Muggs Speaks On New Album With Meyhem Lauren And Cypress Hill’s Comeback
The Soul Assassins are going really, really hard
Even if you are so musically illiterate that you don’t know the name Muggs (formerly known as DJ Muggs), your music collection likely benefits from songs and albums produced by this Los Angeles legend. Though he started in a group called 7A3 in the late ’80s, and was most recently in a trip-hop group called Cross My Heart Hope To Die, he is best known as the DJ and producer of Cypress Hill. However, maybe his greatest contribution to the culture is his artist collective Soul Assassins and the various compilations and collab albums he has done under the banner.
Though many are still waiting on the long-promised Soul Assassins III album, it’s hard to not be hyped that Muggs is finally continuing his Vs. series that saw a seven-year hiatus after the release of Kill Devil Hills with Ill Bill in 2010. Especially considering that Muggs and Meyhem Lauren recorded the first song for Gems From The Equinox over a half decade ago. Friday can’t come soon enough. And now that it’s back on, it’s on! Muggs will release another Vs. joint with Roc Marciano in March 2018.
Muggs was gracious enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to chop it up about everything from how he picks Vs. partners, to listening to one’s dreams (literally), to finishing the new Cypress Hill album in Egypt. This West coast vet dropped all kinds of gems and anecdotes on us, so we’ll let you get on with reading ’em.
I talked to you and GZA when y’all did the first Vs. album, now we’re talking about this new installment with Meyhem a dozen years later. How do you pick the MCs to collaborate with for this series?
I can’t speak for the other projects but for this project it kind of speaks for itself. I met Mey and Mey’s cool. We did a few songs and he’s cool as fuck. I went and did what I had to do, and then I was chilling one day and I hit Mey up like, Hey, you wanna do this project? Then, I gave him some more beats. First I’ve got to like you and think you’re a good artist who’s into your shit. And second of all, you gotta be a cool human being. You gotta be cool as fuck. If you’re cool and I like your music, and we click, that’s pretty much what it is. There’s a lot of weird humans out there these fucking days. When I do art, I do it ’cause I feel like doing it, not ’cause I have to. Mey is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met in my life, as a human being. So, it’s pretty easy.
When you do a Vs. album do you tailor make the beats for the MC or just give them a selection of beats to choose from?
You know, it varies. There are artists I do tailor make the beats to them, but for Mey, there was a pile of beats and I go, “Grab what you like,” and he just grabbed what he liked. Then I gave him a pile of samples and I go, “Pick the samples you like and I’ll make the beats.” That’s pretty much how I did that. Sometimes you make beats you think are good for an artist and then they want something else. So, I’ll just give ’em a bunch of samples to pick from and some beats, and then figure it out from there. Then when the record is pretty much done, I’ll be like “I think we need one of these,” or “We might need one of these,” or “Let’s do something like this…” Once I kinda gauge and see how they work and what they’re about.
Meyhem was telling us about the initial recording session at Alchemist’s crib when y’all first met. What songs were recorded then?
The first song was “Shea Stadium” with Action and another I can’t remember. We didn’t end up using it. It was just like a one-minute freestyle. We did those at Alchemist’s crib in 2012 or ’13. And then I didn’t speak to Mey for a minute. I was doing something but when I was finished what I was doing, I was like, What am I going to do next? I listened to those songs and that’s when I hit Mey up like, “Yo, you want to do a project my n*gga?” He works. I like people who have a work ethic like that, that just go. No excuses. No bullshit. Easy to get along with. Let’s go work. Then we started working whenever we had time. We’d work and then I’d be like, “Okay, let’s put it out there.” And he’s like, “I gotta do this.” And I’m like, “Alright, cool.” Then, I had to work on this other album. So, then boom boom, time went by, and then I did the Die Antwoord album. I did like nine songs on the last Die Antwoord album. So, we spent the year doing that. Then, when I finished that, I got back to doing this.
What’s it like working with Die Antwoord?
Super creative. Super fun. It’s a little different; they got their own approach. It’s cool being able to flip up my normal everyday program and go into somebody else’s zone. It’s like an adventure. Not knowing what’s around the next corner is always exciting. So, I went in and did nine songs on the album, and I managed them for like two years. Now we’re working on a record with Yolandi called The Black Goat, and we’re working on the new Die Antwoord album. They got a bunch of music. They’re like family now. So, we’re continuing our workflow.
Where do you record with them?
My studio in L.A. They moved out to L.A. We relaunched Soul Assassins Records and I just finished a record with Roc Marci called Kaos. Comes out in March. Videos are done too.
What else is coming on Soul Assassins Records?
I’m working on this artist called Lovecraft who’s signed. I was in the studio working with Raekwon for the Lovecraft album the other day. We’re staying on it! I always make music but for a while there I didn’t feel like dealing with the humans. The human side of it. A lot of these muthafuckers that get into the game just ain’t good humans. So, I just surround myself with good people now.
Initially the Soul Assassins were a stable of producers connected to different groups. Who makes up Soul Assassins in 2017?
It’s always the same, man. We’re a multi-dimensional artist collective. Everybody from Alchemist to Estevan Oriol, Cartoon, Cypress… There’s people who own restaurants that are down with Soul Assassins, people who own car shops, people who own jewelry stores. It’s a big club we have and we all look out for each other. Everybody has each others’ back. Everybody hires each other. Everybody helps each other get to the top. It’s something we started in ’91 to help create our own economy. It’s like a brotherhood.
The producers are DJ Khalil, Alchemist, and myself. We going really, really hard on the music this year. We got four albums done already for the label. We got a full staff. Cypress album is done. I just gotta sequence it and do one more song. I had a dream about two weeks ago about going to Eygpt and doing this last song for the Cypress album. So, I’m going to Egypt next week to finish the Cypress album. I think it should be coming out in like April or May next year.
What do you think influenced a dream like that?
I feel there’s infinite possibilities. My mind is open. I dream a lot. The Cypress album cover and the title of the record came from a dream as well. So, I write all my dreams down. A lot of my music comes from dreams, like ideas and beats.
How do you manage to remember your dreams?
Yeah, I remember mine though. That’s the trip. I remember my dreams vividly. Which is even more of a trip. I started really paying attention to them about seven, eight years ago. I started writing them down and listening to them more…and following them. I know the power of the subconscious is a muthafucker.
Also, many people who smoke a lot of weed claim they don’t dream much.
I smoke when I make music but that’s about it. I don’t smoke all the time no more. It’s cool. It’s still fun. I enjoy it. But it’s not like back in the days when it was all day, every day.
I’m guessing since you already have the trip planned, that you’ve found a studio out in Egypt and everything? Do you have people in Egypt?
Yeah, I got a studio rented for five days already. I’m gonna go to Cairo and go down to the Valley of the Gods, see the Luxor. Then, I’m going to Jordan for a few days, to Petra, and finish the video out there. I got some people that live out there too. One of my boys, Fredwreck, goes out there all the time. He’s a producer that works out of my studio. He lived out in Dubai for a few years.
So, what is the title of the new Cypress album?
The title is Elephants On Acid.
And what’s the cover?
I can’t let that out the bag yet. Ah, I wish I could… soon enough.
You said you got four albums done and one is this new artist Lovecraft. What are the other three? Is there a Soul Assassins comp coming?
I’m going back and forth about that. I might do a comp just to let everybody know what is coming on Soul Assassins Records. So, it won’t be me going to get a star-studded cast.
Getting back to Gem From The Equinox, did you record all the tracks together?
We actually did half the records together, the other half we didn’t. The next record me and Mey do, which will come out in ’19, we’re doing it all together in the studio in a condensed amount of time, like in a month. We’ve already decided we’re gonna do it like that. There’s a lot of things you learn about an artist when you actually sit and record with them. So, my vision for Mey now is ridiculous. This record is incredible and the next one is gonna be fun to make.