Cypress Hill Tap Into Reggae For New LP — What Took Them So Long?

Group's Till Death Do Us Part expected to drop in March.

In their 14 years together, Cypress Hill have blended a couple of genres — most notably hard rock — with their hip-hop. On their forthcoming seventh album, they're tapping into a style that, given their well-known penchant for pot, they should have explored long ago.

"I've been into reggae since I was a child," DJ Muggs said. "It's a natural progression for us as a band. I see us more as an international band than a North American hip-hop group. Growing and maturing, we're always looking to find ways to keep the music flowing in a way that's still in tune with Cypress Hill."

Cypress Hill's follow-up to 2001's Stoned Raiders isn't all about toasting, relaxed rhythms, and rhyming with "mon," however. Muggs says the album, titled Till Death Do Us Part, will have four or five reggae-derived songs, while 10 or 11 of the other tracks will be straight hip-hop.

"What's Your Number," the one song that is tied back to the guitar-based sounds of Stoned Raiders and the double-album before it, 2000's Skull & Bones, features a sample of the Clash's "Guns of Brixton" and Rancid's Tim Armstrong on guitar. The Bay Area punk lent his talents to the track after meeting the band through an introduction by Matt Pinfield, the former MTV VJ who's now an A&R rep for Columbia Records, Cypress Hill's label. While Cypress were in the studio, Pinfield and his friend Armstrong dropped by. After playing them the track, the group thought, "It would be ill if Tim played the guitar parts."

Other guests on the album, featuring production by the Alchemist (Nas, Fat Joe) and expected to drop in March, include Puerto Rican rapper Tego Calderon on "Latin Thug," Mobb Deep's Prodigy on "Last Laugh" and Damian Marley on "Ganja Bus."

Despite the crossover mainstream attention dancehall artists Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder have recently received, Cypress Hill, who are performing Saturday at the sixth annual Smoke Out festival, aren't leaning toward Jamaica to be en vogue. Just as they combined heavy riffs with their hip-hop before rap-rock was institutionalized on the backs of bands like Limp Bizkit, Muggs, B-Real, Bobo and Sen Dog are just doing what comes natural.

"We ain't trying to trend chase," Muggs explained. "We just have to build off the band's successes and the band's strengths. Personally, I wasn't really into metal, but it was just time for the band to grow. Cypress Hill was outgrowing hip-hop, so we needed to let it blossom, and the fellas wanted to do some rock. So, boom, we tap into that a little bit. Then, boom, we're stickin' and movin'. It's just a way to keep evolving and changing.

"Roots reggae and marijuana and the whole feel has always been synonymous with Cypress Hill."