Sitting in Cypress Hill's trailer backstage at the group's SmokeOut festival, Cypress' B-Real (real name Louis Freese) and Sen Dog (Senen Reyes) and dubstep producer Rusko (Chris Mercer) recalled when they first met.
"I think just when we were hanging out, before we actually did any music, before he even brought us music to listen to," said B-Real. "We just were hanging out, smoking out, and it just clicked."
"He's a pothead, too," added Sen Dog.
So Rusko feels right at home at SmokeOut? "Of course. I never, ever pass up on a joint. I don't think I ever have," he said, laughing.
That night they would make their official live debut as a unit, following Cypress' guest appearance with Rusko at his Wiltern show in L.A. last July. Backstage, all three were all smiles. Clearly, the unlikely collaboration between the 27-year-old U.K. native and the L.A. hip-hop act of more than 20 years has infused the group with a new vitality.
"When you do work with new cats like Rusko, it gives everybody that inspiration," said B-Real. "It inspires us to keep up with them and to work to that level."
Rusko is still an unmistakable fan of the band – maybe even more so after working with them. "I was so shocked by the tightness and the way these guys flowed on the beats," he said. "The flows were so totally tight on a different tempo – such a faster tempo – but it sounded exactly the same as regular Cypress flow. But even at that tempo it maintains the same integrity."
Though a fan, as producer Rusko found himself having to tell the band to redo things or make changes. Was that difficult at first? "Of course," he said.
"We were the consummate professionals," said Sen Dog. "We made it easy on him. But 15 years ago I probably would've kicked his ass."
In all seriousness, Sen Dog was very impressed with the way the young producer communicated with the band. "Rusko has a way of explaining his process to you in the beginning," he said. "And I wasn't sure where his aim was at, so I called him up one day. He really quickly calmed me and said, 'No, that's just a scratch track. When you get the song I'm gonna send you back, it's gonna freak you out.' Every time we sent him the song and got it back I was freaked out."
B-Real was equally blown away by Rusko's skills. "We got to watch some of the building process. When he came to the studio he would show us where he was chopping it and then showing us the effect. That was kind of tight, because it's way different than hip-hop," he says. "I've produced some hip-hop myself, and the way we chop it, although some of the techniques are along the same lines, just the style of how you're doing it is totally different. It would take me forever to figure out how to do any of that kind of shit, but it was really cool to watch."
Based on such mutual respect, their plans to collaborate now go far behind the single "Roll It, Light It." "It's only the first bunch of tracks," Rusko pointed out.
"When I heard the finished product it inspired me to say, 'I want to do more of this shit. I think we should work together more and do a full-blown album like that,'" B-Real added.
The first collborative work is an upcoming EP. Will there be more live shows like the Wiltern and SmokeOut? "I think we all would love to perform together aside from this. This will be fun tonight and I think it will go from here," Sen Dog said. "We're building, yo."