Eric “Bobo” Correa might be one of my favorite percussionists of all-time. Fusing Latin jazz with rock and hip-hop, his unique style and limitless energy has been fueling Cypress Hill for over 30 years and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
We sat down with Bobo as he prepares for the upcoming Cali Vibes Festival taking place this weekend in Long Beach, California. During our chat, we discussed his start in music, the legend of Cypress Hill, and of course all things vinyl.
How did you get your start in music?
Well, I come from a musical family. My father was a Latin jazz musician by the name of Willie Bobo. He played with a lot of incredible musicians like Tito Puente and Miles Davis, and he had albums under his own credit as well. And when I was born, I just kind of gravitated to the music. I used to attend shows as early as five-years-old with him at jazz clubs in North Hollywood, and I got the bug immediately. I was playing pots and pans when I was two and three-years-old. So, I always knew that I wanted to be involved in music somehow.
Who were your inspirations as an up and coming percussionist?
People like Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria and Patato Valdez. There were also other jazz drummers like Buddy Rich, “Philly Joe” Jones, Louis Bell, and Max Roach. So, anything rhythm related is where I naturally gravitated. But those were my main inspirations growing up.
Did you believe that music would ultimately end up being your career?
Well, that was my ultimate plan. It’s something that I wanted to do. However, just because I wanted to do something, it didn’t mean that it’s going to happen. But I think with me, playing with my dad for 10 years before he passed away, I knew that I wanted to do music.
So, dad passed away when I was 15 years old. I took over his jazz band—which was an incredible responsibility—but I did it to kind of keep the name going. But again, it’s very difficult to take the place of somebody that was as recognized and loved as my father. To just come in and step in his place, whether I’m his son or not, was difficult. So, I had to find my own way and eventually, that’s what happened.
What was your first big break as a musician?
I think that the thing for me that had me feeling that “I’m ready to roll” was when I started doing guest appearances at the Playboy Jazz Festival playing with legends like Tito Puente, Poncho Sanchez, and Johnny Otis. So, people like that, very mature, and they each put me under their wing in a way and allowed me to learn. And I think when that was all happening and people kept on calling me, I knew, okay, this is something that I think that I can do—I can sustain myself like this. So, I think it was late teens when I knew for sure that music was what I wanted to pursue all the way.
Share with us what it was like working with the Beastie Boys back in the day?
That was an incredible experience for me because I had been a fan of Beastie Boys in my youth. And late high school going into college they were a big deal, and never in a million years would I have thought that I would be playing with them. And it was just incredible to be a part of that band during that time, because they were just trying to get back up to speed musically, and they started to experiment with their instruments, and they were just changing their narrative a little bit. And when we finally got into the studio and started to work on the album Ill Communication, I stepped back and said, “Wow, I’m actually making music with these guys.” So, it was great.
You’ve been a member Cypress Hill for over 30 years. What’s it been like to be a member of such an iconic band?
It’s amazing because, first of all, not a lot of people can say that they have made it this length of time—30 years—and also be as influential. And seeing the whole growth from our stance on cannabis and the legalization thing, to how music has evolved and how we can still stay relevant, and still be in demand to do shows and festivals and everything like that, it’s an incredible feeling because I know that not every group gets that. And to still be enjoying doing what you do after all these years is incredible as well. So, I think that it’s been an incredible blessing for me. Because again, I was a fan of Cypress Hill before even joining up with them and playing with them, and never did I think that I would be playing with them, much less being a member.
Did you ever believe that Cypress Hill would have got as big as it did in the early ’90s?
That’s a good question. I mean no, we didn’t really expect it to be the monster that it became. You can come from a place that you’re happy with, at least a moderate success—being able to go on your own tours and perform around the world and stuff like that—that’s always a goal.
But man, when you’re in demand and your album is number one, selling millions and millions of records, it’s a whole other thing. And getting a chance to play alongside your heroes musically and things like that, these are all dream goals. So, for it to be actually happening, it’s been an incredible journey. And to still be doing it and still enjoy it after all these years, it’s great. We’re very, very close as a band and also as friends.
Soon you’ll be performing at Cali Vibes on The Greens stage in front of an expected 40,000 fans or more. What runs through your mind as you prepare for a show this size?
Oh, we’re on the Greens Stage? (Laughs) We just go out there with the mentality that we give the best show that we can, and we’re trying to rock the stage. There’s a lot of great entertainers and bands on that lineup, and we’re just trying to be one of those bands that, out of all of them, you remember how we rocked it. So, we’re looking forward to having a great time. Hope to see great weather, the crowd be into it, everybody’s feeling the vibe, and just enjoy. I think it’s going to be a great show.
What are your favorite Cypress Hill songs to perform live?
Some of my favorites to perform include “Lick a Shot,” “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That,” and “(Rock) Superstar”—that one is fun. All in all, songs that are funky and get people out of their seats!
What should fans expect from Cypress Hill during the Cali Vibes performance?
Oh, wow. I mean, this festival, it’s great that it’s combining a lot of different genres into one because music is really the universal language. No matter what genre is your favorite, we all love good music. So, just expect that everyone is going to be bringing their “A” game, just having a good time performing, and we plan to bring the heat and play songs that you love. They’ll be some flips on some other songs that you might know along with a couple of special surprises. I mean, our show is going to be pretty packed, so get ready.
I’m sure that vinyl holds a special place in your heart. Can you share what vinyl means to you personally versus music in the digital age?
I’m all in for evolution musically. But as a kid growing up with vinyl, I do enjoy listening to music in that format. I enjoy being able to appreciate the artwork on a vinyl jacket. You spend time with it. That’s the thing that I like about it.
When you go to a record store and you’re looking through the stacks of vinyl, there’s something you can read, inserts, something on the back. Sure, there is a lot of detail with the art that digitally, yeah, you can recreate and make it really clean and crisp and everything, but it’s not even the same experience that you get when somethings actually in your hand.
And I think that vinyl, even though everybody thought that it was just going to just disappear, is still here, and it’s great. I hope that vinyl stays relevant because it’s definitely a big piece of our musical history, a big piece of our musical life all over the world, vinyl.
Who is the funniest member of Cypress Hill?
The funniest member of Cypress Hill. Probably me. (Laughs)
Who is your all-time favorite percussionist or drummer?
All right. All time percussionist? That would be my dad, Willie Bobo. Drummer? For today, that would be John Bonham.
Does B-Real really smoke as much weed as we seem to think he does?
Yes, yes, and absolutely, yes.
What is your favorite venue to play live?
I remember seeing a video by U2 and they were doing “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” and they were filming at Red Rocks and I’m like, “Man, I want to go to that venue. I want to play there.” Natural acoustics. It’s made inside the rock. The view is beautiful. It’s incredible.
Who is your favorite up and coming artist?
Wow, up and coming artists… I really like MCs. I like RJ Payne. Lou Bangers is a producer, a hip hop producer. I’m saying Ab-Soul, Freddie Gibbs. They’re not really up and coming, but they’re on the brink of stardom right there.
When I name these two gentleman, what’s the first thing that comes to mind—Estevan Oriol.
Genius photographer. Funny dude.
Excellent artist, former mushroom partner.
Reflecting on the ups and downs of your career, what is one bit of advice you might offer your 18-year-old self if you could go back in time?
Make sure that you know the business, learn it, because that is going to be your longevity.
If you understand the music and keep relevant with the music business—and the ins and outs of it—that will help you in being able to reinvent yourself. Get yourself out there, get your product out there, understand the business. Because you can perform, and you can play, and you can make money and everything. But the first thing you do is that you spend money on all the materialistic things when you got to make sure that you have things together so you can keep on getting that money in the future.
Any final thoughts for our readers?
I’d like to thank all the fans for their support over the years. We’re looking forward to Cali Vibes. It’s going to be an incredible show. Be ready to rock out with us. We got to get a lot of plans for this year seeing it being the 30th anniversary of Black Sunday. So, stay tuned for all the smokey activities that we got coming up. Peace.