DJ MUGGS, SICK JACKEN & CYNIC (SEPTEMBER 2007) | Interview By:
Dubcnn recently linked up with
the men behind ďThe Legend of the Mask and the Assassin,Ē DJ Muggs, Sick
Jacken, and Cynic, for an exclusive interview. In this feature, we cover
everything you would ever want to know about the making of their new
collaboration album. We also speak about their upcoming solo projects,
including Sick Jackenís upcoming Spanish album, DJ Muggsís new album with
Planet Asia, and the film he is currently scoring.
As always we have both the transcript and the audio for you to
check and please feel free to send any feedback regarding the interview to:
Interview was done in September 2007.
Questions Asked By :
DJ Muggs, Sick Jacken & Cynic Gave Dubcnn.com A Shoutout! Check That
Full Interview In Audio :
Dubcnn: So first, what made you
guys decide to do this album together?
DJ Muggs: We did a unity show, me and Jack, and actually we started being
around each other the most since 97. Tone, who manages him now, comes over and
works with him at the studio, and heís a good friend of mine. Me and Jack was
likeĒ we need to do a project! Itís been a long fuckiní time.Ē So we went in
and did one song. That shit came out so dope. The vibe was so good, we was
like, ďLetís just do this album man.Ē We just figured we could bang it out on
the side [from other solo projects.] It took about four months, but actually
recording it took 30 days.
Heís one of the only cats that has musical sensibility like me. I cannot chase
trends or do commercial shit. Jack would pick beats that I would make that I
would pick for myself. It just started to flow like that, and I was like
Dubcnn: Going into the recording of the album, did you feel pressure to top
the ďDJ Muggs vs. GZA album?Ē
Sick Jacken: Right from the beginning, [my goal was to] not only to top the
GZA/Muggs record, but also to top [everything else.] Muggs has produced for
pretty much everybody thatís known in the hip-hop industry, so just doing a
record with Muggs, you feel like it kind of puts you on that level. I didnít
want to be at the bottom of that totem pole, just because Iím not as known as
everyone else. I wanted to do my best and shine. I wanted it to be one of the
best records Muggs has ever done.
Dubcnn: Going into the album, what was your guysís objective?
DJ Muggs: I told him, letís just not do a record with a bunch of songs. Letís
try to figure out a concept and do a concept album. So we put a lot of
conspiracy stuff and a lot of true stories [in it.] If you listen to the
record man, thereís no slang, thereís no drug tales, thereís no cartels. Jack
wrote the shit very intelligently. We just wanted to stay away from everything
that people were sick of. This is a record that we want to hear.
Everybody talks about ďreal hip-hop.Ē Well, be the change you want to see in
this business! You know what I mean? Jack never got exposed to a major label
in a bad way to where it fucked him up, so heís still got that shit. He got to
that other level, where a lot of artistsÖwhat happens to them is the first two
albums are banginí, [but] then that industry and the money starts to fuck with
your head. Jackís still honing his shit for the last ten years, so heís iller
than ever right now.
Dubcnn: Cynic, what was your role on this album?
Cynic: My role was to pretty much come through with some support and some
creativeness on the record, as far as concepts, picking beats, artwork,
everything. Everything that had to do with creating the record, I had a part
in it. I had a part in it as much as Jack and Muggs. Originally, when I was
brought into the record by Jack, I was offered the opportunity to be a part of
this album. I hooked up with Muggs and I asked him if I wanted to be a part of
the record, and he was like ďYeah, definitely! I think youíve improved a lot
as an MC since I originally heard you, and I think it would be good if you
were on this record. So, [when] we got to the studio, my job was to help Jack
create. Muggs was coming with all the beats, and we all agreed on a certain
sound and a certain topic that we wanted to do the record. So after that, it
was just up to me and Jack to do all the concepts.
Dubcnn: The concept of having a legend about the Mask and the Assassin
sounds very interesting. How did you come up with that?
DJ Muggs: Jack actually came up with the title. And, you know, itís a history.
Iím the assassin, the Soul Assassins, and [Psycho Realmís] symbol is the
masks. Theyíre a legendary underground Los Angeles group. Those motherfuckers
will go sell out House of Blues two nights in a row. Ainít nobody doing that
in LA. I donít even know if Snoop will do that two nights in a row. A lot of
people donít know about them, but they remind me of Cypress in so many ways.
They just come out, make good, intelligent music, and theyíve got their own
fan base. They make the music they want to make. They donít give a fuck whatís
going on in the world. Theyíve got the ďfuck youĒ attitude.
In the game I came up in, rap was very corny. Thatís what made me make my
group the way I did, because [there] was Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, Jazzy Jeff
and The Fresh Prince, Young MC, Kid-N-Play. Iím like ďWeíre going against the
grain.Ē You come from the N.W.A. school, which is ďFuck you. Youíre not
playing my record on the radio, youíre not playing my videos, fuck you. We
donít care, weíre doing our shit.Ē And [this] is one of those records. Itís a
ďfuck youĒ record. I donít need MTV, [and] I donít need radio. Iím making more
money now than I did when I was selling three million records. Itís just all
perception man. Itís about whoever they want to pump that day, and they always
want to pump that new dude.
Sick Jacken: Every record we do is pretty much concept-based. When I sat down
with Muggs, weíre pretty much on the same page as far as what kind of
direction we wanted to take the record. We didnít want to do anything that he
had done before or anything that I had done before. We came up with the two
characters, the Mask and the Assassin. Itís pretty much these two characters,
placed in this surreal kind of environment, which is pretty much equal to
reality, just a little bit off the hinges.
Cynic: We were basically trying to think of something that happened on earth,
like some catastrophic, crazy shit. We went on from there. Like, ďLetís write
like we were in that period.Ē We were trying to write songs about what was
going on, and what led up to the way the world is going right now. We open up
the record with this song called ďInitiation,Ē and Jack takes it from a
multi-sonic, secret society ritual, [and] being initiated into that. Me, I
took it on the more Native American, our ancestors and the way we were. [More
like] going through rites of passage in this time. There are still rites of
passage in the streets. Kids are gangbanging, and thatís a rite of passage for
them. ďJoin the gang, and now youíre a man.Ē Thatís the wrong way to do it
Then weíve got songs on there like ďStairs To The Beast,Ē which is pretty much
an outline of government and the way everything has been working to get us
where weíre at now. You know what Iím saying, [topics like] world religion,
putting chips in your ID and passport to have more control. So, the concept is
pretty much along those lines right there.
Dubcnn: How would you guys describe the chemistry in the studio?
Sick Jacken: Man, it was great! It was magic. Muggs supplied the tracks, [and]
me and Cynic were on the vocal side, the concept side, and everything just
flowed. It was real smooth.
Dubcnn: Tell us about a typical recording session for you guys in the
DJ Muggs: Iím not a beatmaker. I donít make beats and try to sell them Ė I
collaborate. I have artists come in, play them an idea, and if they like the
idea, then I finish it. I take it to where it needs to go, Iíll get it to
about a half-way point, and then heíll rhyme on it, and then Iíll finish the
beat. Iím a collaborator Ė I make albums. I come from a time where all the
best groups were self-contained. Public Enemy made their own music, EPMD did
their own shit, Gangstarr did their own shit, Dre did his own shit.
So, Iíll sit down with Jacken, Iíll play him an idea, and heíll go ďI like
that!.Ē So then heíll start writing to the idea, and Iíll finish it up a
little bit, get it about halfway done. Then heíll rhyme on it, and heíll leave
and Iíll finish the beat up after I tailor made the beat to what he wrote. So
weíre not just throwing a beat together, weíre vibing. Everything flowed
really fucking good man. His aesthetic for picking music, and picking music
that actually makes the album sound like an album is great. A lot of
motherfuckers donít know how to pick music, so you should listen to the
cohesiveness of an album, and it ainít together. Like I said, we came from the
time and that era where everybody made their own records Ė one producer. So it
gives it that vibe.
Dubcnn: Thatís a true collaboration. A lot of people nowadays are
collaborating by e-mailing each other Pro Tools files. What is your opinion on
DJ Muggs: If you want to get it done like that, thatís cool. Whatever it takes
to get it done. I donít know if one way is better than the other. I like to
bounce ideas off somebody. I like the real deal Ė I like to sit down with the
person. It just seems like you get so much more done than you do
[collaborating] over the phone or through e-mail.
Dubcnn: This album seems very innovative. Do you feel that coming up with
something outside of the box could be a possible solution to the music
industryís current slump?
Sick Jacken: As you know bro, the music industry is pretty much a trend.
Thatís why we never really consider ourselves part of the music industry. Me
personally, I donít give a fuck what anybody else is doing in the music
industry. I do music that I want to listen to, I do music that I want to hear,
and I do music that I know the fans are going to appreciate. I donít
underestimate their appreciation for music, I donít underestimate their want
for a good hip-hop record. Iím not gonna jump on the bandwagon and do a
commercial record just because commercial records are whatís selling. Those
records arenít even selling [anymore.] Iíve been around since í98 and my
records have sold steady, so I donít ever really take that into consideration.
Dubcnn: What do you hope that the fans will get out of this album?
Sick Jacken: Satisfaction. Another good record brought to you by the Psycho
Realm crew and the Cypress Hill family.
Cynic: For those that have never heard us, I mean most people are familiar
with DJ Muggs, but for those that are not familiar with Sick Jacken, Psycho
Realm, Cynic, I really hope that they are able to appreciate that weíre good
rappers, just as good as anybody else, and we make good music. There ainít too
many rappers that make songs these days, or make albums! Everybody makes a
ringtone and thatís the goal now. Thatís not our goal. We believe in creating.
Our fans will definitely enjoy this record. It will be reminiscent of that old
Muggs sound, that grimy, mystical, boom-bap fuckiní rap shit, that early
Ď90ís-mid 90s sound, and the same dark topics that we always speak about. So
all our fans will definitely love this album. [I think it] will be their
favorite album from DJ Muggs and from myself.
DJ Muggs: LA has a certain scene. Everybody thinks that LA is gangster [and]
underground with all the artists we have out here. We have another scene with
Murs and Jurassic 5, but thatís more of a Native Tongues thing. But thereís a
certain scene and a certain movement in hip-hop that I feel is missing. [We
had] the Public Enemy fans and the Cypress Hills fans. It was hardcore music,
but it wasnít ďgangsta rap.Ē It was hardcore shit where punk rock white kids
that donít like rap would like it. With the record me and Jack are doing, itís
a whole new scene in LA, a whole movement thatís been missing for a minute I
think that weíre bringing back right now.
Dubcnn: What are you working on after this project?
Sick Jacken: Iíve got to do a Spanish record after this. Iím doing a 100
percent Spanish album. Iíve got two Spanish cuts on this record just to kind
of set up my Spanish album. But Iíve got a full Spanish album coming. The fans
have been asking for it. Both of these albums are coming out through my label.
Iíve got a label through Universal called RMG, Rebel Music Group.
DJ FM just put out ďThe Street Mixes.Ē Heís probably gonna be working on an
album where he produces and features a lot of different artists. Duke is
working on a lot of beats, and heís running our online operation, the
psychorealmonline.com. Heís working on tracks, and heís producing and helping
out a lot of up and coming artists. Weíre just staying busy bro. Weíve got
kids to feed. Weíve got music to put out before we die, and weíre trying to
leave a legacy thatís gonna last for a few decades!
Cynic: Iím working on a street record right now. All original, mostly produced
by myself, but Iím trying to get a beat from Muggs, a beat from Jack, [and] a
beat from DJ Khalil. Iím a producer myself, so I want to be able to show that
side of it. I want to be the MC and the producer of all my shit. Iím also in
this group called Street Platoon, [and] Iím working on that as we speak. I
just did this track with Ill Bill for his new record coming out in a few
months. I just keep working. Iím trying to branch out to different shit,
movies and all that shit.
Dubcnn: Whatís going on with Angeles Records?
DJ Muggs: I donít know what Iím doing with that at this point. I put that on
pause for right now. Itís too much work for me to market, promote, direct and
do all that shit. Iím doing an album with Planet Asia right now. Me and Planet
Asia got about 8 or 9 songs done. ďDJ Muggs vs. King Medallions.Ē So I might
put that on Angeles, [or] I might find another home for it. Its nothing like
you ever heard Asia sound before. Iím giving him more direction that heís had
[before.] I think heís an incredible lyricist, I just think sometimes he gets
all his energy going in three or four directions when he needs to get it all
in one. I think that itís just having one producer sit down with him and work
on the record [that works.] I can guide him, Iíve got my own way to do it.
Right now Iím scoring this new movie, this movie called ďNightwatchmen.Ē It
stars Keanu Reeves and Forrest Whitaker and itís from the creators of
ďTraining Day.Ē That should be out in February.
Dubcnn: Tell us more about scoring a filmÖ
DJ Muggs: David Ayer wrote and directed ďHarsh Times.Ē I did about five or six
scenes for that. He liked the way it went, so he called me up to do this with
an actual composer to work together in the same room. Daveís cool, he just
says ďGo ahead, do what you want.Ē Thereís a lot of tempo changes. If thereís
a scene happening, and the car speeds up and shit happens, you donít realize
the tempos will change 20 times in 35 seconds. Iím humbling myself Ė Iím
coming into the game brand new. Iím just keeping my ears open and my mouth
shut. I just absorb it and itís fun to me.
Dubcnn: Can we expect a new Cypress Hill album in the future?
DJ Muggs: Iím not touring with Cypress no more. Iím only doing 2-4 songs on
their new album, so I know theyíre working on the album now, and Iím gonna get
with them when they finish a bit of it and do a few songs. So I donít know
when that record will be done.
Dubcnn: Is there anything else you want to say to all the fans on Dubcnn?
Sick Jacken: Yeah, I just want to thank everybody for the support. I tell my
fans all the time, Iíve got the best fans in the world. Iím not just saying
that they give us love and support. We appreciate it, they help us keep doing
this shit. Without them, we wouldnít be able to keep going. If they want to
hit us up directly, they can hit us up at
rebelmusicgroup.la for anything
coming out on my label, and you can always send me a personal message on
Myspace to find out anything
going on with me and the crew. Anybody you want to get at, we respond to
everybody. Weíre in real close contact with our fans, so hit us up.
DJ Muggs: Yeah man, Iím a big fan of Dubcnn. All you motherfuckers out there
supporting, keep supporting them man! Itís one of the hottest fuckiní websites
representing the West Coast. Iím glad yíall are doing it man, giving unbiased
opinions, giving the West Coast some real fuckiní light, because if you ainít
coming our of Dreís camp, a lot of motherfuckers donít know whatís really
going on in LA. We need motherfuckers to give us light out here because itís
One disadvantage West Coast artists have is we donít have media. In New York,
you have Vibe, XXL, The Source, Scratch, youíve got MTV, youíve got BET.
Theyíre all based in New York. So anytime you go out, youíre gonna run into
somebody. So itís a little bit harder for us to get media coverage. But yíall
representing that for us out here man, and thatís great. Thank yíall!
DJ Muggs, Sick Jacken & Cynic Gave Dubcnn.com A Shoutout! Check That
Full Interview In Audio :