Interview: Meyhem Lauren & DJ Muggs Talk ‘Gems From The Equinox,’ New Generation Of Rap & More

Queens native Meyhem Lauren recently teamed up with Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs for a gritty collaborative album dubbed Gems From The Equinox , which hit the streets last Friday (Oct. 27). Due to the fellas’ busy schedules, the tuneful project took about four years to complete from start to finish. Ever since Action Bronson linked the duo up years ago, they have consistently talked about putting this project together.

READ: Prodigy, Meyhem Lauren, & More Join Thirstin Howl The 3rd’s ‘Skillmatic’ Album

The 11-track album boasts brash lyricism, hard beats and that “spooky, you don’t know what’s around that corner” rap — if you let the legendary DJ Muggs tell it. Gems From The Equinox features a plethora of assists from the usuals such as Hologram and Action Bronson on “Shea Stadium” and Roc Marciano on “Street Religion.” The late Sean Price, Benny The Butcher, B-Real and fellow New Yorker Conway makes appearances on the LP as well — and Muggs certainly doesn’t disappoint with his rugged production.

VIBE caught up with the duo in New York City to get an in depth look at their creative process going into Gems From The Equinox, why we need to embrace all sub-genres of hip-hop and much more.

READ: Interview: DJ Muggs Talks Recording First Full-Length Cypress Hill LP In Nearly 10 Years

VIBE: How did the two of you originally link up?
Meyhem Lauren: We were at The Alchemist’s crib when him and Bronson were working on the Red Chandeliers album. DJ Muggs came through and played some heat, and then I went home and woke up in the morning with three songs in his e-mail.
DJ Muggs: Then I listened to those tracks and thought they were bangin’, and I hit him back like ‘damn you’re quick!’ Then we went about our business, we were both busy at the time. About six months later I was sitting there after I finished my project and thought about what I was going to do next. It was start and stop though because we both had a lot going on. It’s probably been four years start to finish.

Mey, how did Muggs help influence your style on this project?
He gave me pointers, he has been doing this forever. If I’m going to listen to anybody it’s going to be him. The main thing he did was tell me to slow down my flow at certain times. I got the fast thing down, that’s what I always do, but now I got different styles in the chamber.
DJ Muggs: I would show him 25 beats and say pick what you like. Then, I would customize things later, I would never finish a beat until after the rhymes.

What were you going for with the Jesus inspired cover-art for Gems From The Equinox?
Meyhem: The cover was actually single art for our first single “Street Religion” with Roc Marciano. You know it had the hammers, gold Jesus piece. Looking at it again, we thought it was doper than the original cover. You don’t need to see our faces, you got Jesus with uzis, that’s better than us.

What happened to the EP you guys were supposed to drop before the album?
Meyhem: We had a bunch of extra songs and we picked the best ones for the album. We’ll probably put one out after.
DJ Muggs: We were going to do that to set up the record. We didn’t even pick the best, just the hardest. There are six or seven other ones that could’ve easily been switched on. We are using some for bonus tracks on the deluxe CD. We want direct downloads to our site, which has two extra songs on there.

Getting into the singles, can you talk about the concept for your “Murder Rap” video?
Meyhem: Even though we shot it in Miami, it didn’t look like Miami. It was right to the point, the beats and the rhymes spoke for themselves, so we didn’t have to get too crazy with the video. We shot it in about two hours in the Florida heat, and anytime the camera was off I was wiping the sweat off my head. Sometimes you need a panther to just pop up.

On “Street Religion” why did you choose to flip OutKast’s “Two Dope Boys” for the sample?
DJ Muggs: That’s definitely a classic, and one of my favorite albums forever. I wasn’t even really conscious of it when I had it. That was a dusty version I had of the song and when Meyhem heard it he picked that one. Then I went back to the digitized new clean version of it and it didn’t sound right. The dirty f—ed up one sounds way better.

Who was that on the outro speech?
Meyhem: That’s actually one of my people. Those aren’t even skits, that’s just a voice message that he sent me. I wake up and go to WhatsApp and he’s leaving me voices venting while he’s in the middle of Panama right now.

What’s the main thing you’ve picked up from working with Muggs, Alchemist and Harry Fraud?
Meyhem: Honestly, the one thing they have in common is work ethic. Three people that have an extremely hard work ethic and just being around them is inspirational. Muggs got the longevity and he has the biggest records. They all wake up and work hard and I respect it.

What can we expect from The Untitled Action Bronson Show on Viceland?
Meyhem: It’s the craziest shit in the world. It’s the best thing that’s ever going to hit television. There’s really nothing like it. I’m not even saying it because he’s my man but every time I go over there I’m just laughing on the set like what the f–k is going on here. Anything goes, there’s no telling what you’re going to see on the show. You may see sword swallowers, knife throwers, actors, musicians, producers, midgets, food, models. I wouldn’t be surprised if I walked in today and they had a giraffe on set.

What are both of your favorite Cypress Hill records of all-time?
Meyhem: That’s a tough question, but if I had to pick one probably “I Ain’t Going Out Like That.” I was there for it as a kid, staring at Video Music Box and MTV. It’s been a part of my DNA, literally before I had hair on my balls I was listening to Cypress Hill.

DJ Muggs: I think my favorite thing overall was the first album. That was our whole life leading up to that point. Just the time and space we were in and how we were living. The record took like three years of figuring shit out and doing demos. It was a really special time for us growing up. It took time, this was before first week sales and Soundscan. I remember hearing “Boyz In The Hood” for a year before it even got on the radio in L.A. That record was just in the swap meets and in the hood, then it got on the radio and blew up. There was only three big releases a year, you’d play that shit until the cassette snapped.

Are there any contemporaries that remind you of Cypress Hill now?
DJ Muggs: I love Action Bronson, Roc Marciano and Griselda Records. All that stuff is exciting for me now. It’s that hardcore, New York, gritty, spooky shit I love.

All these years later you’re working with the new generation of NYC.
DJ Muggs: I love it. It’s still exciting and fun. I get mad inspired to get up and do this everyday. That in itself, I like where music is right now. I love trap, like Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame. I love the grimy New York shit, too It’s a good time.

You can still love a Cardi B and Waka Flocka Flame, but still appreciate a Roc Marciano at the same time.
Meyhem: You’re supposed to. In my head it’s just certain different styles of rap. There’s nothing wrong with liking both. I want to drive the whip listening to Roc Marciano. I don’t know if I want to hear him in the strip club. I don’t know if I want to see someone twerk to me rapping.
DJ Muggs: That’s what it’s like for me, I love rock and roll and different genres as well.

Support New York City hip-hop by purchasing the album on iTunes.