The seminal hip hop group Cypress Hill is gracing the stage at Osheaga this summer on July 31 at, ahem, 4:20. I got the chance to chat with Sen Dog of Cypress Hill about Montreal, Osheaga, the first record he ever bought and how he thinks the music industry has changed since their first album in 1991…
Montreal Buzz: So, how do you like Montreal?
Sen Dog: I like it a lot, I like the whole French thing. Any time you get a chance to get to visit a place that you learned about as a kid, it’s great. The food there is brilliant. It’s a very nice place.
MB: You’re playing Osheaga this year. Is there anyone you’d like to see at the festival? Like Eminem, maybe?
SD: If time permits it I’d like to see some bands, but Eminem and us play on different days.
MB: Your album Rise Up featured members of Linkin Park, System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, Marc Anthony and more. How did you come up such a diverse list of contributors?
SD: Every single aspect of Cypress Hill, our dark side, our happy side, our rock side, our hip hop side and our Latin side are all represented on the album. The song with Marc Anthony was our last song, a lot of people were surprised to learn we were working with Marc Anthony, but he knows a lot about hip hop. For songs like Armada Latina, the Armada part was Marc Anthony’s idea and I came up with the Latina part.
MB: Cypress Hill is in a unique position because you’ve seen the music industry undergo a serious transformation. What do you think about the changes that have taken place since the 80s and 90s?
SD: You’ve got to go with the changes, if you refuse to conform then you’re going to get left behind. I’m old school, I always bought complete albums and I’m still that way. My daughter is an iTunes kid- one song here, one song there. It hurts the artists more than anything. A lot of opportunities in music aren’t there anymore. It’s hard to get signed on the strength of your talent, now you’ve got to come into the game with somebody supporting you.
SC: Do you remember the first album you ever bought?
SD: Yeah, it was an Isley Brothers record. I had records from my dad who worked for the airlines. I remember once that someone left a record on the plane and he brought it home. It was Help by The Beatles. I loved it and then we noticed it was signed by all four Beatles- the next day my dad sold it for 50 bucks! The Beatles led me to Elvis, which led me to Hendrix, Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, then funk music like Parliament/Funkadelic and stuff like that.
MB: But eventually hip-hop became your main focus?
SD: It narrowed into hip-hop. The first time I heard rap was Kurtis Blow’s The Breaks, it didn’t do anything for me. When I first heard Run DMC, I thought ‘this is really cool’. When Public Enemy came out, I wanted to be just like Chuck D. But an even earlier song that got me into hip-hop was Rapture by Blondie. She was one of the first mainstream artists that saw hip hop and wanted to be part of it.