Cypress Hill has reigned as one of the west coast’s greatest rap groups since forming in L.A. in the late ‘80s. With B-Real’s distinctive nasal tone, Sen Dog’s commanding bark, and thumping, sample-heavy beats by DJ Muggs, the trio bridged the gap between gangsta rap and laid-back stoner hip-hop celebrating the virtues of marijuana. Over the course of 10 studio albums, from 1991’s self-titled debut to 2022’s Back in Black, Cypress Hill built a broad and passionate fanbase by performing constantly, often with rock bands and with touring festivals like Lollapalooza and Smokin Grooves.
Cypress Hill’s classic sophomore album, the triple platinum Black Sunday, turns 30 this summer. To commemorate three decades of hits from the bong, here’s a look back at the group’s ten best live performances, broadcast on TV or over the web:
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10. “(Rock) Superstar” on Late Night with Conan O’Brien (2000)
After years of touring with rock bands like Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cypress Hill decided to capitalize on the rising tide of rap metal with Skull & Bones, a double album featuring one disc of hip hop and one disc of heavy guitar-driven tracks. The album’s lead single appeared on both discs as “(Rap) Superstar” and “(Rock) Superstar,” and the group blew the roof off of 30 Rockefeller Plaza with the latter version, Cypress Hill’s biggest alternative radio hit.
9. “What’s Your Number?” / “Latin Thugs” on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (2004)
Cypress Hill promoted 2004’s Till Death Do Us Part with a medley of both of the album’s singles on The Tonight Show. B-Real rapped over a sample of “The Guns of Brixton” by The Clash on “What’s Your Number?” while Sen Dog spit Spanglish bars from the group’s Tego Calderón collaboration “Latin Thugs.” At the end of the performance, the group presented host Jay Leno with a personalized Cypress Hill shirt.
8. “Grid” with Public Enemy and George Clinton on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (2020)
CBS’s usually pre-taped Late Show aired live on Sept. 29, 2020, following the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Public Enemy had just released the album What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down? and were the episode’s musical guest. Chuck D and Flava Flav closed the program with a suitably apocalyptic track for that tense moment in history, “Grid” featuring Cypress Hill and Parliament-Funkadelic legend George Clinton.
7. “Weed Medley” on MelodyVR (2021)
The British startup MelodyVR built its reputation on tapping popular touring acts to combine live music with virtual reality for a series of virtual concerts. Cypress Hill’s 2021 MelodyVR concert featured a dazzling light display and a special medley of four of the group’s biggest pot-themed anthems from across their catalog: 1993’s “I Wanna Get High” and “Hits From The Bong,” 1998’s “Dr. Greenthumb,” and 2010’s “Light It Up.” “Now is time for all you stoners to light it up if you haven’t already,” B-Real announced at the top of the nine-minute suite, rapping with a joint in hand.
6. “Rise Up” with Tom Morello, John Dolmayan and Sergio Vega on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2010)
Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello guested on the title track to Cypress Hill’s 2010 album Rise Up. For the Jimmy Kimmel Live! performance of the song, Cypress Hill was backed by a nü-metal supergroup that also included System of a Down drummer John Dolmayan and Deftones bassist Sergio Vega. And the song definitively rocks harder live than on record, thanks largely to how Dolmayan’s kick drum locks in to B-Real’s flow.
5. “Real Estate” on MTV’s Live And Loud (1993)
MTV’s Live And Loud concert special, taped on Dec. 13, 1993, and aired on New Year’s Eve, was initially set to feature Nirvana and Pearl Jam in a grand burying-the-hatchet gesture between grunge’s biggest bands. When Eddie Vedder got the flu and Pearl Jam canceled, the bill for the concert held on Pier 48 in Seattle wound up being Nirvana, Cypress Hill, and The Breeders. In between the corny comedy of host segments in which Anthony Kiedis and Flea dressed up as leprechauns and rabbis, the telecast featured performances of Cypress Hill bangers like the “Hand on the Pump” B-side “Real Estate.”
4. “I Wanna Rock” / “Insane In The Brain” with Snoop Dogg on Lopez Tonight (2009)
Comedian George Lopez became the first Hispanic American to host an English-language late-night talk show with his TBS series Lopez Tonight. Cypress Hill also made history as the first platinum Latin rap group. The group appeared once on the late-night show, and it was an unexpected one at that. The night’s official musical guest Snoop Dogg brought out B-Real and Sen Dog to perform their signature song at the end of his performance.
3. “So What’cha Want” with Beastie Boys and DJ Hurricane on The Arsenio Hall Show (1992)
Cypress Hill made another surprise appearance as a part of someone else’s late-night performance in the early ‘90s when the Beastie Boys promoted Check Your Head on Arsenio. One of the remixes of the album’s lead single, “So What’cha Want (Soul Assassin Remix),” featured a new beat by DJ Muggs and a verse by B-Real. DJ Hurricane joined the Beasties to spit a few bars on the song, followed by B-Real and Sen Dog storming the stage. Cypress Hill and Beastie Boys remained tight for years, with percussionist Eric Bobo and DJ Mixmaster Mike touring with both groups.
2. “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” on Saturday Night Live (1993)
Cypress Hill was already famous for sparking joints and hitting bongs onstage by the time they performed on Saturday Night Live with host Shannon Doherty in October 1992. After NBC warned the group not to light up on live TV, DJ Muggs decided to defy the network as openly as possible. Cypress Hill’s second song opened with Muggs, lighter and spliff in hand, declaring, “They said I couldn’t light my joint, you know what I’m sayin’? But we ain’t goin’ out like that.” Muggs, stalking the stage as a hypeman for once instead of manning the turntables, knocked over Eric Bobo’s congas during his drum solo, yelling “Legalize it!” as the group leaves the stage. Cypress Hill joined a long list of musical legends like Elvis Costello and Sinead O’Connor who had been banned from returning to SNL. Watch the performance here.
1. “How I Could Just Kill A Man” on Yo! MTV Raps (1992)
Throughout the ‘90s, MTV would throw a massive party on Daytona Beach every year for college students on spring break, complete with live performances from up-and-coming artists. In 1992, the MTV Spring Break edition of Yo! MTV Raps featured the unusual spectacle of Cypress Hill performing their gangsta rap classic “How I Could Just Kill A Man” on a sunny Florida afternoon, sweating it out in jackets and hoodies. Shouting out fellow Sping Break performers Naughty By Nature and Leaders of the New School, B-Real and Sen Dog made their tale of murder sound downright celebratory for a cheering audience of vacationing frat bros.
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