There aren’t many hip-hop MCs with a better resume than Cypress Hill’s B-Real. Known for his distinctive high-pitch and nasal tone, his unique voice has pierced through the many shifting decades of hip-hop. However, B-Real’s pre-rap existence was filled with violence and discretion. Dropping out of high school, he was part of a Los Angeles gang. At 17, his lung was punctured after being shot as a part of a gang-related shooting. As he puts it with Kerrang, “Most likely, I probably would have ended up in cemetery or prison, which is almost the same. I definitely would have ended up there.”
Growing up in Los Angeles, B-Real was naturally exposed to hip-hop from an early age. However, his first love was actually in the aggressive world of rock and metal. He wasn’t necessarily one of those teenagers blasting N.W.A. in the car. Instead, he gravitated to groups such as Black Sabbath and Nirvana. It wasn’t until he heard Run-D.M.C. that he began to connect with rap. He told AARP, “They played Run-D.M.C.: “Here We Go,” I think it was. Previously, I was into more metal music, rock music and stuff like that — stuff that my mother and father, my brothers and sisters listened to. When I heard Run-DMC, I thought, What is this? This is dope.”
B-Real’s First Love Was Rock
He began to discover his love for actively creating hip-hop along with DJ Muggs and Sen Dog. The two were initially critical of B-Real, believing that his natural rapping voice failed to distinguish himself as an MC. He experimented with various styles, leading to his distinctive high-pitched voice. At first, the technique sounded foreign and downright ridiculous to him. In fact, B-Real set his expectations pityingly low for Cypress Hill’s debut project, the self-titled Cypress Hill. To his surprise, his style would be well-received by the hip-hop world.
B-Real was a product of a vast amount of cultural and sonic influences. Punk rock, metal rock, reggae, funk, and even Latin influences merged into an unparalleled sound. “Insane in the Brain” was their defining hit, quickly going Certified Gold. Cypress Hill pushed the boundaries of the genre, proving that hip-hop could take notes from any pallet of influences. In addition, they were the first commercially successful Latino hip-hop group. By 1993’s Black Sunday, the group was romanticizing marijuana amidst classic stoner anthems such as “I Wanna Get High” and “Hits from the Bong.” However, B-Real would become best known for his persisting imprint on rock.
He Was The Architect Behind Cypress Hill
B-Real played a hallmark role in expanding the creative limits of the upcoming Latino community. The group’s success proved that an artist didn’t have to be boxed into a specific genre on the subset of their ethnicity. Cypress Hill was a Latino group meshing rock, funk, and hip-hop. Nothing about the trio fell under the umbrella of normality or commerciality. Yet, they were soaring to the top of the Billboard charts throughout the ’90s. Their success proved to both upcoming creatives and the music industry at-large that the music didn’t need to solely fall under the umbrella of an artist’s ethnic background.
However, B-Real’s star role as a member of Cypress Hill was only stage one of his illustrious multi-decade career. He would later go on to form Prophets of Rage alongside members of Rage Against the Machine and Public Enemy. A group rooted in boundless creativity and an inherent anti-establishment message, their birth was in tandem with the United States’ chaotic political scene. B-Real told Cryptic Rock, “It started with the presidential elections of last year when media outlets made a story which proclaimed Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were ‘Raging Against the Machine.’ This disturbed Tom Morello, and he called Tim and Brad and said, ‘Hey, we have to do something about this. We have to show people what raging against the machine is. We have to bring this music back.’” Prophets of Rage released their exclusive self-titled debut in 2017.
A Music Icon
Outside of the music, B-Real has been an outcrying driving force behind the pro-cannabis movement. His brand, Dr. Greenthumb, has quickly become a staple marijuana company throughout California. Back in the ’90s, B-Real was championing the benefits of the substance in a prevailing culture that was still primarily anti-marijuana. From opening up the conversation surrounding substances to sonically blending rock and hip-hop in an unparalleled manner, the multi-Grammy-winning artist has raged against traditionality from the beginning. Now 53 years old, the hybrid MC and business tycoon sits amongst the Mount Rushmore of influential rappers.