that extension, the band’s best album. But while Cypress Hill represents one of the earliest looks at LA Latino rap culture, introduced us to B-Real’s nasal honk and is an all-round entertaining album, we think the mantle of “Best Cypress Hill Album” belongs to Black Sunday.
The highlight of this record is the flourishing chemistry between B-Real and Sen Dog. We’d been introduced to it in the previous album, but on Black Sunday that camaraderie truly bloomed. The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 and went on to achieve a triple platinum status with over 3.4 million copies sold. More importantly, it brought us some of hip hop’s most entertaining numbers in “Insane in the Brain” and “Hits from the Bong.”
They wrote one of hip hop’s most recognizable tunes
And speaking of which—“Insane in the Brain” has to be one of hip hop’s most iconic tracks. The thumping bassline and the neighing horse sample (from Mel and Tim’s “Good Guys Only Win in the Movies”) are unmistakable, but what seals the deal is Sen Dog, B-Real and DJ Muggs’ brilliant songwriting.
When they penned “Insane in the Brain,” they had no idea it was going to take flight the way it did. “[The song’s popularity] came as a shock to all of us as it’s actually a [diss] track to Chubb Rock (and a few other people),” B-Real explained on his now-defunct website. “Chubb Rock did a song called ‘Yabba Dabba Doo’ in which he flipped some of our lyrics and we took it as a [diss] so we used ‘Insane in the Brain’ to throw some shots back at him.”
Well, thanks to that beef, the hip hop world was blessed with a banger of a track that has since been immortalized in countless samples. It even scored Cypress Hill a feature on The Simpsons. Chubb who?
Their Simpsons moment is downright bizarre
Twenty-two years ago, the group made an animated feature alongside the London Symphony Orchestra on an episode of The Simpsons titled “Homerpalooza.” The episode centers on Homer Simpson joining a fictional traveling music festival called ‘Hullabalooza’ that billed Cypress Hill, Sonic Youth, Peter Frampton and more on the line-up.
In one scene, a roadie asks the traveling musicians if someone had engaged the London Symphony Orchestra “possibly while high? Cypress Hill, I’m looking in your direction.” After a quick huddle, the trio confess that they might have, and inevitably go on to play “Insane in the Brain” with the ensemble. It is one of the best—and oddest—TV cameos we’ve seen from a band.
In a curious turn of events, Cypress Hill and the London Symphony Orchestra shared an exchange over Twitter last year that may result in a real-life re-enactment of that TV performance. Fingers crossed.
— London Symphony Orch (@londonsymphony) April 25, 2017
Their diss track that took aim at Ice Cube
There’s nothing quite like an incendiary diss track, and B-Real and co sure know how to bring the heat. In an interview with Complex, DJ Muggs confirmed that “No Rest for the Wicked” was a “direct message” to Ice Cube. Apparently, the former NWA MC had stolen the chorus to an unreleased Cypress Hill track, and then blatantly denied it.
B-Real channeled his fury into “No Rest for the Wicked,” where he laid into Ice Cube. “To the motherfucker who calls himself ‘wicked’ / No rest, no peace, no sleep / Doughboy rolling down the hill cause it’s so steep / Jackson… lemme figure out the name / Jack ’cause you be stealing other n****s’ game!” he spits on the opening verse.
It sparked a couple more diss tracks out of both corners, but the beef has since been squashed; Cypress Hill have even performed live with Cube. Muggs seems to regret the feud in retrospect: “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,” he told Complex.
They’re banned from SNL
It seems fitting that Cypress Hill’s most controversial moment involves weed. In 1993, Cypress Hill joined the long list of personalities who’ve received lifetime bans from SNL—that includes the likes of Sinéad O’Connor, Martin Lawrence, Steven Seagal, Adrien Brody and more. The reason? Blazing at the live broadcast.
In an interview with Fuse.tv, Muggs explained that they’d rolled a spliff at SNL rehearsals and were about to smoke it when they were explicitly told not to at the live show. They were then warned a few more times, much to his annoyance. “After the eighth person came in, I was like, ‘Fuck these people. I’m lighting this joint.’ As soon as the second song started, I knew it was live, I’m like, ‘New York City, can I light my joint?’” he explained. “I guess the fuckin’ phones lit up and that was it. We were banned for life. Everyone was mad at me. I was the bad guy.”
It’s a real pity, though: Cypress Hill’s irreverent and flippant style makes them perfect musical guest material.
Their video for “Dr Greenthumb” is a 4/20 masterpiece
Music videos were never truly Cypress Hill’s strong suit. They seem to prefer to let their music do the talking instead. But one that sticks out like a sore thumb, pun intended, is the visual for “Dr Greenthumb.” The clip centers on a doctor—played by B-Real—who treats plant-like creatures. As you’d expect, the video gets really trippy: busty nurses, pigs and a dwarf make appearances.
DJ Muggs told Complex the concept for the music video was his. He also explained that the song and accompanying clip saw phenomenal success in Europe, but struggled stateside because there were too many weed references in the lyrics. “We got bumped a lot in LA, but a lot of the feedback we got was, ‘It’s too much weed. Too many weed references,’” he said. “We tried to weed them out, but then there were blank spaces in the whole fucking song.”
And there you have it. Six of the best moments in Cypress Hill’s career—so far. They may not be as fresh-faced as they were when they burst onto the scene, but this weed-hazed trio certainly have a lot more to give. Keep your ear to the ground for Elephants on Acid, dropping September 28.