How Cypress Hill Changed the Cannabis Conversation

VariousOn October 2, 1993, Cypress Hill was booked as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. The band was promoting their second album, Black Sunday, which —with songs like “I Wanna Get High” and Hits from the Bong” remains one of the greatest albums ever made to enjoy while also basking in cannabis’s magical effects.

Taken along with the 19 educational facts about cannabis they included in that album’s liner notes, it’s fair to say that Cypress Hill’s weed consumption was at that point already both prodigious and well advertised. So well advertised, in fact, that everyone from Saturday Night Live’s producers to the band’s own label, management and friends had felt the need to counsel them against doing anything as foolish as lighting up on air. But after playing “Insane In The Brain” without incident, during “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That,” DJ Muggs strode toward the camera and announced: “Yo, New York City, they said I couldn’t light my joint, you know what I’m saying? Well, we ain’t going out like that!” And so, they were banned from appearing on Saturday Night Live ever again.

Still, 25 years on from that Saturday night, it’s fair to say America’s attitude regarding cannabis has shifted. A number of people have lit up on air since then without consequence (Killer Mike, Zach Galifianakis and even Joan Rivers) and legalization—which began for medical use with California in 1996—has now arrived in over 30 states in one form or another.

Looking back, Louis Freese, better known as Cypress Hill’s B-Real, argues his group had a significant role to play in making that change happen. “There was no other form of entertainment championing the cause of legalization, and talking about education and the understanding of cannabis,” he points out. “A lot of us took that torch from rasta artists such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and the like, but hip-hop was able to take it and hit a more mainstream audience. We were one of the pioneers in terms of bringing cannabis to the forefront and into the light in hip-hop, so it’s great to see each progressive step the movement has made since then.”

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