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Cuban Music Lesson: Cypress Hill

Get ready to be schooled, asere. It’s time for a Cuban music lesson! Learn to tell your cha cha cha from your mambo without leaving your couch. Put on your dancing shoes, guayaberas, park your 57 Chevy, light up that Habano, and pay attention.

By Jack Tomas

When I was a freshman in high school I was anything but a badass. I was a total nerd. I know that it’s trendy to say that you were a nerd these days, but I was seriously not cool. I didn’t live in the hood, I wasn’t a gangbanger, girls thought I was a joke, I didn’t do drugs or drink. I was as square a regular quadrilateral with four 90 degree angles, (See? Nerd). But I desperately wanted to be cool and tough. So, I lived my fantasies through music and movies. In 1991, I found a group of fellow Cubans that I could listen to and pretend I was an L.A. Latin thug. I’m talking about Cypress Hill.

Cypress hill is made up of Sen Dogg (Senen Reyes), B-Real (Louis Freese), DJ Muggs (Lawrence Muggered), and Eric Bobo. Sen Dogg was born in Havana and immigrated to L.A. when he was a kid. He started a group with his brother Mellow Man Ace called DVX. They recruited a Mexican-Cuban kid that called himself B-Real. Mellow Man quit the group and was replaced by DJ Muggs. Mellow Man probably regretted that move. Later, they added Eric Bobo as their instrumentalist. The most recognizable thing about Cypress Hill is B-Real’s rapping style. He flows in a distinctive high-pitched nasal voice that is instantly recognizable. Some people think he sounds like a constipated cat, but you have to admit that you know who is rapping immediately. In 1991, they released their first album, “Cypress Hill”, and became the first Latino group to achieve multi-platinum status. Their subsequent albums have almost all gone multi-platinum as well. It’s no surprise. Their beats are dope, (to use a word from my teen years), a mix of Latin rhythms, deep basslines, and crazy samples. For example, in the chorus to “Insane in the Membrane” they mixed in the sound of a horse neighing. That’s awesome and weird. Their music makes you want to get into a fight…or get high.

Look, Cypress Hill loves weed. Like, looooves weed. They are vocal members of the National Organization For The Reform Of Marijuana Laws. B-Real is notorious for rocking the ganj on stage. He’s been arrested more than once for this little act of civil disobedience. We here at Tu Vez do not advocate drug use, we just like the music. In the last 20 years, Cypress Hill have become rap legends. They were inducted into the VH1’s Hip Hop Honors, for what that’s worth. I decided to include them in the annals of the Cuban Music Lessons because they are easily the most popular Cuban-American hip hop stars of all time. That’s a pretty big accomplishment. Especially for four guys that are high alllll the time.

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