Hip-Hop, Rap Interviews : DJ Muggs
Throughout his career DJ Muggs has been an innovator. I remember when I first heard Hand On The Pump in 1991; I had never heard anything like it before and I couldn't get it out of my mind. At the time I remember thinking Cypress Hill was too edgy and different to break into the mainstream. I was wrong, Cypress didn't just break into the mainstream, they took it over. Outside of Doggystyle no rap record from the early 90's was more highly anticipated than Black Sunday.
When it comes to Hip-Hop producers DJ Muggs is one of the best to have ever done it. From piloting Cypress Hill and House Of Pain to the top of the charts to remixing the likes of U2 and Depeche Mode, Muggs has consistently pushed the boundaries of his craft. At the helm of his own Angeles Records imprint, in 2005 DJ Muggs stuns Hip-Hop fans once again, collaborating with the one and only Gza to deliver one of the year's best albums with Grandmasters. You can fake the funk but you can't stop real Hip-Hop.
Read the Grandmasters album review.
Read the RiotSound interview with Gza of the Wu-Tang Clan.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You and Gza are currently doing a bunch of tour dates together, how is that going, how's the fan reaction been to the live show version of Grandmasters?
DJ MUGGS: The tour's been great man, a lot of core Gza fans, core Muggs and Cypress fans and they've been coming out. The fans have been loving it, the reaction has been ridiculous.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You've been producing for over fifteen years and working with some of the biggest names in Hip-Hop as well as outside of Hip-Hop. How did you approach Grandmasters, what was your mindset like in working with Gza and putting together an entire album with just the two of you; did you expect the fan reaction be as positive as it has?
DJ MUGGS: We new it, you feel it as an artist. Having done this so many times you have instincts and you know what feels right and what don't feel right, even if you try to lie to yourself. We knew this felt right but we also knew the current climate and the state of Hip-Hop at this moment. So we knew that we would have difficulty with radio and video and some mixshows. Because believe it or not, a lot of mixshow DJs right now won't play an underground Hip-Hop record and take chances because they don't want their rating to go down as well. But we knew it would be a little harder for us than it was back in the days; brothers now are just scared to play anything outside of what's poppin'. So we knew what it was, we knew the climate but we said man, we're making records how we wanna fuckin' make em and we ain't chasing no trends.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What was the creative process like between the two of you?
DJ MUGGS: Me and Gza have been kicking it around since '96. We did some music together and we always talked about working together. So when I got to New York I was like hey dog, I got this label situation, I think we should do a record, just a straight real Hip-Hop record. So I gave him some beats that I already had made, he wrote the songs and he called me and was like yo, I got a bunch of these songs done, I'll be ready in the next week or two to come out. So we booked the flights and got the hotels ready and he came out and laid the stuff down.
He wrote like three more songs on site and we did the whole recording process in eight days. The beats were already done except maybe three or four of them. A couple of them beats I had from like '96, '97. I got some old beats so I started pulling them out and going through this DAT. Once he said he liked them, I didn't have the beats no more, they was so old I didn't know where the disks was or nothing. So we just looped the beats off the DAT and threw some kicks onto them.
RIOTSOUND.COM: When people talk about groundbreaking and influential Hip-Hop, it seems that some people tend to sleep on the impact of Cypress Hill, House Of Pain and whole Soul Assassins camp. Given the profound influence you've had around the world with your music, do you feel that Hip-Hop journalists, historians or what have you, have painted the picture in an accurate light?
DJ MUGGS: I think they do forget in a sense but Hip-Hop is so trendy man; we never stuck to the trends and we never followed the trends. We come from a time and place in Hip-Hop where it was about being unique and about being different and not biting and not being wack. And the whole thing about Hip-Hop now is a lot of the time its lost integrity in certain places where it's OK to bite now, it's OK to dress like someone and use their words and use their beats because it's cool. And if you tell somebody, you're WACK, they try to say you're hating. Ain't nobody hating on you, you're just wack homie. So we come from a place where we've always marched to the tune of our own drummer. When a lot of the Hip-Hop trends started changing we stuck to what we was about and what we was doing and never really followed suit. We created our own world within the world and we feed them.
RIOTSOUND.COM: As a hip-hop producer who do you count among your biggest influences, who were some of the most important artists that you listened to early on that really inspired you to make records?
DJ MUGGS: Definitely EPMD, definitely Ultramagnetic [MCs], definitely BDP, definitely Public Enemy, definitely the whole Marley Marl catalog and definitely Rick Rubin.
RIOTSOUND.COM: When can we expect another Cypress Hill album; in recent years Cypress has gone in many different directions musically, what would you say in the glue that keeps you together and keeps you making music and experimenting?
DJ MUGGS: The thing that kept us together was experimenting. You do so many records and you have so much success you get bored man, so we tried different things. But it seems like when Cypress tried to do rock records its like oh, they done this and [they done that]; you see how the media attacks us. But then all of a sudden you got Jay-Z doing something with Linkin Park or Jay-Z doing a song and it gets on rock radio and he's great, and oh, he's doing rock and it's big and it's great, you see what I'm saying?
We went and tapped into rock tours and its like oh, Cypress is doing a rock tour? But Ice Cube be on rock tours, DMX trying to get on rock tours and it's cool for them, know what I mean. Its like oh, Cypress has some slam dancing in the video, that's fucked up! But Onyx can have slam dancing in their video, they do a song with Biohazard and its ok. You got Ice Cube with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in his video on Wicked. It's always been that way, when we try to do something inventive they lash out at us but when it's anybody else its cool. But we've done all that shit first, we've seen it all a long time ago man. We've done Spanish albums fuckin' five, six years ago. All of a sudden Spanish music is getting big now, we've already been there. I think we are just a little bit ahead of the curve sometimes for these people man.
What I did with Cypress is I just got off Columbia [Records] because it was very frustrating. Two years ago I gave Columbia two singles. The first single was called Latin Thugs, it had Tego Calderon on it, it was a fuckin' smash. But they tell me oh it's too Spanish, can you guys do it over in English. The second song I gave them was called Ganja Bus with Damian Marley, who's the number one fuckin' reggae artist right now. [I gave that to them] on a dancehall beat two years ago and then reggaeton gets big this year and now they're calling me asking me for reggaeton [songs] and saying, can you guys do this and that. I'm like look, I gave ya'll the fuckin' tools, ya'll didn't know what to do with them.
Now with Cypress though, I'm taking a break right now because Cypress is a big machine homie. It isn't like, let's go make a record. Cypress is a machine, an international machine like a Nike [or any other big company]. It takes three years to put that machine into motion, from coming up to doing the album, then doing the album, promoting the album and then touring the world two times. It's a three year process and I'm just not trying to do that process at this time right now. So I started my own label, Angeles Records, I put out the Gza and Muggs record, I put out Self Scientific, one of the most hardcore, critically acclaimed, underground L.A. groups ever and I just signed an artist from San Diego named Mitchy Slick and we're working on his album right now. I'm also working on the next installment of the Soul Assassins. So that's my focus right now for the next year or two.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Can you talk about Soul Assassins III, is that going to be a project that you and Alchemist are going to be working on together?
DJ MUGGS: We're not doing Soul Assassins III right now, we're doing an offshoot. It's called Cloak & Dagger. Alchemist will be on a song and also producing a song. But for this one we're doing something a little different; when we do the official Soul Assassins III that will be me and Al doing the whole project together. I'm not into this 1, 2, 3 [routine], I think it's a little boring and it takes away from [the earlier releases]. People always want to get that success of how great the first one was and I think you kind of start tarnishing that flag trying to live off of a legacy that was already built, we want to build something new. So expect the new Soul Assassins record in the summer, it's called Cloak & Dagger. But it's going to be Soul Assassins more as a group instead of Muggs Presents: The Soul Assassins. Soul Assassins will be the group.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What's your relationship like with Everlast at the moment, the two of you have worked on and off over the years in Hip-Hop as well as outside of Hip-Hop; given that both of you are artists who seem to be adept at genre jumping, do you plan to collaborate more in the future?
DJ MUGGS: Yea, we talked about doing some things. I did a record called Dust which was a real eclectic European kind of record, I put that out and Everlast did a song with me. Right now he just started writing for his new record. We're friends, we see each other but right now I'm so busy and he's so busy and we're friends so the last thing we think about is let's work together all the time. We just kick it; we might work together in the future though.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You got Grandmasters in stores now, you got a bunch of tour dates coming up for that, what else should fans be looking out for as far as DJ Muggs goes?
DJ MUGGS: Well, as I mentioned I have a couple of new groups out. The new Self Scientific record is in stores now, also the new Mitchy Slick record is in the works. I have a syndicated radio show called Mash Up Radio, it's on Sirius Shade 45 on Monday nights. Also, we're in nine cities right now, you can check it out on MashUpRadio.com or MySpace.com/MashUpRadio. The show is basically all original remixes and bootlegs of all your favorite Hip-Hop songs with rock music under them but with a straight Hip-Hop sensibility. Our show is strait Hip-Hop but it's just all remixed.
For all DJ Muggs news & info stay tuned to www.DJMuggs.com