Ever since Cypress Hill blazed to prominence in a cloud of haze with their celebrated self-titled debut just over 30 years ago, the legendary group has always operated outside the proverbial box.
From helping to pave the way for Latinos in hip-hop and becoming some of the culture’s most outspoken cannabis advocates to bridging the sonic gap between East and West Coast rap and eventually transcending genre altogether, Cypress Hill has never been afraid to forge its own path in the annals of music history. It is with the same revolutionary forward-thought that B-Real, Sen Dog and Eric Bobo have joined forces with accomplished 3D animator Tillavision and The NFT Agency for a curated collection — available exclusively at Crypto.com/NFT today.
Centered on the song “Certified,” Cypress Hill made the collection in commemoration of the group’s acclaimed 10th studio album “Back in Black” — a followup to 2018’s lauded “Elephants on Acid,” released earlier this year. It features animations in Tillavision’s signature style, with imagery pulled from and inspired by the song’s video — also animated by the 3D artist — as well as Cypress Hill’s classic iconography like skulls, crosses, “heavy machinery” and some nods to Bitcoin for good measure.
Of course, greenery is a central theme in the collection as well — with depictions of marijuana leaves sprinkled throughout the drop’s artwork. The Cypress Hill brand has always been synonymous with weed culture, ever since the group formed after meeting on Cypress Avenue in Los Angeles to smoke together nightly in the late ’80s. Its members have publicly advocated for legalization since before it was as socially acceptable in the mainstream, championing the plant’s use for medicinal and recreational purposes in their music and lives — from hosting an annual Cypress Hill Smoke Out festival for several years, inviting the late cannabis activist Jack Herer to open their shows, hitting their famed bongs Excalibur and Excalibur Two live on stage and even being banned from Saturday Night Live for lighting up on air in 1993 to opening B-Real’s chain of successful, fully-licensed Californian dispensaries in 2018.
Give the Drummer Some
Bobo — Cypress Hill’s percussionist, a former Beastie Boys collaborator and the son of prolific Latin jazz musician Willie Bobo — spoke on the group’s impact in respect to cannabis culture with Crypto.com NFT: “I think that we have to celebrate how far we’ve come. [From] 50 years ago to 15 years ago, everything was really still taboo. Now, we have states that are either legal or medicinal — and it’s growing… I think that we helped get that going along the way,” he said, noting that there is still a lot of work to be done in regards to education.
“I think that, with Cypress, we haven’t made songs just celebrating the thing of getting high — we’ve come at it [from] different angles,” he continued. “You have a song like ‘Dr. Greenthumb,’ which is from a grower’s standpoint. You have songs like ‘Weed Man,’ that tell the story of the trap… We [can also] talk intelligently about the uses of cannabis.”
A testament to Cypress Hill’s well-rounded approach to cannabis awareness, the “Back in Black” track “Open Ya Mind” speaks to the ambiguity of legalization in the U.S. “We can talk about smoking, but there’s still a lot of people out there that need to be educated,” B-Real said of the song in a press release. “As the scene has progressed and evolved into what it is now, there still are some road bumps out there… There’s still a whole lot of work to be done, so we just keep pushing along.” Incidentally, for the NFT collection, Tillavision created a few of the drop’s pieces in ode to B-Real’s iconic character from the “Dr. Greenthumb” video, also the namesake and logo of the rapper’s dispensaries.
A myriad of both contemporary and classic hip-hop royalty have also commissioned Tilla for 3D, virtual reality and augmented reality content — including Nas, Busta Rhymes, Drake, Cardi B, DJ Khaled, Megan Thee Stallion, Swae Lee, Pop Smoke, JuiceWRLD and Young Dolph. Death Row Records even enlisted his services for a Crypto.com NFT curated collection celebrating the label’s 30th anniversary last year, and he recently returned to the platform with record producer Mitch Mula for a drop featuring their “decentralized avatar rapper” character Lil Bitcoin — who also makes cameos in both the Death Row and Cypress Hill collections.
Unlike most of the group’s catalog, which was predominantly created with renowned in-house producer DJ Muggs at the helm, “Back in Black” was entirely produced by Detroit beat maestro Black Milk — with earth-shattering uptempo boom bap drum work that compliments both B-Real’s sharp, nasally flow and Sen Dog’s baritone bark well. The ever-busy Muggs has recently embraced a more minimalist, experimental, arguably even grittier production style than he was already known for — popular on the East Coast independent hip-hop scene, which is undergoing a renaissance of sorts — releasing back-to-back LPs with artists like Roc Marciano, Meyhem Lauren, Flee Lord, CRIMEAPPLE, Rome Streetz and Rigz. He has solely produced practically every other Cypress Hill album — short of 2010’s “Rise Up,” which included a medley of producers — making “Back in Black” Cypress Hill’s first project fully-produced by an outsider.
Back in Black
In a collaborative Web3 spirit, Bobo revealed how the unexpected project with Black Milk came about: “We were in the middle of recording ‘Elephants on Acid’ and we had to take a little break [to] just go on tour, or do something like that,” he said. “We were really on a roll and we were figuring we didn’t know exactly when we were going to get back into finishing ‘Elephants.’
“We wanted to keep it in the studio [and] had some people that we were thinking about maybe doing an EP with, [so] we tested Black Milk. I was a big fan of his work with Random Axe, [with Guilty Simpson and] Sean Price, [and] his association with Dilla. I thought it would be different because it [would] be a collaboration that no one would expect. You have your obvious choices, and obvious people that you would think that would be the first go-to, but [we] wanted the element of surprise and [to] come up with something different.
“The idea really was to just do an EP kinda thing, [but] Black Milk just really fell in the pocket and everything that he was giving us was really fire. The idea from an EP kinda went out the window and [we said], ‘Let’s do this album.’ We basically completed about a good 90% of it before we went back to recording ‘Elephants on Acid.’ Actually, there [are] people [that] don’t know this was started pre-pandemic, in the middle of ‘Elephants on Acid.’
“I think that, Black Milk, he really nailed it. He gave his own spin and his own sound to it. He kept the darkness, but brought that boom bap — and I think that he nailed it perfectly. And there you go, ‘Back in Black.’”
Cypress Hill’s Legacy
The commemorative “Back in Black” NFT collection follows a whirlwind couple of months for the group. Since dropping the album in March, Cypress Hill saw the release of a Mass Appeal-produced Showtime documentary titled “Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain” — fittingly aired on the unofficial weed holiday April 20 — and participated in a Verzuz battle with fellow hip-hop legends Onyx earlier this month. The group has since embarked on a tour with heavy metal band Slipknot, sans Sen Dog — who unfortunately had to drop out due to a medical emergency. Crypto.com NFT wishes him a full and speedy recovery.
“I don’t think any of us thought that we would’ve been this successful,” B-Real said of the group’s legacy. “Hip-hop is a tough industry. It’s dictated by the record companies and is supposedly a young man’s game. But it’s really not. It’s about who still has the pass and who can put it down properly.”
Browse the “Back in Black” collection by Cypress Hill.
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Editor’s Note (Sept. 1, 2022): an earlier version of this article was originally published on the Crypto.com NFT Medium blog on May 27, 2022 and has since been edited and/or updated to republish.