One of the most highly anticipated concerts in Juneau in the past decade takes place tonight when B-Real of Cypress Hill takes to the stage at Marlintini's Lounge. Doors open at 9 p.m. and tickets cost $35.
B-Real shot to international fame in 1991 as the front man of Cypress Hill when the band's self-titled debut album took the hip-hop world by storm with its gritty street sound. Cypress Hill went on to sell more than 18 million albums worldwide and is recognized as the first Latino rap group to earn a multi-platinum record.
After nearly two decades in the rap game, B-Real released his first solo album earlier this year, titled "Smoke N Mirrors." The album features collaborations with a number of high-profile artists, such as Snoop Dogg, Too Short and Damian Marley.
The Juneau Empire caught up with B-Real to ask him about his new solo album, when people might get to hear some new Cypress Hill music and what a typical day is like for a rap superstar.
JE: How's it going?
B: Can't complain, man.
JE: So what made you decide to do a solo album after all these years? Can your fans expect another one from you?
B: I had time on my hands and always wanted to do something outside of Cypress. ... But being that we were contracted with Sony, they really didn't want me to go outside of Cypress Hill much, so I pretty much had to hold back anything until I was out of my contract. Finally I got out of the contract and there was no deadline for a Cypress Hill record. Everybody had individual projects that they wanted to work on, so we just took time to do that. Everybody put their various records out, so I was working on a solo record and working on my production and stuff like that. I thought it would be a good time while Cypress was on hiatus and a good warm up for when we do put out the next Cypress Hill record. It keeps our name out there because, more than ever these days, out of sight out of mind.
JE: I've heard there's a new Cypress Hill record in the works. Is that true and when can the fans expect to hear it?
B: Yeah, it's in the works. We're actually completing it now. We should have that out possibly by October, that's the date we're targeting.
JE: So how do you describe the "Smoke N Mirrors" album and what makes it stand apart from a Cypress Hill record?
B: Well, you know, I think it's a little more personal. It's based off now, what I'm going through, experiencing, just things in life that are happening. With Cypress it's a little more street. We always tend to come from a more street tip and the pro-marijuana politics and what not. With this (album) I didn't do as much of that. And the other way it's distinctive is (DJ) Muggs produces 99.9 percent of all the Cypress Hill music, therefore we have a formula with Muggs. With my stuff I didn't have Muggs produce any of it. I produced a couple of things, my partner J. Turner produced a couple things, and other guys that contributed were Scoop Deville, Soopafly and a couple other people. In terms of the sound it was different, in terms of the content it was different and I think people will tell when the next Cypress Hill record comes out. People will definitely notice the difference between the sounds.
JE: So for the fans that have been listening to you for years but have never had a chance to see you in concert, what can they expect from a B-Real show?
B: Much like a Cypress Hill show, I try to bring as much energy as possible. It's just a different kind of energy because it's based off my solo record and a couple of my mix tapes, and I do play a couple of the classics. But it's a pretty live, energetic show. I'm sure people will walk away pleased. And like I said, it's merely the appetizer for what's coming in October. I think it's gonna be good. I think we're gonna be able to entertain some people.
JE: So millions of rap fans know your music well, but how do you describe your style to those who might not be familiar with your work?
B: It's all based off hip-hop at its core. That's what it is - raw, uncut hip-hop, not watered down by any means. With Cypress, it's that and more. Cypress is a much bigger scope. For my record I chose to do a more back-to-basics kind of thing. Where as Cypress, we're constantly doing something different and going against the grain. That's the difference I think. I think that's what makes us different from the rest as well.
JE: So where do you see yourself in the future? Do you plan to keep on rapping for many more years or do you plan on producing more?
B: I definitely plan on producing more. Rapping, I'm gonna keep doing it until I feel like I've had enough, I've done enough, or just until I'm tired of doing it. Who knows? I'm just gonna keep going as long as I love to do it. When I stop loving to do it, then maybe that's when I'll put the mike down and just produce.
JE: How do you feel about the present state of hip-hop and where do you see the genre going in the future?
B: Hip hop is constantly evolving, growing. Sometimes it hits patches where it's really commercialized and poppy, and then there's other times when it's really gritty and street. Then there are other times when it's political, and other times when there's just no substance at all. So it has many different phases. It's been here a lot longer than people assumed it would be and it's gonna be here. It's not going anywhere. It's had it's up and down points throughout its life, just like rock music, just like punk, just like R&B. Hip hop is here to stay at this point.
JE: I think it's fair to say that you're recognized in pop culture as an ambassador of marijuana. Do you feel that it will ever be legalized in your lifetime?
B: It's a possibility, you know? I see it a lot closer than it used to be, that's for sure. You probably have 11 to 12 states that have a medical marijuana or decriminalization act, where you didn't see that maybe 10, 15 years ago. Nobody thought that that would even be possible. I definitely see it going in a positive direction. As it keeps growing in its stages, people have to become more aware and spread the word out so one day it can be legalized. At this point people have broken the taboos and people don't think what they used to about marijuana. They see it as harmless, whereas 10 or 15 years ago they thought it was as bad as cocaine and heroin, stuff like that, conservatives and religious types. And some of them still do, but more people are open to it than they used to be, that's for sure.
JE: It's kind of a celebrity-crazed culture that we live in now days, but what's a typical day like for a famous hip-hop star like you?
B: I try to have as regular of a day as possible, man. I get up, I'll go to the gym, I'll come to the studio and put in the hours needed in the studio and go back home and chill. I don't do the club circuits like back in the day. We used to be in clubs all the time, but I don't really do that much any more. I just try to stay busy in the studio because this is where it all happens. This is what allows us to travel the world and meet new people and entertain people, so we try to stay on our game.
JE: What advice would you have for aspiring rappers?
B: Just be you. Write and perform as much as you can because the more you do it the better you get - you master it, you understand it more, you know your limits, you get to know yourself. If you can do that and become a student of the game as well, you could become a pretty good rapper. It takes time. Nobody is good over night. Everybody sucks in the beginning. They get better as time goes by if they put the work in. The other thing is, if you choose to do something like that, whether it's entertainment, whether it's sports, whatever it is, get around the obstacles you need to and don't let nobody tell you that you can't do it.