Cypress Hill's Sen Dog: the 10 records that changed my life
25 years at the top
Back in 1993, Cypress Hill exploded into the mainstream with the game-changing Black Sunday album.
Propelled by smash single Insane In The Brain, the record followed up the waves made by the band’s 1991 debut with a full on tsunami of success, shifting north of 260,000 copies in its first week alone.
So, it’s little wonder that both albums come up when we ask Cypress Hill co-founder Senen ‘Sen Dog’ Reyes to name the 10 records that changed his life.
A bonafide life changing moment came for Sen when his family moved from Cuba to South Gate, California in the early '70s. Before long Sen had met a friend that would go on to be a musical collaborator: Louis ‘B-Real’ Freese.
“Growing up, me and B always were hanging around together,” he says.
“You wouldn’t see one of us without the other. We would finish each other’s sentences. In the early Cypress Hill days, B was more advanced in his style - he figured it out sooner than I did. But our styles just blended together as naturally as our friendship did. Our sound was born out of our friendship.”
And so it is with great pride that as Sen today looks back on 25 years of Cypress Hill, he can do so knowing that their friendship remains intact.
“This business can rip families and friends apart. Here we are, 25 years on we’re still brothers - I am very proud of that. A lot of great bands and artists have come and gone in that time.
“We were told coming up that we were crazy and we would never make it. We went about proving people wrong and proving ourselves right. We paid our dues - we went hungry on tour so that we could make it.”
They may be a quarter of a century in but there is still plenty of gas left in the Cypress Hill tank. Sen tells us that a new album is currently being mixed and mastered and a tour will follow later in the year.
Before that, though, B-Real is out on the road alongside Tom Morello and co with the Prophets Of Rage. Given the strong brotherhood that exists within Cypress Hill, we shouldn’t be surprised that Sen has nothing but support for his bandmate’s extra-curricular activities.
“We’ve got some tour dates and plans after the Prophets Of Rage tour. We totally support B-Real in that, that’s what this band does: we support each other.”
And now here come the 10 records that changed Sen Dog’s life.
1. Cameo - Knights Of The Sound Table (1981)
“The first record I ever bought was Knights of the Sound Table by a group called Cameo. I was about 12 or 13 years old at that point.
“I just really dug that band. I really liked that record because they were a huge funk band. This was before the Cameo that would become a four-piece.
“They were the coolest thing in my area growing up. That record made a big impression on me at that point. It definitely opened my eyes to a lot of music.”
2. KISS - Alive (1975)
“Growing up, rock ’n’ roll was a big deal in our area. As a kid, I remember seeing KISS’s Alive album. Just the cover of that album grabbed me to the extent that it made me a KISS fan for life.
“That was during grade school. It just grabbed me - the whole imagery of it and the imagery of the band. That record opened me up to a whole new kind of music.”
3. Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988)
“Later on in life, I loved Public Enemy’s album It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back. That record, lyrically and production-wise, just completely blew my mind.
“Not just me, but all the guys on my block, were just mystified by that record. We had friends of ours that would refuse to hang around with us, because for three months solid that was all that we would play. We just played that record and nothing else.
“We were fans of all kinds of music, but that record was one that we really had to dissect. That was how important that record was to me. Public Enemy were one of my favourites, and we got to tour with them.
"That was crazy thinking that three years ago I was buying tickets to see those guys, and there I was on the road with them.”
4. Beastie Boys - Licensed To Ill (1986)
“This record was vital to my whole existence hip hop-wise. It still sounds as fresh today as it did when I first heard it in the mid-'80s.
"I was a fanboy for that record. The Beastie Boys were everything to me. I was fortunate enough to see them in concert when they played with Run-DMC.”
5. NWA - Straight Outta Compton (1988)
“That was a big record in defining who we would become musically.
“I had a buddy that hung around with those guys, but I had never met them. He was always telling me that these guys were going to come out strong, and sure enough they represented where they were from to the fullest.
“The way that record was put out, when I listened to it it made me feel like I was back on the streets gang-banging again. They really captured the heart of LA on that record.”
6. Led Zeppelin - Houses Of The Holy (1973)
“That record really blew my mind. Led Zeppelin was not just a rock band; they were country, they were funk, they were rock, they were blues.
“When I first got turned on to Zeppelin, I couldn’t believe that every record they put out was good from beginning to end. Those guys could do no wrong every time they put out an album. They were incredible.
“That album pretty much stays on rotation in my car. They challenged their fans to move on with them, and the fans accepted that. I believe that is a true mark of greatest. Zeppelin are my number one rock band of all time.”
7. Nirvana - Bleach (1989)
“That record really put me on to the whole alternative thing. I dove completely head-first into all of that after hearing Bleach.
“I didn’t know that Nirvana would have such a huge impact, but I knew they had something special, particularly vocally. Kurt was really pouring his soul into the microphone.
“Little did I know that their next record would change the game. I would tell my friends about Nirvana, and some would say they didn’t think they were all that. So when Smells Like Teen Spirit came out, I would say to them, ‘Dude, that’s that band that I told you about [laughs]’.
“Later on, we toured with Nirvana so I got to share my stories with those guys. That band was the band of the '90s alternative rock scene. If it hadn’t been for Nirvana, I don’t know if that whole Seattle scene would be talked about.”
8. Cypress Hill - Cypress Hill (1991)
“Our first record changed my life. That is still my favourite record of ours, because at that time we were living that life that we were rapping about.
“We weren’t too far gone from the streets at that point. Some of us were still on the streets at that time. That record really captured the whole vibe of our block and our neighbourhood and our city.
“If you listen to songs like Latin Lingo and Light Another, that gives you a good idea of who we were and how we lived. That is so important to capture that essence in hip-hop, because people want to know who these guys are and how did they come to think like this. That record captured that.
“It was a big accomplishment for us to go into a real studio and work with professionals - we weren’t just recording in our bedrooms any more. We felt like real artists, and the creativity was flowing. We would wake up in the morning thinking that we couldn’t wait to get to the studio.”
9. Cypress Hill - Black Sunday (1993)
“Black Sunday is a very special record in my heart, because it reached number one all over the world.
“Growing up, we talked about being huge rap stars, getting a record deal, touring, but we never once talked about being number one in the world. When we did that, man, just thinking about it now is giving me goosebumps. We had arrived: the world knew who we were.
“I didn’t really think that record was as good as the first record. I still thought it was great, but not as good as the first. But there was a song on there that we didn’t really think was much, but it became a monster - that was Insane In The Brain.
“When the label told us they wanted to put that song out as the lead single we were like, ‘Really? That one!?’ We thought it was a cool album track.
“That song really captured how I was feeling back then. The band had taken off and the whole thing was just insane. It was crazy. Every time, we did that song that was exactly how I felt: ‘Dude, this is crazy!’
“We were a little more serious lyrically on Black Sunday - that record has this wicked feel and mood to it and that helped heavy metal cats jump on it.
“At first, we were just concerned with being one of the hardest and funkiest hip-hop crews out there. We hadn’t even thought about using our rock ’n’ roll influences early on in the game.
“As we got older and more experienced, I thought we needed something heavier. We did the Judgement Night soundtrack and performed with Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth - it was then that I knew that if we did something heavier it would work out.’
10. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced (1967)
“Jimi Hendrix was a very big lyrical influence on me. Jimi was such a great singer that it felt like he was just talking to me.
“I loved Elvis as well and James Brown, John Lennon... there are so many people that transformed who I was musically.
“When we first moved to America from Cuba, they would have TV commercials for these compilation records that would come out. That’s how I first started listening to American music, and how I got turned on to Elvis.
“That led me to the ’50s music through the ‘60s and on to Hendrix and Black Sabbath. Eventually, I got funked out on George Clinton and all of the great funk that was around.”