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Rap Biographies: Cypress Hill

Cypress Hill
Cypress Hill is a Latin-American hip-hop group from South Gate, CA. It was founded in 1988 and has sold up to 17 million records worldwide by 2006.

The group consists of DJ Muggs (Lawrence Muggerud, DJ and producer, January 28, 1968), B-Real (Louis Freese, Rapper, June 2, 1970), Sen Dog (Senen Reyes, Rapper, November 20, 1965) and Bobo (Eric Correa, Percussionist, August 27, 1968 [became a member in 1994]). One aspect of their popularity is their commitment to the legalisation of Cannabis consumption, and most likely the biggest Marijuana supporters in hip-hop / rap history.

The name Cypress Hill refers to the place where the first members of the band have lived, who grew up mostly in Cypress Avenue in South Gate, Los Angeles.

Their first album, which was self-titled, was released in November 1991. Its single was "Phuncky Feel One," but it was the B-side "How I Could Just Kill A Man" (formerly "Trigga Happy Nigga") that attracted more airplay on urban radio and college radio. Based on the success of the single and other tracks such as bilingual track "Latin Lingo" and X-rated Spanish track "Tres Equis", the album sold two million copies in the US alone. Subsequently, DJ Muggs produced House of Pain's first album, then working with the Beastie Boys and Funkdoobiest. The band made their first appearance at Lollapalooza on the side stage in 1992.

Black Sunday, the group's second album, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in 1993, recording the highest Soundscan for a rap group up until that time. Also with their debut still on the charts they became the first rap artists to have 2 albums in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 at the same time. With "Insane in the Brain" becoming a crossover hit, the album went double platinum in the U.S. and sold 3.25 million albums.

As one of the first rappers fighting for the legalization of marijuana, Cypress Hill was banned from Saturday Night Live after Muggs smoked a marijuana joint and the band trashed their instruments while playing their second single "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That". The band headlined the "Soul Assassins" tour with House of Pain and Funkdoobiest as support, then performed on a college tour with Rage Against the Machine and Seven Year Bitch. In 1993, Cypress Hill also had two tracks on the Judgment Night soundtrack, teamed up with Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth.

The band played at the 1994 Woodstock Festival introducing their new member Eric Bobo who was formerly a percussionist with the Beastie Boys. Bobo is the son of famous salsa musician Willie Bobo. Rolling Stone Magazine named the band as the best rap group in their music awards voted by critics and readers. Cypress Hill played at Lollapalooza for two successive years topping the bill in 1995. They appeared on an episode of "The Simpsons" in which Homer, Bart and Lisa attend the Lollapalooza-inspired "Hullabalooza". Their third album III - (Temples of Boom) was released in 1995 selling 1.5 million copies and reaching number 3 on the Billboard 200 despite not having a hit single. Cypress Hill also contributed a track "I Wanna Get High" to the High Times sponsored "Hempilation" album to support NORML.

Sen Dog took a break from the band to form a Los Angeles based punk-rap band SX-10. Meanwhile in 1996, Cypress Hill appeared on the first Smokin' Grooves tour, featuring Ziggy Marley, The Fugees, Busta Rhymes and A Tribe Called Quest. The band also released a nine track EP Unreleased and Revamped with rare mixes.

In 1997, band members focused on their solo careers. Muggs released Muggs Presents ... the Soul Assassins featuring contributions from Wu-Tang Clan members, Dr. Dre, KRS-One, Wyclef Jean and Mobb Deep. B-Real appeared with Busta Rhymes, Coolio, L.L. Cool J and Method Man on "Hit Em High" from the multi-platinum Space Jam Soundtrack. He also appeared with RBX, Nas and KRS-One on "East Coast Killer, West Coast Killer" on Dr. Dre's Dr. Dre presents...The Aftermath album, and released an album entitled "The Psycho Realm" from his side project of the same name. Through the focus that year was not on Cypress Hill, the band played Smokin' Grooves with George Clinton and Erykah Badu. He also was part of a rap metal band with one of the guitarists from Fear Factory called Kush.

Cypress Hill released IV in 1998 which went gold in the U.S., even though the reviews were somewhat negative, on the backs of hit singles "Tequila Sunrise" and another tribute to smoking marijuana "Dr. Greenthumb." Sen Dog also released the Get Wood sampler as part of SX-10 on Jordan Schur's Flip label.

In 1999, Cypress Hill helped with the PC crime/very mature video game Kingpin: Life of Crime. Three of their songs from the 1998 IV album were in the game. B-Real also did some of the voices of the people in the game.

Also in 1999, the band released a greatest-hits album in Spanish, Los grandes éxitos en español. Cypress Hill then fused genres with their two-disc release, Skull & Bones, in 2000. The first disc, "Skull" was comprised of rap tracks while "Bones" explored further the group's forays into rock. The album reached the Top 5 on the Billboard 200 and number 3 in Canada. The first single was "Rock Superstar" for rock radio and "Rap Superstar" for urban radio. The band also released a Live at the Fillmore a concert disc recorded at the Fillmore (in San Fransico) in 2000.

Cypress Hill continued their experimentation with rock on The Stoned Raiders album on 2001. However, its sales were a disappointment, as the disc did not even reach the top 50 of the U.S. album charts.

Cypress Hill recorded "Just Another Victim" for the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) as a theme song for Taz. At the time, the WWE was using original music for almost all of the wrestlers, so this was an unusual step for the company to take, but it remains one of the more memorable songs to emerge from the wrestling organization.

The band released Till Death Do Us Part on March 23, 2004. The album saw the band experiment with reggae especially on the lead single "What's Your Number". The track features Tim Armstrong of Rancid on bass and Rob Aston of The Transplants on backup vocals. It is based on the classic song "Guns of Brixton" on The Clash's London Calling and has proven to be a success on the modern rock charts. However, the album represented a further departure from the signature sound of their first four albums, which dissapointed some of their fan base. The album also features appearances by Damian Marley, son of Bob Marley, Prodigy and Twin of Mobb Deep and producer the Alchemist. Cypress Hill are the first Latin rap artists to have Platinum, Gold and Multi-Platinum albums and are the best selling latin rap artists.

One of the band's most striking aspects is B-Real's exaggeratedly high-pitched nasal vocals, which fits and emphasizes the lyrics' concentration on parodied gangster stories (pick it / pack it / fire it up / come along / and take a hit from the bong/ put the blunt down just for a second / dont get me wrong its not a new method / inhale / exhale / just got an ounce in the mail).

Sen Dog's lyrics are progressively more violent, but involves less rhymes compared to B-Real. In addition, as the style is today, some words are emphasized by adding a background voice to say them, however, Sen Dog's emphases are always more prominent, mostly shouted alongside with the rapping.

However, the sound and groove of their music, produced by Muggs, is also notable for its influence and stoned aesthetic; it carries a psychedelic value, which lessened in the later albums.

The band is also known for involving rock instruments in their songs. This has caused the band to sometimes be classified as a rap-metal group. However, before the IV, album, no such songs existed. In IV, there is Lightning Strikes which doesn't truly use electric guitars, but a synthesized version of it. Skull&Bones has an entire Bones CD using such instruments. As for their later works, their involvement in rock ended with the album Stoned Raiders (the tracks Trouble (also the first single of the album), Amplified and Catastrophe being the songs).

The bands music is constantly subject to change; whilst the first album follows a more minimalistic and funky sound, Black Sunday, the successor, has a slightly darker side it. III (Temples of Boom) and IV are mostly influenced by psychedelic music. The band abandoned that on Skull&Bones and got closer to the modern rap as it is today. Stoned Raiders has a more authentic sound than the rest, and Till Death Do Us Part carries raggae influences.

The band is also known to involve horns in their songs, and often have guitar and horns together in the instrumentals. What's Your Number?, Trouble, Tequila Sunrise, and (Rock) Superstar have become some of the bands most popular songs featuring these elements.
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