On September 28th, ever-blunted hip-hop pioneers Cypress Hill will return with Elephants on Acid, their ninth album and first in eight years. The dank, fuzz-infused, acid-rock-inspired LP will be the first produced entirely by Muggs, the sonic architect behind landmarks like 1991’s Cypress Hilland 1993’s Black Sunday, since 2001.
“Psychedelic rock and stuff has been a big influence on me,” Muggs tells Rolling Stone. “I’ve been listening to it since it was in my mother’s and my uncle’s collection. … I had the idea what the name of this record was going to be and then I just started building the whole sound around [it]. Just a whole sound like feeling like you’re high on hallucinogenic drugs – but you’re not on no drugs.”
Full of sitars, guitars, organs, Nuggets-rhythms and vinyl crackle, Elephants, available now for pre-order, is a bad trip of 1967-72 imagery; a hip-hop blunt rolled on vintage rock’s gatefold vinyl sleeves. Muggs says there’s only one sample on the record – courtesy of Japanese smooth jazz group Hiroshima – and the rest was played by musicians and the producer himself.
“With a band like Cypress Hill, you kind of try to avoid [sampling] because it can hold up your record,” says Muggs. “So I had to build the record sonically like a Cypress Hill grimy-ass dirty fuckin’ hip-hop record like the shit I like. But I had to use live shit. So I played a lot of shit myself. I had people come in and play, but I know how to freak my shit to make it sound like samples. … I got a couple players that come in that are pro. I just pound on the fucking keyboards and play all the crazy shit that you might hear that’s smoked the fuck out.”
Muggs recorded much of “Band of Gypsies,” the first taste of music from Elephants, during sessions in Egypt where he says he teamed with instrumentalists who could play oud, sitar, guitar, keyboard and flute.
“I’d find street musicians,” says Muggs. “We seen somebody that was good and we just get him to come into the studio, pay him, and let him come in the studio and play.”
On the radio, Muggs heard Sadat and Alaa Fifty Cent, two leading lights of the country’s post-2013 Revolution dance music mahragan and got them to sing the hook. Other tracks were recorded in Joshua Tree with dubbed-out producer Gonjasufi. Says Muggs of the California landmark, “It’s like a fuckin’ spiritual vortex out there.”
Cypress Hill, now with turntable whiz Mix Master Mike as their live DJ, will be performing Black Sunday in its entirety at Chicago’s Riot Fest on September 14th. Around Halloween, between dates in South America, Mexico and the U.K., they will hit Los Angeles and New York for two shows dubbed “Haunted Hill.”