Cypress Hill at the Docks (11 Polson), Wednesday (May 26), 8 pm. $36.50. 416-870-8000, 416-469-5655.
Cypress Hill's self-titled debut release stands as one of the best LPs in the history of hiphop, while their second album, Black Sunday, established them as the first music group to convince tweens that pot ruled. The second if you count Musical Youth. Thing is, until you know which Cypress Hill member you're interviewing, you can't know how to prepare. If I wound up in convo with moustachioed B Real, famed for his nasal tone and past relations with Carmen Electra, my questions would primarily focus on uncovering whether he took vocal lessons to perfect his high-pitched, clipped flow.
If I got the also moustachioed "fat boy on a diet," Sen Dog, I'd ask about the fisherman hat trend he started and then focus on his checkered history with the Hill, which he has left and returned to, and learn more about SX10, the rock group he fronts in his Cypress downtime.
Lucky for me, the interview turns out to be with DJ Muggs, their super-producer, who had 1992-94 on lock and has since put out nothing but uniquely innovative beats for the group and other projects.
What he sounds most excited about when we speak is Ambulance Records, the label he's helped found whose first releases will come from his Soul Assassins project, L.A. group Self Scientific and freestyle necromancer Supernatural.
"It's gonna facilitate underground hiphop. We don't have no more Rawkus, we don't have no more Loud, we don't have no more Tommy Boy. There's no outlets for underground hiphop records."
Does it bother him that classics like Cypress Hill's first are being underrated in the instant-gratification climate of rap today?
"One hundred per cent. But I did the science on that, and at the time we came out with the first album, hiphop was still an underground culture. People still weren't sure if it was gonna last - they weren't too sure how to promote it. Now it's just a marketing fuckin' monster. Hiphop is pop music, it's taken over every format of entertainment. If we came out in this day and age, we'd sell 10 million records tomorrow."
The regularly touring group has established a rep as one of the strongest live acts around, thanks to the surprisingly lucid energy the two MCs bring to the stage, and the addition of former Beastie Boys percussionist Eric Bobo.
"We understand the importance of a live show," says Muggs, "especially when they're not playing our records on the radio. It's a way to get out and touch your fans, to make a connection with them. That's our outlet right now to let them know that we have new music and that it's really good. I love touring."
Even though the group hasn't received a ton of mainstream support since their breakout success, Muggs isn't fazed.
"I'm planning on being in this game for a long time. I haven't even peaked yet. I've always respected artists like Rick Rubin. I used to look at the Bomb Squad and Marley Marl and I was like, -Why didn't they stick around?' It's because they never made that turn in the game. At some point you gotta make that turn and take chances and put your balls out. Rick Rubin just said, -Fuck it,' and he did it, and he's still here."