The résumé of DJ Muggs is something most producers only dream of achieving. As a member of Cypress Hill, he’s helped create a number of Hip Hop classics. Outside of the group, he’s worked with a myriad of legends, including GZA, Bun B, Mobb Deep and Goodie Mob.
After putting out two collaborative projects with Meyhem Lauren, Muggs has returned to his Soul Assassins brand for a new album titled Dia Del Asesinato. The LP is yet another display of his elite skills behind the boards and boasts an impressive lineup of guests.
Earlier this week, HipHopDX got the chance to catch up with Muggs and delve into his latest work. In addition to detailing his collaborations with the likes of DOOM, Kool G Rap and Raekwon, the veteran producer also shared some insight on Cypress Hill’s upcoming album Elephants On Acid and revealed some details about his Kaos LP with Roc Marciano during the in-depth conversation.
HipHopDX: When did you begin the creative process on this new album? And when you start a new Soul Assassins project, do you have any specific plan in mind for artists that you want on there? Or is it just something that develops naturally?
DJ Muggs: Man, I did this in like February. I went to New York for a couple weeks and just rented a studio. And then I just invited people to the studio to come work and this is who showed up.
I was just gonna make songs. I was just gonna go and then I was like, “I’m just gonna make some projects out of this.” Then, I got another record worth of stuff. I did about—I wanna say about 25 songs in the time we were there.
So yeah, this is just the first one that I decided to put out. When I was done, I just sat back and basically tried to put two songs from everybody on there. So, I got two different Raekwon songs; two different Mach-Hommy songs; and two different G Rap songs; and two different DOOM songs; and two with Meyhem Lauren.
There were a couple new artists I worked with, which was Eto. I’m working on a project with him. The shit’s called Hell’s Roof. And then there was this kid, Hus Kingpin, I’ve been doing some songs with. So, I thought these will be the new artists I’ll put on there. I put just one song of each from them. So, that’s basically how that shit went down.
DX: With Kool G Rap on there, that’s someone you worked with back on the second Soul Assassins album. I was wondering what was it like teaming up with him again all these years later?
Muggs: Oh, it’s the shit. See, somebody like G Rap … To me, he’s the only dude that’s still around from the 80s that his pen is fucking sharp as knives, still. His flow is still ill. His flow didn’t go off. His pen didn’t get weak. He sounds current, you know what I mean?
He sounds current with the lyrics. Like, he could be just brand new right now. If he was like 18, you know what I mean? Just sounding like him with his pen. So, there ain’t nobody else doing that. Like, I ain’t heard it.
All the cats from then is … they are onto some of the other stuff. So seeing that, man, it’s inspiring me. Like, yo, this is the fucking 80s, 90s. It’s fucking 30 years to now. He’s still killing it. Was that even possible like 20 years ago? Did you ever think that anybody was gonna be dope in 30 years?
DX: Right. It’s kind of crazy. Another one you mentioned was Raekwon. I really like those two tracks that you did with him. It made me think of the Grandmasters project you did with GZA. It seems like outside of RZA and Wu-Elements producers, you really have a beat on what brings the best out of the Wu-Tang. Can you tell me a little bit about the way you are able to connect with them and that sound?
Muggs: Well, I mean I originally connected with RZA back in the day and built a friendship with GZA. Tareef [Michael], who manages Wu-Tang, is a really good friend of mine. Rae, you know we’ve been in the lab a lot together. I know me and Rae’s probably done probably about five songs by now, five or six songs from all the different projects.
And then I just play them shit. I’ll play them these ones when it comes through and it’s what they gravitate towards. Rae just picks … They pick good beats. They know what to pick for themselves as well. So, I mean it ain’t too much really thinking about it. I don’t go, “I gotta go make a beat for this.” I just make my shit and when they come through, I just play it for ‘em.
That beat’s gonna sound different no matter who’s on it. They put that certain thing to it. Otherwise, I got a beat and B-Real could kick it — it’s a whole ‘nother song, right?
DX: Definitely. These days, a lot of producers are moving away from sampling, just with clearance issues and the rise of trap music. What is your process like on that end? Do you do feel like you’re still able to sample as much as you ever were? Or have you had to change up your method?
Muggs: I still sample. What we do now though is we make our own samples a lot. So, we’ll go in for like a week and make about 60, 70 samples. And then I’ll just start sampling from my own samples.
I work with a few musicians. We’ll go in and just build samples. So, I do that a lot ‘cause I still think there’s still something about the sampling sound and just that particular style of music. And being able to get that sound without having to go deal with all that fucking sample clearance shit, you know?
DX: On this album, you’ve got some more records with Meyhem Lauren. Y’all just put out an album and an EP together. What was it about Meyhem that clicked so well with you?
Muggs: When I met Meyhem. it was just like meeting some fool I’ve known for a long time. You know, Mey’s from Queens. He just reminds me of kids I grew up with. He’s younger than me, but I was just like, “I grew up with you. I already know you.” And he’s a good muthafucka. He’s got a hard work ethic too.
When I first met Mey, the reason we’re working now is ‘cause I left him two beats. I was in the studio, I left around midnight. By the time I woke up at like seven in the morning, I had two finished songs in my inbox. And I was like, that just what it takes. ‘Cause when I work, I go hard. I work hard. Stay focused. Get my shit done.
Some muthafuckas wanna lollygag and hold on to your beat for two weeks and sit there and fucking … I ain’t got time for that. So, when I seen that with Mey, I was like that’s the kind of muthafuckas I wanna work with right there. And we clicked. Whenever we around, we just jump in the lab. Get it in for four or five hours, get something done.
This shit is fun. We just paint pictures. We like writing on walls, but we just painting with sounds. You know, this music shit ain’t work. This shit is like meditation and just hanging out. So, we just don’t hang out on the corner no more. We just go in the lab, have everybody come to the lab and have our parties.
DX: Speaking of work ethic, Mach-Hommy is another guest on this LP that fits the bill. How’d he get on your radar, and what was it that you liked so much about him to get those collaborations going?
Muggs: I connected with Mach through Meyhem. I like Mach’s flow a lot. I like his reference points. You can tell he’s educated. He ain’t common. You ain’t heard this shit before. He’s one-on-one. He’s got his own style and his own flavor. He stays really low and mysterious about his business.
It’s unique. I always look for uniqueness, even in music. You don’t gotta pick the best, hottest beat. You just pick some quirky ass beat, and you put some ill shit on it and that’s a hit song. So, Mach’s just got something unique that’s just fun for me to work with.
DX: Talking about that quirkiness on records, I think the epitome of that would be DOOM. It was cool to see y’all connect for a couple of records on here. How did you end up building with DOOM and making these two tracks?
Muggs: I got connected with DOOM from my homeboy Dante Ross, who’s like a 30-year friend of mine. And he used to work with DOOM. He signed KMD, actually.
I had met DOOM and them before down in his SD 1200 Studios in New York. We was actually in the “Steppin’ To The AM” video together, 3rd Bass’ video. We in the back of the car if you watch that video.
I had to find DOOM, so Dante connected me with him. Then I flew out to Spain, and we connected in Barcelona. We went into the lab for a few days, banged this shit out.
DX: You were saying that you created a lot of music for this album. Do you have a second part of Dia Del Asesinato coming soon or any other releases planned from those sessions?
Muggs: I just work. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I got a lot of projects coming. I just work. I got about 100 songs I’m sitting on right now. I just get in the lab all the time. We don’t stop.
We just go. Keep that muscle fucking exercised. It’s the creative flow. I like to stay creative. We like to hit the gym. We like to read books. We like to spend time with family. So, we keep everything on full throttle at all times.
And I’ll figure out what I’m gonna do. Once I get some artwork and shit and I get a concept in my head, then I’m like, “Oh, I’ll put these songs with this.” But you work with no results. You just work freely and go. It just keeps shit open. That’s pretty much my creative process at this moment with everything I’m doing.
If somebody wanna do an album, I’m like, “Nah, man. Let’s just go make music and we’ll see what happens.” Some albums don’t get finished. Some get done quicker and you just let everything kind of take on a life force of its own. See what kind of energies you connect when you connect with people.
The next project I got coming out after this — early October — is the album with Roc Marciano. It’s called Kaos. We just sent it in to master.
DX: Oh wow. I was just gonna ask you about it and get a status update, but there it is!
Muggs: Yep. That’s the best record out right now! It ain’t out yet, but it’s the best album that’s out right now.
DX: Looking forward to that. Can you talk about working with Roc and what it was like to get in there with him? He’s been killing it the last couple years, so I imagine it was probably exciting to get in the studio with him.
Muggs: Roc Marciano’s a national treasure. Line for line, there’s nobody better than Roc Marciano. Word for word, line for line, he’s the illest. So, being able to be around that, it’s just sword sharpening sword.
Roc brings out the best in me. I push Roc. And we try to just take everything we’re doing and just make it bigger and better. Some next level shit we got coming up.
It’s Roc Marciano on 10 songs. No guests. There ain’t a lot of muthafuckas that can hold down an album by themselves anymore. Like some records got like 10 fucking guests on it. When you can come in like a Roc can and just do the whole fucking album without one guest, that’s some shit to be said about some shit.
DX: Yeah, it’s rare these days. I do have to ask a little bit about Cypress Hill. Y’all have Elephants on Acid coming pretty soon. What can we expect from the record? Is there anything different from your process for solo records as opposed to when you’re in there with B-Real and Sen Dog?
Muggs: That record’s fun. The energy we have when we get into the studio together, it brings me back to the block. It’s like I’m standing back on Cypress Avenue in 1988.
We just harness that energy and bring it to the lab with us. Being part of a group, I could really get into that shit and get super deep into the character and the aesthetics of that shit. I could come with a whole different sound.
They got a sound like nobody has. So, when I approached Cypress this time, it’s about just creating our own world. Not worrying about what’s going on in pop music or pop rap or trap or any kind of music, period. We’re just gonna create our own world, and this is Cypress Hill. That’s what makes us unique.
We have a musical style. It’s just bringing that energy everybody loves and harnessing that energy and making you feel like that when the shit starts coming through the speakers. Make you feel like only Cypress Hill can make you feel.
DX: I’m excited to hear what y’all have cooked up. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us and congrats on the new album release.
Muggs: I appreciate it too, brother. Thanks for your time and energy. I’ll see you around some time.