Extracted from the AOR Vault: February 2009

What’s up B-Real?

B-Real: Can’t complain, you know?

First off, what’s the significance of the title Smoke N Mirrors?

B-Real: n Hip Hop a lot of things get perpetuated that aren’t real. Like say for instance as an example, Hip Hop videos. These days you see rappers chilling in mansions with the Ferrari’s or the Lamborghini’s, the hot broads, the jewelry and all that shit. The perception is once you get in this game you hit the lottery or some shit. It isn’t real cause after the video all that shit goes back to the rightful owners. Rappers go back home to wherever the fuck he lives, driving whatever he’s driving, you know? It gives people the perception that you hit the lottery but there’s more hard work to it. That’s why the term starving artist exists. That’s basically what it is, a lot of smoke and mirrors. You have the radio stations, the video outlets and the record companies that perpetuate this vision or this image of what these rappers are and half of it is bullshit. There are a handful of rappers that really live like that. The way you see them in the videos, not all oft them live like that. The other thing is you got these dudes that try to front like they’re gangster and they live the gangster lifestyle and all this other bullshit. You come to find later they never lived that shit. It’s basically like an actor playing a role.That’s where that concept comes from, nothing ever is what it seems.

Sen Dog and Bobo have both put out solo projects recently, which leaves you as the last to drop. How do you think their albums turned out?

B-Real: I think they turned out pretty good. They were working on them for a long time. They put enough work behind it. I thought there was a lot of quality stuff on there. They’re knowledgeable in the game and they know what they want to do. They know what they want to put out there. From Muggs to Bobo to Sen Dog. I mean they’re veterans in this. They know what the grind is. There were a lot of good songs on both of their records. Muggs’ “Pain Language” record with Planet Asia was really dope too.

Have you been able to pick up what works and what doesn’t from their experiences?

B-Real: Yeah I mean, I definitely got a head start. I’ve done a lot of work with Cypress, various features and mixtapes to know what I wanted to do on my record; how I wanted it to sound and what I wanted it to be about. You have a specific vision and it becomes real clear. It made it easy knowing that. When you know that shit it’s like knowing half the battle. It came pretty natural man. 

One thing we noticed is there’s a guest appearance on almost all of the tracks. Was that a conscious decision going into it?

B-Real: Not really man, that was actually by accident. I really didn’t want to commit to features. I didn’t want to do that. It just sort of turned out that way. It was all people I wanted to work with for a long time. I’ve worked with Snoop Dogg before so there’s that mutual respect right there. Whenever we have something for each other, we call each other to do it. So that was the only one. Too Short and Kurupt, that sort of just came together. We didn’t even have that song till the end of the album. My man Young De had an idea, actually my boy J. Turner and Young De had an idea. They came up with the track and I said Too Short would sound good on it. So I reached out to him. As I was reaching out to him, Kurupt came by the studio. He lives close to the studio so every now and then he’ll come by and whatnot. He heard the song and was like, “Man I need to get on that Uncle B.” [Laughs] So he jumped up on it and after he jumped on it Too Short’s verse came right after that, so it just came together.

The same thing happened with Damian Marley. I was at a Snoop Dogg concert and was going to perform the song “Vato” with him real quick. Damian was in town and at that show. I had this song “Fire” which was going to be my lead single. I saw him and thought he would be perfect for that song. I hit him up about it and it pretty much came together that way. Sick Jacken, he’s been part of our Soul Assassin family from when I was in the Psycho Realm so that was just family. The rest of them were pretty much just family things. From singers like Bo Rock, Traci Nelson, etc. Those are in-house family members, so I didn’t really consider them features. Those are the people we work with on the regular. Young De, you know he’s a new cat coming out. He’s my wingman. So I didn’t really consider that as a feature either because we worked on a record already and whatnot. Who I considered features where like Damian, Too Short, Kurupt and Snoop. Those are the ones that are real certified features on the record. The rest I considered family. So it was just like people I work with on the regular. It was cool and it all just came together that way. It definitely wasn’t planned that way. I had only planned to have Snoop and the rest just fell in my lap fortunately.

Speaking of the family, what can you tell us about Young De, Mimi and Bo Roc, who appear on multiple tracks?

B-Real: Young De, like I said he’s my wingman. We have this production company called Audio Hustlaz. It’s myself, J. Turner and Salaam Wreck; Mimi is also part of that. Bo Rocs is just a good friend of ours. He kind of just floated to the studio while we were making a song and his voice just kind of rung to these songs in my head. So I asked him to get on some tracks. We just utilized our family throughout the whole thing. People will remember Bo Roc from when he was in The Dove Shack, “Summertime In the LBC” and all of that. That was my man right there. Mimi has been down since day one. I tried to get her on as many songs I thought her voice was right for. She’s very much part of our Audio Hustlaz family. I would like to bring some light to her. I know she has done other projects and worked with some heavy hitters and whatnot. I simply don’t think she got the shine she deserves. I want to make a significant effort to get her out there and put her on the right track.

You produced some tracks on there right?

B-Real: Yeah, I produced three of them. “One Life”, “Fire”, and the joint with Snoop Dogg. (“Dr. Hypenstein”).

Who are some of the other artists and producers you collaborated with?

B-Real: Basically, Soopafly out of the Dogg Pound Click did two, Scoop Deville did two, I did three, my partner J. Turner did four, Salaam Wreck did one, My man Fifth did one. It was pretty much in-house. Oh and my boy Alchemist did one. It was all pretty much family shit. I knew Scoop Deville since he was four or five years old. That’s family right there. He’s part of Audio Hustlaz. He has his own production company but he’s part of our Audio Hustlaz family. Fifth came through, my boy Money B from Digital Underground who is family. He thought his boy could contribute to what I was doing so we used one of his tracks. Everyone else is family. You know Alchemist is a Soul Assassin, Sick Jacken also provided a beat on my record called “Psycho Realm Revolution.” That shit is sick. It was pretty much family based. 

We have to ask, was there any particular reason DJ Muggs didn’t get on there?

B-Real: Well I wanted it to be distinct and different from Cypress Hill. If I go do things with Muggs it’s just going to be an extension of Cypress Hill. I didn’t want it to be that because I’m trying to branch out as a producer and as a solo artist. I don’t want to mess with the integrity of Cypess Hill. I’m still going to go back to that. Right now we are recording and mixing the new Cypress Hill. I didn’t want it to sound like Cypress Hill and purposely leaned away from Muggs because I didn’t want to have to lean on my big brother to get up out there. I had to put it on my back, you know what I’m saying?  We still do a lot of music. I just did a couple joints on the Planet Asia thing. One remix and one that appeared on the record, his Soul Assassin record and a couple of other things;

We are still doing things together. I just had to break off to do this. I had to break away from the Cypress Camp and put weight on my back, put out my brand with Audio Hustlaz. I’m still a Soul Assassin I’m always going to be that. This is just a different branch off the Cypress tree.

Musically and creatively, what can fans expect from your first solo album? Will Cypress fans appreciate it?

B-Real:  believe so. I mean you can’t please everyone. I believe we have good quality Hip Hop. I made sure there was a lot of stuff on this. It isn’t stuffed with meaningless songs. There are a few straight Hip Hop talking shit tracks like on any Hip Hop album. You want songs that provoke your mind and your consciousness’? There are plenty of songs like that on there too. What I tried to do is make a little bit of everything. Serious shit, humorous shit, raw shit, a little bit for everybody. That’s probably the only thing I took from Cypress. I didn’t take the sound, I didn’t take the image, I didn’t take the pro-marijuana movement with me. I make reference cause I’m still the reefer king, which I’m told by many. I had to take little bits and pieces but definitely I left that formula so there’s distinction. There is definitely something for everybody on that album. If you want to party there’s some of this on there. You want to laugh at something there’s also that.

You’ve been part of Cypress Hill for so long and at this point everyone knows you. Even though you obviously have a huge fan base of your own, is it refreshing to sort of start fresh and almost have to win fans over again?

B-Real: I think anytime you put out a record you are going to have your existing fans. You’re also trying to hit those new fans that never heard of you and don’t know who Cypress is, or don’t know who B-Real is. You’re taking a gamble and it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I stand by my music and I stand by my craft. I love doing this. If I didn’t love doing this I wouldn’t have even bothered trying this. I would’ve thought of it as a living and chill with what I got going on with Cypress. That would be plenty for me. I’m a creative person and I love doing music for people. I’m going to try and do as much as I can as an artist and as a producer.

You’ve held some studio listening sessions for the album. What has the response been like so far?

B-Real: So far it’s been pretty good man. Like I said some songs trip people out a certain way. Everyone has different reactions to different songs. Some people like one song, another person likes one song, so it’s really hard to gauge which one they like more. The general consensus is a lot people like the “Fire” song because it’s so different. It’s that old school Hip Hop-Reggae shit that was banging in clubs in the 90’s. Overall the overall album has done pretty good so far. Like I said you cant please everybody and I don’t expect to please everybody.  It is what it is and I accept that but I think the people that are going to get it are going to love it. If they don’t oh well, back to the drawing board. I don’t quit I just do what I do. If it works great and if it doesn’t I tried and I’ll go back and try it again. It’s like a sport. You can’t win a championship every year, but you have to get back on that horse. You have to get back up so you can try to go and win next year.

Audio Hustlaz is your own label, correct?

B-Real: Yeah it’s actually my production company. Through Duck Down they gave me an imprint deal with my deal. So yeah it’s partially a label but mostly it’s a production company.

Speaking of Duck Down Records how did you hook up with them? It seemed like an interesting move at the time.

B-Real: I was shopping my stuff to a few different people, a few different labels. They just weren’t getting what I was trying to do. They kept trying to suggest to me that I should do what I do with Cypress. Which is you know, talk about the weed, trying to make singles like “Insane in the Brain”, they wanted me to do the Rock-Rap fusion shit. I tried to convey to them that’s it not what I want the record to be. I did not make this record to be like that. I don’t want it to sound like a Cypress Hill record because Cypress Hill is not over. Cypress Hill is still making records, still touring. I’m not trying to take anything away from Cypress. I’m not trying to take their sound, images or concept.

For my own project I have to make it something different and a lot of those labels didn’t see that. Duck Down actually saw that. They liked the vision and the record attracted them and they know how to push Hip Hop. They’re one of the very few independent labels that are still around making it happen. That was a big deal to me. The fact it was an East Coast based label it made me feel like it came full circle. When Cypress Hill got signed we were signed to Ruffhouse/Columbia. Ruffhouse being the distributor through Columbia, they were an East Coast label based out of Philly. They knew what it meant and they knew the methodology to push Hip Hop. It was a good move for me to go Duck Down because they saw my vision.

What’s the status of the “Fire” video? When can we expect to see that?

B-Real: We are just waiting on Damian’s schedule. He’s supposed to come into town. When he gets into town we are going to start knocking it out.

What are your touring plans for the album?

B-Real: I definitely plan to get out there and play the music. That’s something that helped Cypress along in our career, going out and winning the people over by playing the songs live. As for the actual touring I don’t know we’ll have to see. It depends on how much people like the record. I definitely intend to get out there even if I have to take back from the Cypress shows. Like if we have a Cypress show maybe I’ll do a few songs before we start the Cypress set. We’ll figure it out what makes the best set.

Speaking of tours, Cypress performed at the first Rock the Bells and you hosted last year. What do you think of Rock the Bells as an event and do you plan on being involved next time around?

B-Real: Yeah I think Rock the Bells is great. It’s the only festival that’s dedicated primarily to Hip Hop. No one else would take a chance on it because of the insurance, because of the negative stigma rap has gotten as far as the festival element goes. You have critics that say we cant hold this type of festival successfully. They put together a cohesive meaningful Hip Hop tour that’s basically highlighting the Hip Hop culture. I would definitely, definitely be down to be a part of it. Whether it is doing the show or hosting, whatever. I think it’s a great movement and we need shit like that. There’s nothing out there that’s going to give the Hip Hop culture that type of look or respect in this day and time.

What was the experience like being selected for the VH1 Hip Hop Honors?

B-Real: It was great man. It definitely was a big surprise and we didn’t expect it. It was kind of surreal. We’ve known what we’ve done in the game with all our accomplishments. It was definitely something I didn’t expect because we get looked over for a lot of shit for whatever reason. It was just good to be recognized for everything we’ve done in music.

Do you think the artists selected for the tribute did you justice?

B-Real: Yeah I think so man. A lot of people were nervous about Jim Jones. In rehearsal he was having a hard time. What happened was he was supposed to do “Kill A Man” but they wanted us to do “Kill A Man” so they made him do “I Aint Going out like That”. Really he only had a day to learn the song so everyone was a little nervous but he pulled it off man. He came off and he knocked it down. The dude who really fucked up was Juelz Santana. He did Naughty by Nature. I think he fucked up. What they were saying was he pulled a “Lupe” this year, because Lupe fucked up the previous year and messed someone’s lyrics up. [Laughs] So now if you fuck up on the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors they call it pulling a “Lupe”. So they were asking who pulled a “Lupe” this year and I think it was Juelz Santana.

You held a beer pong tournament to promote the album. That has to be one of the most original promotional techniques we’ve seen. How did it turn out?

B-Real: It turned out great man. I’ve got to thank Duck Down since they put it together. That’s what I was saying about they know what they are doing in regards to marketing and pushing these records. It was a great idea and some of the major labels don’t think outside of the box like that. That’s what I like about Duck Down. They haven’t come up with any ideas I thought were shitty or wack, or whatever. Their things have always been on point and I have to love them for that. That was a great idea.

One of our friends had you autograph his arm at Rock the Bells in Boston and got it tattooed the next day. Do you find that weird or flattering?

B-Real: I find it flattering. It’s a little weird too. It’s hard to think someone would actually tattoo your autograph on themselves, especially because I have shitty penmanship. [Laughs] It’s all good. I respect it and its all good man. I totally respect that. Some of these fans have been dedicated and supportive for so many years. We’ve been around like seventeen years and we have a lot of fans with either our logo, pictures of us or Soul Assassins. We ran into many like that man. It’s a trip that it affects someone that much that they would go stamp your brand on their body. It’s crazy.

What’s the strangest thing a fan has ever done?

B-Real: The strangest thing a fan has ever done. Shit. What’s the strangest thing a fan has ever done. Hmmm. That’s a good question. Fans do a lot of strange shit. Shit, damn that’s a good one. I would say one of the craziest shit I ever seen was being in the game was these two girls tried to sneak back to Los Angeles with us. We were doing a tour with House of Pain way back in the day. What happened was we did a show in San Jose. We were leaving the show in San Jose to go to L.A. to do the last show. We were all packed up ready to go. One of the Guys on the House of Pain bus forgot something in the luggage bay. So they went to get whatever it was they forgot out of the luggage bay. When they opened the bay these girls popped out of the luggage bay. They were like, We wanted to go to California, we are fans” and all that bullshit. It’s crazy because from San Jose to L.A. is like a ten-hour drive at least on a bus. They were riding right next to the septic tank. [Laughs] So they would have to smell all that piss it was crazy. Some people are nuts like that though.

Anything else you’d like to add?

B-Real: I would just like to thank all the fans for their support throughout all the years. We’ll keep it coming so listen out for Smoke N Mirrors and the next Cypress Hill record.

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