DJ Muggs returned with Soul Assassins 3: Death Valley in late August, the follow-up to 2000’s Soul Assassins 2. Boasting 19 tracks and contributions from some of Hip-Hop’s most celebrated MCs, the album is another colorful chapter in Muggs’ continually evolving catalog of hardcore Hip-Hop. But it also begs the question—what next? DJ Muggs has been a millionaire since his early 20s when Cypress Hill became one of the biggest rap acts of the 1990s.
Beginning in 1991 with their self-titled debut, the members of Cypress Hill—B-Real, Sen Dog, DJ Muggs and Eric Bobo—took the rap world by storm, smacking them in the face with songs such as “How I Could Just Kill A Man” and “Hand on the Pump.” Yes, N.W.A had been doing the gangster rap thing since the late ’80s, but this was the first Latino group to go down that road. To their surprise, the album received major air-play on urban radio and college radio, which helped propel them to the forefront. The album was ultimately certified double platinum in the U.S. with more than two million units sold.
But it was Cypress Hill’s sophomore album, Black Sunday (which just celebrated its 30th anniversary), that made them international superstars. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling roughly 261,000 copies in its opening week. It simultaneously became the highest Soundscan recording for a Hip-Hop group at the time. With Cypress Hill still on the charts, they also became the first Hip-Hop group ever to have two albums in the Top 10 at the same time. The album went 4x-platinum and cemented the group’s legacy thanks to songs like “Insane in the Brain” and “I Ain’t Going Out Like That.”
The group went on to release eight more studio albums, including 2022’s Black in Black. Muggs has been one of the most consistent producers in the game, delivering project after project for a litany of artists, including Cypress Hill, House of Pain, Ice Cube and Goodie Mob. His solo discography alone consists of 11 albums.
Now, Muggs can pick and choose what he wants to do. There are no label obligations, no pressure to get a No. 1 album—he’s done it all. Speaking to AllHipHop in a recent interview, Muggs talked about getting Ice Cube, MC Ren and B-Real on “Dump On Em,” the advantages of technology and having nothing to prove.
AllHipHop: I’ve just realized you’re the only member of Cypress Hill I haven’t interviewed.
DJ Muggs: I haven’t done one of these in five years.
AllHipHop: Well then that makes sense. The second installment of Soul Assassins came out in 2000. What made you want me to release the third one now?
DJ Muggs: It wasn’t really planned. I just make songs. I had about 30 songs and I was like, ‘I should have put this album out by now.’ But I wasn’t sure. So last year, I just started releasing songs. My original plan was to release a song every two months for the next three years, because I don’t think anybody put an album like that out before, just because of the way music is consumed. The way digital stuff is like a lot of these underground records last about a week and then the hype is over. I called my boy Goldwatch and told him I needed to create something that goes along with this record. We ended up doing a 34-minute movie called Death Valley. It took me about three weeks to figure out the sequence because I had so many songs like, ‘What am I going to put out?’ I kept moving things around and this is what I finally settled on.
AllHipHop: That’s gotta be tough.
DJ Muggs: I’m always putting projects out and it gets boring.
AllHipHop: Understandable. You need to keep yourself interested first and foremost. What keeps you motivated every day to wake up and keep doing this?
DJ Muggs: Just trying to just experiment and do different things. I have a book and four, five projects—all kinds of other things. I like to just to stay creative, keep the creative juices flowing.
AllHipHop: I interviewed CeeLo not that long ago and he mentioned he was on the Soul Assassins III project. What’s it like seeing an artist of CeeLo’s caliber work?
DJ Muggs: He’s a genius artist—not just a rapper. He’s just on such another f###### level. He’s a beautiful human being and he sings like an angel. I remember the first Soul Assassin record he was on. It’s one of the greatest verses ever in Hip-Hop as far as I’m concerned.
AllHipHop: Was it pretty easy to get him to rap again on this one?
DJ Muggs: I ran into him in Mexico at the airport and he was like, ‘Yo what’s up with the Soul Assassin record?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ll keep you posted.’ One day, I was digitizing all these cassettes from the ‘90s, like 300 beats I found. I put some on Instagram and he hit him 10 minutes later like, ‘I need that beat.’ It ended up being “Joker’s Wild.”
AllHipHop: We have to talk about how you got MC Ren, Ice Cube and B-Real on the same song.
DJ Muggs: The thing for me is to do the unexpected, you know? But for me, that was like, ‘What can we pull off?’ That was very unexpected. That’s why there’s people on there twice a lot. This one was done for about six, seven months. And I was like, ‘What am I gonna do with this s###?’ Then it just clicked, like, ‘Yo, N.W.A and Cypress Hill would be sick.’ So I started trying to make it happen. Fred Wreck called Ren up for me, and I told B-Real. He was on tour with Cube, so Cube was in the room and he played it for him. When he got back from tour, he knocked it out.
AllHipHop: That’s dope he did it because sometimes people say things and it never happens.
DJ Muggs: That happens more than you know. There’s probably like 10, 15 things like that on this album that didn’t happen.
AllHipHop: I like that you put people together I wouldn’t necessarily expect to be on the same track, like Method Man and Slick Rick. Do you hear a particular artist on a beat when you’re making them?
DJ Muggs: Sometimes I send people three tracks I like and say, ‘Pick.’ I don’t want you to have to get on something you may not like just because you’re doing it for me. I want you to be really excited about the track.
AllHipHop: I was watching some old interviews you did and you mentioned you’ve been a millionaire since you were 23. Was it dangerous to have that much money as a kid?
DJ Muggs: It’s weird—sometimes I see people like, ‘I gotta get the bag, gotta get the bag.’ I’m like, ‘You don’t know what a big is muthafucka.’ My motivation isn’t money. For music, my motivation isn’t to be famous and it isn’t to make money. So I can purely post my music on an artistic level, whatever I’m into at that time to be able to have that freedom. To not chase the bag and to be free is beautiful.
AllHipHop: I can relate. Money was a happy byproduct of journalism for me. It was always about the music first.
DJ Muggs: Yeah, there’s 1000 percent those types of people. And then there’s a lot who are just like, ‘Get the bag, get the bag. Let’s get the paper.’ Speaking out on that side, we’ve already done that. We did everything. All of our goals, we achieved. Now it’s just about doing things that excite us, having a good time and enjoying the journey.
AllHipHop: That’s the best part about being in the position you’re in. You have nothing to prove, first of all. You’ve been established for decades. Now you can do what you wanna do. I just saw Cypress Hill play with a symphony.
DJ Muggs: DJ Lord stepped in for that one. I love that guy.
AllHipHop: Yeah, he’s great. But B-Real looked so happy just doing what he loves. Do you think nowadays artists are having longevity or do you feel like it’s a revolving door of rappers at this point?
DJ Muggs: I don’t really pay attention to rap too much. I don’t really listen to it that much. But what inspires me is like, Pablo Picasso, I look at him. He was in his prime in the 70s. Why are we considered old in our 30s? There was a time when magazines wouldn’t really write about you when you became a legacy act. You couldn’t get on the radio, but with the help of social media, now I can go direct to consumer. I don’t need magazines no more. I think that’s helping. If you noticed, a lot of these underground rappers that are coming out brand new, they’re in their f###### 40s. Nobody came out in their 40s before.
AllHipHop: Conway The Machine is a good example.
DJ Muggs: Before social media, that wasn’t possible. Even the way we put out music to the world has changed. Before, you had to try to get a record deal. Or maybe go through Fat Beats. I think this now opens up to true artistry. Just using technology as a tool and using it artistically to move forward has been great.
AllHipHop: What would you say are the pros and cons of technology?
DJ Muggs: There definitely are, right? There’s a lot of them. You get a lot of trash, but whatever. For me, I just use it for what I need to use it for and it’s cool. For me, it’s a storefront. I could tap into 7.5 billion people right now.
AllHipHop: That’s a good point. I wanted to circle back on something you said a second ago. At my old publication, I had to fight to cover legacy acts like Kool Keith, Gang Starr and Cypress Hill all the time. It got to be really frustrating.
DJ Muggs: By our fifth album, we couldn’t get certain magazines anymore. And the question would become like, ‘Who are you dating?’ It wasn’t about the music promo anymore. I was like, ‘F### this.’ It just became that. That’s what the industry was like to me. The industry got wack. When I first signed with Columbia Records, they had Ruffhouse and they had Def Jam, so they knew what they were doing. Over the years, by the time I got to my fifth album, they were all gone and it turned into Maxwell and Lauryn Hill. Now we’re at this label where we don’t even fit in anymore.
AllHipHop: There was another interview where you said you kind of got bored with Hip-Hop for a while and I was wondering what time period you were talking about.
DJ Muggs: Around that time. It was just the industry had changed so much. Trying to put music out wasn’t what I got into the game for. Then Napster comes out, the music industry takes a s### and nobody’s selling records. There was that four-year period where nobody was selling records. That was a weird time.