The post 10 Hip-Hop Albums Cypress Hill’s Sen Dog Thinks Every Music Fan Should Own appeared first on Consequence.
According to Sen Dog, the first words he heard Tupac Shakur say were, “Hey, baby, I gotta call you back. The weed just got here.”
Smoking out Pac is a typical story from the Cypress Hill MC. As he dives into 10 favored albums over Zoom, the music brings back memories of hotel hangouts and backyard barbecues with legends. His anecdotes reveal a tightly-knit early hip-hop scene, and while he is quick to note when artists hailed from the East Coast or “around our way,” to hear him tell it, everyone was friends.
At 57 years old, he’s grown up alongside hip-hop, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. Or at least, the 50th anniversary of DJ Kool Herc’s “Back to School Jam,” which has been pegged as a first-of-its-kind concert. Sen Dog seems to view the whole thing as a somewhat arbitrary framing of a broader story. “It’s been achieving more significance as the years have gone by,” he says. “I don’t remember, but at some point I started hearing about Kool Herc being the first guy to start this movement, and then it actually having a year that went along with it. So now we have a character and a year. You know what I mean?”
For him, hip-hop began when one of his friends played Malcolm McLaren’s “Buffalo Gals” at baseball practice. “Three buffalo gals go ’round the outside,” Sen Dog raps. “That was the first hip-hop culture song that I heard. And then I saw a video for it” with the Rock Steady Crew. “I saw my buddy and a bunch of his friends were doing this crazy dancing shit on the floor. And I asked him what kind of style of dancing it is. ‘It’s called breakdancing bro. You know, hip-hop.’ From that point on I started getting into it more, more, more.”
And he never stopped. A few weeks ago, Cypress Hill celebrated the 30th anniversary of their seminal album Black Sunday (pre-orders of the deluxe vinyl are ongoing), and last month they played some special concerts (tickets to their upcoming UK/EU shows can be found here, with a handful of US dates on sale here). These shows are another The Simpsons prediction that came true, though this one was a self-fulfilling prophecy: In 1996, Cypress Hill lent their voices to the “Homerpalooza” episode in which their band may or may not have ordered an orchestra while high. Now, it’s become a reality.
“I don’t think there’s any hip-hop artists that have done a concert with a symphony orchestra,” he says. “You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s the first of its kind. There’s a lot of things have been done. So let me not speak out of turn. But it’s definitely from, you know, the ‘Homerpalooza’ episode that the idea comes from.”
Today, Cypress Hill continue to find inspiration in pop culture, and Sen Dog still relishes the feeling of falling in love with a hip-hop album. As he dived into his 10 essential hip-hop albums, he almost never stopped smiling, as one memory led to another. As for his picks, the records are evenly split between East and West Coasts, but for his own neck of the woods, he chose to celebrate some less-heralded gems: pioneers of “Cholo rap” and latino hip-hop culture, a nearly forgotten Dr. Dre collaborator, and more. And each essential record came with an essential story.
Check out Cypress Hill’s Sen Dog’s list of 10 hip-hop records every music fan should own ahead, and you can also listen to the complete interview featuring all his incredible tales via the podcast episode below. In addition, be sure to check out the exclusive Hip-Hop 50 merch available now at the Consequence Shop.
N.W.A. — Straight Outta Compton
They’re from down the street from us in South Gate. Even though they were from the other side of the color line, you know, the Bloods and the Crips thing, we felt a connection with those guys. We thought, ‘Wow, if they could do it, then other kids from ’round here could do it too.’ They laid down a blueprint on how to do it, you know what I mean? Get your Dr. Dre, get your Ice-Cube, get your Eazy-E. Get all your essential cast members in order to do what you got to do. And I got to meet them with my brother Mellow Man [Ace], who had done a few shows with them in the late ’80s. They were cool dudes!
The first record from N.W.A. — I mean, I know people have said it was groundbreaking, but in LA, it really, really shook the ground. Because these are homeboys from LA and they’re rapping about things that we go through. Yeah, and one of my homeboys, Mexican homeboy, Krazy Dee was on the album cover and nobody ever shouts him out for that. Because you got like 10 brothers there and then there’s Krazy Dee. If people ask me who is that dude, I gotta tell them: it’s Krazy Dee from around our way.
Ultramagnetic MC’s — Critical Beatdown
There was one of those records that we would listen to front to back. As soon as that last song was done, turn around and flip it and play from the beginning right over again. They had a lot of groundbreaking stuff. But it didn’t get that attention that I thought it deserved. Very underground, you know, but full of good songs and great rhymes. Kool Keith, Ced Gee, Moe Love, and TR Love — I actually got to meet them on my first trip to New York for the new music seminar. And they were aware of us, and it just blew my whole existence away.
One of the first albums that was very, very, very influential on our block. And there were a lot of similarities between Cypress Hill and Ultramagnetic, as far as I think the structure of it all. The way that they attack their songs vocally, with Kool Keith being the main rapper, and then Ced Gee coming in and reinforcing, you know what I mean, was kind of like B-Real and me interacting.
Public Enemy — Yo! Bum Rush the Show
I still listen to it on the regular. I could tell they were from the East Coast because of their accents. But man, the power that Chuck D came out with, and the the lunacy that Flavor Flav would exhibit, like, this guy’s uncontrollable, he’s on his own planet. I just love seeing that. And I love the representation of the Black culture that they came with and the outspokenness that they had, you know, saying things that people didn’t want to hear, you know, and making them dangerous. Their logo was ill, B-Boy with the scope around them, I’m thinking about it now and it makes me smile, because it was just so clever.
And then you had in my opinion the greatest rapper of all time, Chuck D in there kicking life facts. And it’s funny, people look at him and they think the militant thing, and the pro-Black message, but a lot of what Chuck was talking about could be applied to anybody’s regular life. I think that’s what made him different as an MC, you have to really, really listen to his lyrics properly to understand, he’s coming from a humanitarian point of view.
The song “Sophisticated Bitch,” it had like a rock riff on it. And I’ve always been a fan of rock and roll and and funk and hip-hop together. It was an exciting time for hip-hop, man.
Run DMC — King of Rock
Another hip-hop band that didn’t mind having some guitar rock on there. The first time I heard Run-DMC was life changing, because that was the first band that I saw that made me want to do what they were doing. You know, and I heard a song, “It’s Like That,” I heard it on the radio. And I was like, ‘Man, this is cool.’ And then that weekend, they’re performing it on Soul Train. My whole get down was Saturday, I would go and get a 40 ounce and some weed and watch American Bandstand and Soul Train. And I turned it on and they got their leathers and their hats, and their shoes are untied. I was like, they look like they’re from Mars. And I was hooked right then and there.
I still have that same routine, but now these TV shows don’t exist. So it’s all about going in my studio and just blasting some of my favorite hip-hop jams of all time, as loud as they could go. Just sit there and veg out for a while and just kind of, like, reminisce on what a great existence is hip-hop. I never would have thought that music that I fell in love with when I was 16 years old was going to reward me with all that.
Mellow Man Ace — Escape from Havana
That would be my brother. Groundbreaking, really opened up the Latino rhyme style, the bilingual rhyme style, and he opened a lot of doors for a lot of Latino kids that would come behind him and leave their mark, you know, in this hip-hop industry. But without him and his song “Mentirosa,” who knows how long it would have taken for us to get there.
Prior to that, that style didn’t really exist. It wasn’t out there dominating until him, and he had some really good songs on there and then he had myself on a song, had B-Real on a song, had DJ Muggs produce a song, so Escape from Havana was definitely something that left us feeling like we’re next. Look at it now with all this Bad Bunny stuff and Pit Bull, all this stuff — Melo was one of the pioneers of that style.
Kid Frost — Hispanic Causing Panic
Again, I’m gonna go with one of the hometown favorites, Kid Frost, with this album. He represented so hard for his culture. Like God, dude, from the whole zoot suit to the lowrider cars, you know, Cholo rap and all that stuff. And again, you know, he had the Mellow Man Ace effect, he’s turning the culture on to so many other people around the world that perhaps hadn’t seen how it’s done in East LA. And if you look at places like Japan, where the low riders and the Cholo culture are very big, and I think that Frost, his record, has something to do with making it more accessible to other cultures, the Cholo homeboy point of view.
You know, back in those days, we would roll with Kid Frost, B-Real and myself, we had a little thing back then called the Latin Alliance, and it was us and a whole bunch of other Latino MCs that would roll with Frost. Let’s say he had an hour to perform, right? And he would do about 45 minutes and then bring us all on stage to freestyle the rest of those 15 minutes. He was giving a lot of kids their first taste of of a big stage.
EPMD — Strictly Business
Back to the East Coast with the EPMD and their first album, Strictly Business. When I first heard Eric Sermon, I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ It’s just one of those voices that took you somewhere else. And then PMD, they both had it in their first four records, I was just all over it.
They didn’t sound like anybody else. And we understood at that point: You need to have your own rhyming style, you can’t sound like anybody. You have to have your own thing that you’re about. Just can’t come out rhyming and be like, just be a great rapper, you have to be about something. You got to touch people here in the head, in the brain, you know what I mean?
That’s one of the bands that I actually got the bucket hat idea from. If you look at their first albums, they’re wearing those bucket hats; the only difference with mine is that I had mine embroidered with Cypress Hill on it. But when I saw that, I was like, ‘Oh, they look cool. That’s where I’m gonna get my flavor from; I’m gonna wear the hat, but I’m gonna wear it LA style, East LA style.’ So that’s where that whole thing for me came from.
A Tribe Called Quest — People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
Again, another record that changed the musical outline of hip-hop. I didn’t hear any kind of musical production like that kind of production up until that point. The rhymes were sick and they had a cool one-two with Phife Daw and Q-Tip, their back and forth was on point. When I listened to it, it reminds me of like a hot summer day in New York City walking down the street, you know, downing a 40 ounce like we used to do back in the days when we used to visit New York. It carries a great vibe, and it’s just a beautiful record. Beautiful, beautiful.
I’ve always been into hip-hop bands. Hip-hop solo artists are great and I love them and everything but if you want to get me going, throw on some group songs and bands, you know, three or four guys.
Beastie Boys — License to Ill
I can’t leave that record off of this list, that record was so important to hip-hop and music in general. All the styles that were on it, the voices, the characters, what they rhymed about. “Brass Monkey,” it was brilliant, I thought it was great. Their whole level of creativity that those guys expressed throughout their career is unmatched. There’s still no one that was quite as ill a B-Boy as those three dudes. One of the best things in these 50 years of hip-hop, the Beastie Boys have been, I think, one of the best bands of all time.
We would eventually in 1992 get a chance to tour with the Beastie Boys and open for them. And that’s the same tour that we met Eric “Bobo” [Correa] on, who was playing for the Beastie Boys. And we struck a friendship up with him. We joke about it now, but it wasn’t funny back then, that we stole Eric “Bobo” from the Beastie Boys.
The D.O.C. — No One Can Do It Better
He had a severe car accident that derailed his career. But if you listen to that first D.O.C. record with the song “It’s Funky Enough” on there, that took LA by storm. I don’t want to say he’s a forgotten rapper, because I’ve never forgotten him, but the D.O.C. was an incredible rapper in his own right. And after he couldn’t deliver records anymore, he wrote on a lot of Dr. Dre records on The Chronic and stuff like that. Dr. Dre kept looking out for him. You just have to listen to that first album, because he exhibits a lot of different vocal styles and patterns. I could only imagine if he had more records, if he could have delivered more records, what a bigger contribution he would have made. Because I believe, you know, that he’s one of the best rappers to come down that Dr. Dre production line. For sure. Naming off that record makes me want to listen to it again right now.
Digital Underground — Sex Packets
We met them at a barbecue. Their first time they came to LA, we met up. We started hanging out, going on and being on the side of the stage while they performed, just learning and soaking up all their energy. They turned a hip-hop show into a sideshow, into a circus. That was how wild they were. And we picked up on it way back then: You can never let the the audience get comfortable on their feet. Always keep them jumping, always keep them moving. Always keep them involved.
I remember one day they came up to Hollywood and Money-B calls me up like, “Come to the hotel.” I went up there. And he’s like, “One of Shock G’s homeboys Tupac is with us. He’s down in that room over there, 118, why don’t you go over there and say what’s up to him?”
All right, cool, whatever, I never met the guy. Went over there, knocked on the door. He answered the door. He’s talking to some girl. And I introduce myself and I say, “Hey, man, I’m, Sen Dom from the crew Cypress Hill. I’m Money-B’s homeboy.” And he says to the girl on the phone, “Hey, baby, I gotta call you back. The weed just got here.”
He invited me in and I smoked him out. And that was the first time I met him and we hit it off right away, you know, really good. And we became friends from that day until the day he passed away.