Still smokin', Cypress Hill battle to keep fans

Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:32pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hip hop band Cypress Hill still see themselves as ambassadors of marijuana, just like the old days.

But as their new album is released in the United States on Tuesday, the Latino-flavored hip hop band who made their debut almost 20 years ago and found international fame with hits like "Insane in the Brain" and "Hits from the Bong," know audiences and sales can change.

Hip hop artists like themselves who broke through when the genre was gaining international prominence in the 1980s and '90s are struggling to sell albums as they grow older.

Unlike rock or country fans, hip hop audiences are less likely to stay loyal to one group through its career, which makes new songs and albums a harder sell, music industry experts and Cypress Hill's members say.

"It's a different audience, the hip hop audience, it's here today, gone tomorrow," the band's lead rapper B-Real, whose real name is Louis Freese, told Reuters. "It's harder to develop that sort of longevity, that's the problem."

The group's new album, "Rise Up" is their first in six years and the first through rapper Snoop Dogg's label, Priority, owned by struggling music major EMI.

It features guest appearances including Tom Morello, guitarist from Rage Against the Machine, who plays on the thrashing title track. The group also jammed with Latin artist Marc Anthony who sings on the salsa flavored last track "Armada Latina" that features Spanish lyrics.

"I am sure people are going to call this a comeback, but really we never left," said B-Real. "With the six year layoff, we had to come up with something different, we couldn't come with a standard Cypress Hill album...That meant reaching out to other people and trying different things."   Continued...

<p>Members of Cypress Hill (L-R) Sen Dog, B-Real, and Eric Bobo pose for a portrait while promoting their new album, "Rise Up," in New York March 25, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>