eteran Hip Hop group Cypress Hill has proven itself a valuable asset in the fight for Marijuana law reform. With more than 18 million albums sold worldwide (11 million in the US alone), a healthy assortment of their fans have been turned on to the cause of legalization.
In addition to his career as the band’s MC, founding member B-Real is a music producer, paintball enthusiast, and always an outspoken cannabis activist. He recently released his first solo album, Smoke and Mirrors, which continues his penchant to educate via socially conscious lyrics. His distinctive vocals are unmistakable, the grooves are tight, and his willingness to advocate medical marijuana is lyrically represented in the standout track “Fire” (which features reggae great Damian Marley).
Though some of Cypress Hill’s hits take on a more fun and light-headed flavor with jams such as “Hits from the Bong” and “I Wanna Get High,” B-Real takes the politics of marijuana-related issues quite seriously. Recently, I had a chance to converse with the rhyme-master about legislation, Obama, and my own previous chance encounter with the rap superstar:
How were you introduced to marijuana?
In junior high I just started hangin’ out with some older kids that put me on to it. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing in the beginning, but after a while it just stuck [laughs]. I’ve tried other drugs, but those things just weren’t my thing. I always just stuck to weed.
When I was a kid, I went through a whole stoned “couch potato” phase. Do you feel that such an image of stoners help perpetuate a negative stereotype?
To a degree, but I think regardless of the casual stoner, there will always be that label. And it will always be hard to outlive that. It is what it is; it’s the same thing for alcohol users. There’s a lot to be said about alcohol, and it’s legal!
Your website features a timeline on the history of marijuana. Given its current state of controversy, what do you think is important for people to understand about cannabis?
For so long, all the information in regards to all of its uses — aside from just smoking it — has been suppressed. Basically, it’s important to know all about it. Now, given the state of the economy, people are more open to learning what it’s about because they know it’s been the No. 1 cash crop in America, second to none. Everybody talks about it. It’s definitely time for these guys in Congress, the Senate and the feds to start recognizing what’s going on, because they need a new revenue stream to put a dent in the deficit. I think it’s that time, when people need to open their minds to the possibility of legalization. For all of its benefits, not just to help the economy, but the medical aspects as well. It treats a lot of different illnesses, you gotta think about things like that.
Do you feel it’s your responsibility as a popular musician to inform people about, and support, the 420 cause? To essentially stick up for what you believe in?
Oh, definitely, man. As an artist, you always want to stand strong on your beliefs. It’s too easy to backtrack when times are tough. When everybody’s comin’ down on you, it’s easy to go backwards. Standing strong for your beliefs and following them through — that’s a rarity for a lot of people. For us, we always wanted to keep fighting for whatever cause we were involved in. I think it’s important.
Where do you see the future of marijuana legislation?
Maybe in the next few years we might see more states fall into the [decriminalization] act or the medical-marijuana act. You never know what’s going to come about. It’s going to take time for people to keep learning about it and to keep an open mind and we might see it legal in the next five to 10 years.??What recent events/measures in the world of Marijuana Legislation have grabbed your attention the most?
Actually, a couple of things. First, the fact that Obama told the feds not to raid the medical marijuana shops. That’s one. That’s a big statement. Even though he didn’t come out and admit that he was for legalization, that’s a big thing for a president to say. I think he understands the severity of the situation when it comes to where we’re at, economically. The other thing is you see more and more states being open to the decriminalization act or the medical marijuana act. When we first started talking about it in music and whatnot, nobody ever thought they’d see something like that. Here we are with, I think, at least 12 states that have these laws now. From 10 years ago, that’s pretty big.??How can your fans make a difference in influencing marijuana legislation?
I think they just gotta learn about it, learn how to get it on their ballot in their respective states, cities and counties. Try to get more active! Get more people involved. That’s how it starts, getting people excited about something and following through with it.
I actually got a hit off you at the Rainbow in Hollywood once. It’s a little late to ask, but does it bug you when random people come up to you in public and ask for a hit?
No, not at all, man! Hey, it’s all good! It just depends on the manner on how you ask. Our circle always shares. There are a lot of people that come by there; Michael Irvin a few times, Judd Nelson used to come blaze — it’s a whole mix of a different crowd. Wynona Ryder is probably the most notable person that came and blazed up with us. Everybody comes up out there and smokes out with us!
Do you think herb promotes peaceful behavior?
Well, people are known to get more passive and less aggressive when they smoke up [laughs]. Yeah, I would say out of any so-called “drug” that’s out there, marijuana doesn’t make you want to fight, it makes you want to chill. Definitely, man.