Cypress Hill Defend Selves Following Show Cancellation

Rap crew says it is a peaceful group of entertainers who support anti-gun programs.

The members of Cypress Hill strongly responded Friday (March 26) to the cancellation of

their show at a college in St. George, Utah, due to concerns over violence, by saying

they are an acclaimed and peaceful group of entertainers.

In addition, they argue, they have worked against violence by contributing to anti-gun

programs.

"After nearly a decade of extensive touring in the United States and abroad, Cypress Hill

have established an unassailable reputation for conducting entertaining, critically

acclaimed and most importantly entirely peaceable shows," read a posting on their

official website. "As a result they have become one of the prime live hip-hop attractions in

the world with numerous successful tours to their credit."

Dixie College's cancellation of a concert featuring rappers Cypress Hill and

garage-rockers the Murder City Devils led the show's promoter to file a lawsuit charging

breach of contract and restriction of free speech.

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by an attorney for the Provo, Utah-based concert

promoter Soularium Music claims that when the college canceled Soularium Music's

First Annual Spring Break Bash, it engaged in "content-based restriction on Soularium's

right to free speech and free association."

"There's quite a large conservative constituency in Utah [and] I think there's some stigma

attached to rap," Mark Comer, president of Soularium Music, said. "I think they heard that

Cypress Hill's following is a rough crowd, and they started to get a little paranoid."

The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order that would prevent Dixie College from

canceling the concert. A hearing on that order is scheduled to take place Tuesday,

according to Soularium's attorney, George Adondakis.

"The public record clearly demonstrates that any suggestion that the group's fans

provide a threat to the public safety is patentedly false," read the posting by Cypress Hill,

a rap crew which has, among other things, built a reputation for staunch advocacy of

marijuana use. The posting goes on to give an example of the group members' attitude

toward violence by highlighting their donation to the "Goods For Guns" program in New

York, a program that swaps domestic goods and children's toys for illegal firearms.

Because Dixie College is a state institution, the lawsuit also names the Utah State Board

of Regents, which, according to the suit, "is vested with the control, management and

supervision of state institutions of higher education in Utah." A Board of Regents

representative did not return a call for comment.

Comer said he was flabbergasted when college official Steve Bringhurst informed him

Monday that the concert, which had been scheduled for April 2 at the school-owned

Burns Arena, had been canceled. An estimated 2,000 tickets already had been printed

for the show, Comer said, and his company had already paid Cypress Hill $14,500, half

their fee.

Adondakis provided a copy of a contract Bringhurst signed March 2, in which the college

agreed to host the concert. The attorney said he began negotiating Wednesday with

representatives of Dixie College to try to find an immediate resolution to the dispute.

Bringhurst, the executive director of Avenna Center, the sports complex of which Burns

Arena is a part, refused to comment on the case, but Comer said the official told him that

the college was canceling the concert in part because of concerns over security.

According to Comer, Bringhurst said that the college was concerned that the show might

attract "gangs" to the campus.

Dan Larsen, Utah assistant attorney general, said the college is concerned that the

concert would bring in more kids than the police force could handle. Thousands of high

school students on spring break are expected to flock to St. George -- considered the

Fort Lauderdale, Fla., of Utah -- on the weekend of April 2.

"I suspect there's more to it than that, though," Adondakis said. He added that he wasn't

certain that the negotiations would secure a resolution, but that he was confident of a

victory if the case should make it to trial.

Beginning with their self-titled 1992 debut album, Cypress Hill -- Sen Dog, B-Real and

DJ Muggs -- have openly endorsed marijuana smoking, praising its virtues

in their music and onstage, and taken on other controversial, sometimes

violent subjects. Their 1998 song "Looking Through the Eye of A Pig" (RealAudio excerpt), for instance, is

rapped from the point of view of a corrupt cop.

Nevertheless, Larsen insisted, "We're not trying to ban the band. We didn't know

anything about the band. This isn't a Marilyn Manson case."

A spokesperson for Sony Music, Cypress Hill's record label, declined to comment on the

lawsuit.

Although the Murder City Devils' wild concerts have been known to include such antics

as lighting the stage on fire, Comer said that he didn't believe their presence on the bill

played a part in the college's decision to cancel the show.

A publicist for Sub Pop Records, the Murder City Devils' record company, did not return

calls for comment.

(Senior Writer Gil Kaufman contributed to this report.)