Since the group's formation in 1988, the pioneering rap-rock quartet Cypress Hill -- founders B-Real (Louis Freese), DJ Muggs (Lawrence Muggerud) and Sen Dog (Senen Reyes), along with newest member Eric Bobo -- have come a long way from the streets of South Central L.A. Over the course of its 15-year history, Cypress Hill has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide; garnered 15 multi-platinum, platinum and gold certifications from the RIAA; headlined Lollapalooza, Woodstock and the group's own Smokin' Grooves tour; and appeared on "Saturday Night Live," among other shows, all while breaking down the barriers between hip-hop, alternative, metal, rock, reggae, ska and Latin music.
"We wanted to take it back to what it was in the beginning," says B-Real during a break at DJM studio, where the new album was recorded. "It's all raw hip-hop with rock touches, reggae and the Latin thing we started with. We just let it come to us from there. We vibed the record out as we went along. And whatever we liked at the end, if it sticks like glue, we made it happen." "We took the best of what we do, and what we've learned through the years, updated it for 2004, and voila," says Muggs, who once again provided most of the initial beats and final production, in turn inspiring input from the other three. "It's about growth and progression."
Till Death Do Us Part offers an overview of the Cypress Hill palette. There's the straight-up gangsta rap of "Can't Stop the Gunshot," the Hispanic roots of "Latin Thugs" (featuring Puerto Rican reggaeton superstar Tego Calderone), the pro-ganja dancehall reggae of "Smoke It Up" (with toasting by Bob Marley's son Damian) and the cinematic "Street Wars," with its chiming bells and ethereal choir. The latter was inspired, like the somber statues on the CD cover, by Muggs' recent trip to Prague.
"There was this bridge there we took pictures of," he says. "The whole mood, the way the album looks, with its sepia tone. Dark, cloudy, overcast. That's what I was going for." The first single, the propulsive ska-rock of the Clash-inspired "What's Your Number?" is a tongue-in-cheek ode to picking up a girl in a club featuring Rancid's Tim Armstrong on guitar and the Transplants' Rob "SR" Ashton making cameos on background vocals. "It's a take-off on 'Guns of Brixton,'" offers B-Real. "I was real surprised when Muggs wanted us to try it, but it works."
Other guests on the album include Mobb Deep's Prodigy and Twin on the classic Hill "bonger" "Last Laugh" and L.A.-to-N.Y producer The Alchemist (who twisted the dials on "Bang Out" and "Latin Thugs"). "This is one of the first albums where everything just fell into place," explains B-Real. "Songwise, it just really came together. It felt right."
"It's maturity and growth," agrees Muggs. "We didn't want to tread the same water or make the same record. Cypress Hill has always been known as trend-setters and I just think it was time for the band to try something different.