Cypress Hill’s Bobo talks cannabis legalization, 50 years of hip-hop, and performing with symphonies

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOUB) – Cypress Hill is one of the most influential groups in hip-hop history.

Comprised of core members B-Real, Sen Dog, and Bobo, the band released their self-titled full-length debut in 1991 to enormous critical and popular acclaim.

The band followed Cypress Hill with another heavy-hitter in 1993, Black Sunday, spawning the influential crossover hit Insane in the Brain. Cypress Hill was one of the first groups to openly advocate for cannabis use, and the liner notes for Black Sunday in particular featured facts about its benefits.

Black Sunday went platinum four times over in the U.S. years before even medicinal use of cannabis was legal in any state.

Cypress Hill is credited as one the first of few Latin American bands to break into American hip-hop and incorporate rapping in both English and Spanish.

Cypress Hill remains active to this day, becoming the first rap group to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019, and releasing Back in Black, their tenth studio album, in 2022.

A part of Cypress Hill’s enormously original sound can be credited to percussionist Eric “Bobo” Correa – notably son of influential Latin jazz percussionist William Correa, better known by his stage name, Willie Bobo.

WOUB Culture’s Nicholas Kobe spoke Bobo before the band’s performance at Sonic Temple 2024 at the Historic Crew Stadium (1 Black and Gold Stadium). Find a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity, below.

Cypress Hill will perform on Thursday, May 16 along with acts like Disturbed, Evanescence, Judas Priest, and Nita Strauss. Find all of WOUB’s preview coverage of the festival at this link. 

A promotional image of the band Cypress Hill. All three members are standing in a dark room.
Cypress Hill (Credit: Eitan Miskevich)

Nicholas Kobe: If you had to sum up Cypress Hill in one sentence, what would you say?

Bobo: The “stone-iest” group in hip hop.

What makes you say that?

Bobo: Our career-long stance on cannabis, its decriminalization, and eventual legalization. For being advocates and also being knowledgeable of what its good uses are. It’s something that we’ve always been campaigning for, as well as enjoying. We’ve been kind of always educating a little bit about it, whether it’s through interviews or through songs.

Considering you guys have been around for a while, obviously there’s been a lot of change made with cannabis legalization. I’m calling from Ohio, we just legalized it a few months ago. As somebody who’s been advocating for it for so long, how have you seen the perception of cannabis change over the years?

Bobo: Well, I think it really became undeniable when you saw a lot of studies coming out about its uses, which have been around for ages. It’s just that with it being classified as a top, Schedule I drug, it’s very difficult to get rid of the stigmas attached to it. There’s always been propaganda talking very negatively about it, but there was never really a study or a person coming out and saying, “You know what? It’s good use for certain ailments. It helps people.”

Even before it was out there in the public, they were using it on cancer patients, my father being one of ’em, and this was in the early ’80s. So it’s really something that finally people have started to come around and say, “You know what? Maybe this isn’t as bad as what we’ve been led to believe.”

“[We’ve had a] career-long stance on cannabis, its decriminalization, and its eventual legalization. […] It’s something that we’ve always been campaigning for, as well as enjoying.” – Eric “Bobo” Correa

Do you think that your music, other musicians, and pop culture in general is partially responsible for the shift in this perception?

Bobo: I think it’s put the awareness out there. It is our responsibility, how we put the message out there. If we just put the message out there as something that’s used only in a party atmosphere, then you’re going to get a certain kind of feedback from that. You have to talk about it responsibly and you have to have some knowledge about it, even if you’re talking about fun aspects of it. You still have to back it up with some sort of knowledge. So I think that there have been certain artists that have pushed the envelope and been able to intelligently talk about it, which makes it easier for the wider public to swallow.

I’m speaking to you before Sonic Temple, which is a rock festival. However, hip hop and rock have a long history of crossing over that you guys have played a big role in. What’s something that you think makes hip-hop and rock able to cross that genre line?

Bobo: I think it’s feeling, aggression, and rebellion, so to speak. Rock ‘n’ roll has never been fully endorsed by everyone – there have always been people who are down on rock just like there have always been people who are down on hip-hop due to its messages or whatnot.

We just had to stick to our guns and do what we felt, and people are always going to gravitate to that. We just have to be responsible about how we’re putting the message out there. But I think the aggression of rock and hip hop, the fact that you can see people stage diving – if they still do that – or little mosh pits in both hip hop or rock settings, it lends itself to the aggression and camaraderie of the people who listen to these genres.

Absolutely. What’s something you’re just looking forward to in general playing a big festival environment like Sonic Temple?

Bobo: Just the fact that we’re back out and playing shows in a normal way. It’s great to be back out. It’s always great to be able to see different bands, bands that you’ve been friends with and also discovering new bands. That’s always a great thing about doing festivals. We do a lot of ’em every year and it’s always the same feeling – where you’re getting together. Music is just bringing everybody together and it’s a celebration. I just enjoy that feeling of it.

Last year hip-hop turned 50. How do you feel about the way the genre has changed over the years as somebody who’s been there from very early on?

Bobo: It’s great to have seen an evolution, seeing it grow from people thinking that it was just going to be a fad and only be around for a few years to seeing how that became one of, if not the top-selling music genre. It’s great to see how it’s been planted all over the world. It’s not just a U.S. thing, it’s an international thing and it’s great to see the influence. So to be able to see the first 50 years and see how it’s progressed, it’s going to be interesting to see how it progresses more in the next years.

Are there any particular Cypress Hill songs or records you feel have been slept on or underrated, any that you wish got a little more love?

Bobo: Man. I would say an album like Stoned Raiders. There’s some really good stuff on there and it’s like the rock and hip hop mix, but I think there are some really good gems on there. When you’re always trying to do something new, sometimes your audience might take a minute to catch up to it and you have to be out there on the road and feed it to ’em in a live setting for them to say, “Oh, wait a minute. I like how they did that live. Let me revisit this album more.” I think that album was made in a time when we were trying to create fresh ideas for ourselves and make it interesting for us. Some people got it and some people didn’t get it, but now they’re getting it; which is how it happens sometimes. But I think that that album was good.

What’s next for Cypress Hill? You’ve talked about new ideas and pushing the boundaries. What are you guys looking at as kind of the next horizon for that?

Bobo: Well, last year we started doing shows with symphonies. So we were doing the whole Black Sunday album with an orchestra. We played with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, and we’re looking to do this with the London Symphony Orchestra, kind of bringing that “Homerpalooza” thing to reality. Doing our music in that kind of context has been really interesting and sonically stimulating. To do more of that this year is going to be fun.

What exactly about doing it with a symphony kind of surprised you or kind of sonically stimulated you?

Bobo: I think the fact that you’re dealing with 60-plus musicians, string instruments, and different elements, creates a mood. When you listen to classical music, it can take you to different places. It can give you the scary effect, the action effect, the adventure effect, and the calm effect. Hearing how they were able to translate their voices into an album like Black Sunday, which was already kind of dark, it brought out some of those elements, even more so doing it live. It was just interesting how well it blended. It wasn’t like a forced thing. It doesn’t sound like, “okay, it’s hip hop on one channel and a symphony on the other channel and you’re trying to make it work.” It all kind of blended and it came out beautiful.