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B Real of Cypress Hill

The Stoned Raiders Return with Rock the Bells

In an era of massive rock festivals that punctuate the summer with mouth-watering lists of performers, itís rare to get a traveling roadshow close to the same caliber in your own backyard. But for San Francisco, on Aug 18th, and a handful of other cities, the drought is over. A whoís who list of musicians -- mostly hip hop -- will grace the makeshift festival grounds of the McCovey Cove Parking Lot (near the ballpark) when Rock the Bells makes its San Francisco debut. The recently reformed Rage Against the Machine, Wu-Tang Clan, Cypress Hill and The Roots headline the festival. Cypress Hill frontman B Real spoke with SF Station from a recording studio in Chatsworth.

SF Station (SFS): What are you working on right now?

B Real: Iím finishing up my solo record and gearing up for the next Cypress Hill record.

SFS: How does your solo work differ from what we have heard from Cypress Hill?

B Real: The sound is different. Muggs isnít doing any production on it, so it is different in that regard. I have a couple of different producers and I produced a few tracks myself. The content is a little bit different, as well. Iím also taking it on my shoulders, rather than the three of us collaborating and working on all the ideas.

SFS: How is the content different?

B Real: With Cypress Hill itís about street life and coming up in that world, and also the pro-marijuana songs. With my solo stuff there is not a lot of pro-marijuana stuff because that is the avenue I use with Cypress Hill. Here, I can talk about other issues that arenít necessarily about gangsta shit. I can talk about other aspects of life. Itís a pretty dark record as well, because that is how I write.

SFS: With Cypress Hill the mood on the albums grew progressively darker. What spurred that change?

B Real: I donít know. A lot of people think that if you get success you get happy and everything changes for the good and you donít have a fuckiní problem in the world. In reality, your economic situation changes and that allows other things to change, but it doesnít take your problems away. You may still have problems with people on the street or your family or yourself.

Learning about how the business actually functions, and not just the music aspect -- a lot of those were hard lessons. Thatís where that vibe came from. We were always in a dark place and never reached a happy place in our career, even though we were really successful. We were happy to provide for our families, but there were other things that were there and we used that as inspiration to write.

We also had a lot of humor in the first two records and it got darker and less humorous later on. That was just the state of mind as we went on, and it still carries on today. Itís darkness with hope at the end of the tunnel, thatís how I can sum it up.

SFS: Did it get less humorous because it became more like a job as you progressed in your career?

B Real: I never felt like it was like a job, it is just what I was going through at the time. I just felt like I needed to be more blunt and to the point and less humorous. You just go through phases when you write. It was just harsh-reality shit, and I think I had to go through that.

When you talk about real life and real-life experiences, people can relate because most people are depressed and they try to find something they can relate with to feel better about that depression and the tough times that they are going through. Weíve never been a happy-go-lucky group and weíve always touched on real shit. I donít regret the albums getting darker as they progressed, but at some point we might even change that up because we have all grown and evolved.

SFS: When did you realize the market for rhyming about smoking weed?

B Real: We didnít really think about that. It was just something that we did and we felt like we were just trying to be ourselves on the record. That was a part of our everyday life so we decided to write about it. Somehow it became one of the most important elements of our career and what people knew us for.

We continued to write about it because it was a part of us. We didnít say, ďLetís talk about weed because no one else does. Weíll break this market.Ē It just sort of happened with us and all of a sudden everyone started rapping about weed because it was okay now. Before us, there were guys like Tone Loc talking about cheeba cheeba and other rappers that rapped about it here and there, but we championed it. After us, came Snoop Dogg and Dre, and after them came everybody else and a whole fuckiní new generation of rappers. We just did it because it was a natural thing for us and that is what came out. It wasnít preconceived or planned out, it just clicked with people because they could relate to it.

SFS: When we see you at Rock the Bells are you bringing any of the classic Cypress Hill props, like the plastic joint or the Buddha statue?

B Real: I donít know if weíll have the plastic joint, but we might have the Buddha with us. Whatever it is, it is definitely going to be good.

SFS: Are you excited about seeing anyone else that is performing?

B Real: I definitely want to check out Public Enemy*, Wu Tang, Nas*, and probably The Roots, too. The Roots are good friends of mine. We did a lot of shows with them back in the day. I definitely, definitely know that Iím going to see Rage Against the Machine. Iím looking forward to it. Itís a great lineup and itís very rare that you get a hip hop festival with suck a fuckiní good lineup. Rock the Bells is one of the best things to come along for hip hop in a long time. Itís the spirit of hip hop.

*Editorís Note: Public Enemy and Nas will not perform at the San Francisco tour stop.

Cyrpess Hill performs at Rock the Bells with several other musicians on Aug. 19th. General admission tickets cost $76 and gates open at noon.