Sen Dog Hits Hard With New Band SX-10

The Cypress Hill rapper fuses hard rock with rap on Mad Dog American.

With his new band SX-10, Cypress Hill member Sen Dog finally got his chance to do a full-on rap-rock album and maintain more creative control in the process.

Cypress Hill's new double album Skull & Bones (April 25) showcases a heavy dose of rock along with its brand of stoned, funky hip-hop. But although Sen Dog is happy with the direction of the band, he said his ideas didn't have a chance to be fully heard.

"I wrote 20 rap songs, and they only used four of them," Sen Dog said.

Yet fellow Cypress Hill member B-Real says Sen Dog's influence had a great effect on the outcome of the record. "Sen Dog was excited about [having a rock disc], being that he was experimenting with rock in his band SX-10," B-Real (born Louis Freese) said. "He had a lot of ideas to bring to the table. We definitely will do more rock s—- in the future."

Skull & Bones, featuring one hip-hop disc and another directed more toward ferocious rock tracks, is #8 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart.

The album includes the radio-friendly songs "(Rock) Superstar," featuring Everlast and the Deftones' Chino Moreno, and the hip-hop variation of the same song, "(Rap) Superstar," with Eminem and Noreaga.

Sen Dog's New Tricks

Sen Dog gets his chance to shine individually with SX-10's Mad Dog American, due July 4. An ode to '70s rock guitar, the record shows another side to the rapper that many Cypress Hill fans rarely get to see. It marks the culmination of a project Sen Dog's been itching to complete for years.

"I've been trying to go solo for a while, but Sony just said, 'You either do Cypress or you do nothing,' " he said. "The album would have been out already if it weren't for the powers that be."

Mad Dog American features guest appearances by Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs and Eric Bobo, son of the salsa legend Willie Bobo. DJ Muggs (born Lawrence Muggerud) appears on "Heart of a Rebel" (RealAudio excerpt). Everlast (born Erik Schrody) — "One of my homeboys for 10 years," Sen Dog said — injects rock and soul on "Rhyme in the Chamber" (RealAudio excerpt).

Sen Dog's brother Mellow Man Ace (born Ulpiano Sergio) and Brad X, MC/singer for rap-rock band the Kottonmouth Kings, appear on a punked-up version of "Tequila" (RealAudio excerpt).

"Sen Dog just kinda asked me to be on one song," said Brad X, who in turn asked Sen Dog to appear on the upcoming Kottonmouth Kings CD, High Society, due June 27. "He gave me a riff that sounded like 'Tequila.' He said let's write a song about getting wasted. He's such a down-to-earth kind of guy."

Sen Dog (born Senen Reyes), 34, was born in Havana. Sen Dog's father was a teacher in the island country and spent five years in prison for not teaching basic principles of communism to his classes.

"My dad was in the joint simply because he refused to teach the kids communism," said Sen Dog. "They said he had to think about what he did and they put him in the f---ing hole. But they didn't break his spirit. To this day he doesn't talk about it."

Once his father was released, Sen Dog and his family left Cuba and moved to Miami when he was 6 years old. In 1971, the family packed up and went to the Los Angeles suburb of Southgate.

"By the time I was a teenager, I met B," Sen Dog said. "I was 17, and he was just 14. We started hanging out."

The two became so tight that they formed a rap band called DVX with Mellow Man Ace, and Queens, N.Y., native DJ Muggs. When Ace left to pursue a solo career, the band changed its moniker to Cypress Hill in 1989.

"We named it after our neighborhood," Sen Dog said. The band's big break came in 1993 with the explosion of the party anthem "Insane in the Brain," from the album Black Sunday, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart.

Splitting For Side Projects

By 1998, several of the members found themselves involved in side projects. DJ Muggs went on to produce such artists as Goodie MOb, Ice Cube and House of Pain. He is now mixing The Soul Assassins Chapter Two, a follow-up to his 1997 project Muggs Presents ... The Soul Assassins.

B-Real worked with Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J and Method Man for "Hit 'Em High" on the "Space Jam" soundtrack. He also collaborated with Dr. Dre, Nas and KRS-One on "East Coast Killer, West Coast Killer" from Dr. Dre's Aftermath album.

B-Real is putting together a band for his own solo outing, a follow-up to his 1997 solo The Psycho Realm, which will feature members of the Deftones and Fear Factory. "The new record will hopefully be out by the end of the year," he said.

Sen Dog has endured the most adversity in his solo career. In 1998, he released an SX-10 sampler Get Wood Sampler. However, no full-length record was forthcoming. SX-10 weren't heard from again until they appeared on the soundtrack to the movie "The Mod Squad," with the song "Goin' Crazy."

"I wish the movie had done better," Sen Dog said. "It would have meant a lot to the band, but you can't have everything right away."

It took Sen Dog another year to put together the SX-10 full-length debut. Sen Dog said the long road has been worth it. "This is no lame stuff," he said. "We know our history. I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and all those cats. We're going to be one of the baddest muthaf---as on stage."

SX-10 will headline its own tour after Cypress Hill completes its dates with Limp Bizkit. The Cypress Hill tour will kick off in July, said Cleopatra spokesperson Ali, who declined to give her last name.