Rappers usually release their debut albums after 2 or 3 albums of their group. You are, however, releasing it after 8 Cypress Hill albums and 18 years in the game. When did the idea to record a solo record come up?
I had always wanted to release a solo album, but my contractual obligations through Sony and towards Cypress Hill did not provide me with the opportunity to do. After our Cypress Hill contract was up with Sony, it enabled all of us to explore solo endeavors.
How will your record differ from the Cypress Hill records in terms of lyrics? Can we look forward to your traditional topics such as partying and smoking weed, or do you intend to bare your heart on your solo debut and record a personal album with serious topics?
I definitely took the chance to speak on new topics with my solo project. Of course there are tracks about partying and smoking because it is a part of my everyday lifestyle. However, beyond those themes, I touched on other sides of life, such as family, growing up in East LA and avoiding the tragic gang lifestyle that I could have so easily been all consumed in, and even what it means to become a rapper with longevity vs. a here today, gone tomorrow MC. For any fan that purchases the complete LP, he or she will understand the true meaning behind Smoke N Mirrors after listening to it a few times through.
How did the west-coast legend you definitely are end up on a Duck Down Records roster?
I loved what Duck Down was doing and heard positive things about their work ethic. Cypress Hill started on Ruffhouse/Sony which was an east-coast label, so this was full circle for me. I always say Im a west-coast rapper with east-coast love. Duck Down was conscious of the direction I wanted to take the album in and didnt object to my creative decisions. It has been a pleasure working on this project with them.
On records released on Duck Down Records, there are usually many artists signed to this label featured. On your album, however, there is none of your colleagues.
Well, Buckshot is featured on a track called “Everything You Want”, and I thought there was none better to have from the Duck Down family than the co-owner of the label. We were close to getting Sean Price on the album, but the timing wasnt right. When I set out to do Smoke N Mirrors, I actually didnt want too many guest appearances. As the production continued on, a lot of the collaborations came as chance, in regards to Damian Marley, Kurupt, Too $hort, and even Xzibit. It was a blessing to get all these legendary and talented MCs on the record.
Your record should, at first, have been released in summer 2007. Why is it released as late as now, in February 2009?
As Cypress Hill fans have come to understand, I like to take my time with projects and record TONS of material before I select my final cuts from the album. I recorded nearly 50 tracks before deciding on the final 15 songs that made Smoke N Mirrors. The wait helped me find the right label situation in Duck Down and refined the music so that the best possible product was put forward.
DJ Muggs could be expected to produce at least some of the joints on your record. Why it isnt so?
I didnt want to blur the lines between a Cypress Hill album and my solo album. Muggs is a very talented producer and were in the studio now working on the new Cypress Hill record. My solo album was an opportunity to present my Audio Hustlaz team and even do some of my own production.
You have even talked about will.i.am being featured on your record. How did the idea of working with this producer and singer come up and why isnt he featured on the album in the end?
I have a good relationship with will.i.am, but unfortunately I didnt end up getting the track from him on the album. There can be a lot of red tape in the music industry that most people dont see or want to understand.
You do the beats yourself now. When did you start producing?
Ive been producing for several years now. I learned from watching DJ Muggs, who is a genius when it comes to production. I did three of the tracks off Smoke N Mirrors (“FIRE” with Damian Jr. Gong Marley, “1 Life” with Sen Dog and “Mal Verde and Dr. Hyphenstein” with Snoop Dogg).
In your career, besides hip-hop, you have recorded rock, reggae, metal, or reggaeton tracks. Are there any other genres you would like to try?
It would be cool to do a very Latin oriented album with the majority of the songs in Spanish.
The biggest hit song of your career is definitely “Insane In The Brain” and I suppose you perform it on your solo shows. Have you ever felt like you dont enjoy performing it anymore as you have performed it hundreds times?
It can get tedious performing songs that are from so long ago, but each show brings its own uniqueness and thrill and there may be new fans of mine that arent aware of even the most classic and noteworthy songs such as “Insane In The Brain”. Therefore I need to perform each night as though it is my first ever show and I truly operate within that mentality.
What do you think about the spread of auto-tune usage? Would you use it in your record?
People feeling the need to sound like everybody else [use it] because they think itll help sell their single. I would never EVER use auto-tune in my records.
You are working on another Cypress Hill album. Sen Dog said that it would be a hip-hop album, but on the other hand, there will be Rage Against The Machine, Linkin Park or Guns N Roses on it, which indicates rather a rock album. So, what will the album be like?
With all our Cypress Hill albums the backbone is going to be hip-hop, but we do generally try to cross over into that rock/rap world and those artists fit those criteria nicely. The new music is sounding incredible!
What are the 5 things that you hate the most?
People that dont share their weed
DJs that play my old Cypress Hill records in a club just because Im there
Girls that try to sit on my lap in clubs when my wife is there