B-Real is a team player. Leading Cypress to nine gold plaques in the past 17 years, the legendary group's front man didn't get the solo bug until recently. Interestingly, DJ Muggs, Cypress' sonic architect and Sen Dog, the group's secondary rhymer, both released solo projects before B.

Muggs released his highly successful Soul Assassins series during Cypress' heyday back in the mid 90s while Sen Dog dropped Diary of A Mad Dog last year. Now, nearly two decades after captivating hip-hop and rock fans with his signature nasal flow, B-Real has finally gone solo with Smoke N Mirrors. Partnering with Duck Down Records for the project, B-Real put his production to the test for the first time while collaborating with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Too Short, Buckshot, Xzibit and many more. XXLMag.com caught up with B-Real to discuss rumors of a nasal super group with Ad Rock and Q-Tip, being the game's undisputed biggest smoker and rappers exploiting getting shot.

XXLMag.com: A lot of people we’re surprised when they heard you signed your solo deal with Duck Down Records. What made you pick that label?

B-Real: We were looking all over the place for a home for my record and a lot of these guys got it twisted.  Somehow along the line Duck Down heard about me wanting to put an album out and I guess Buckshot was talking with Dru Ha about my shit. I guess he heard about it and they wanted to hear [it]. They heard a couple of unfinished [songs]. I played him half the album but it was just like rough shit, 'cause I had most of the album probably like 90 percent done before I got the deal with them 'cause I was doin' the same thing that we’re trying to do with Cypress. I was just trying to knock the album out with no interference and then take it somewhere to see whoever saw the vision and Duck Down fortunately saw the vision and they were excited about what I’m doing they didn’t just look at the names, they looked at what they could do with the music that I was making and that was one of the signals that they know what they’re doing.

XXL: DJ Muggs had Soul Assassins and Sen Dog dropped Diary of A Mad Dog. It's ironic that you were always known as the front man of Cypress and ended up being the last member of the group to drop a solo album.

B-Real: Yea, I was pretty much dedicated and for me at the time I didn’t feel the need to do anything else because at the time Cypress was doing everything I wanted it to do. It still does, our foundation- I love making music for Cypress Hill. There’s certain ideas and certain sounds and shit that wouldn’t match up for what we do for Cypress and you know as an artist you kinda want different thoughts, different ideas, concepts, creativity, otherwise they’re all bottled up and then you end up doing some stupid shit, with a different formula and it doesn’t work. So I just sort of had to be patient. I mean Busta Rhymes told me like years ago “hey man, you should do a solo record, people dig your voice and you should start fucking around and try and make a solo record and I thought about it, but after a while I started to see where he was coming from because I seen his progression from coming out of Leaders of the New School and his own thing and making his own path but he was breaking away from it and I wanted specifically to not let people think I’m breaking away from Cypress, cause that’s not what I’m doing, I would never do that, it's just another part of my creativity as far as production and as an artist but definitely not taking me away from it so that’s why I always had second thoughts about it and then finally I had the time to actually knock it down.

XXL: There was a rumor of a nasal super group with you, Ad Rock from the Beastie Boys and Q-tip a while back. Was there any truth to that?

B-Real: I mean, I think we talked about it a few times me and Tip. Whenever we were on the East Coast doing the convention circuit back in the day with New Music Seminar and then out there in ATL with Jack The Rapper we’d all be hanging out all the time so we would definitely talk about it, but it was one of those things where one of us was on the East Coast, one of us is on the West Coast and Ad Rock goes back and forth and we just never could really line it up, but if it had happened it would have been a big deal, 'cause those are two of my favorite rappers and I cant even imagine how that shit would of went.

XXL: We spoke to Alchemist and Evidence a while back and they claim to have challenged you to a smoke off and they say you’re the G.O.A.T when it comes to smoking weed. Is there anybody out there that you think can smoke you under the table?

B-Real: In our business... Nah! I don’t think so. I mean there’s probably somebody we don’t know in this world somewhere that maybe smokes more than I do but it's not just smoking more than I do, it’s smoking what I smoke. Now if I smoke your weed as much as you can smoke, I can out-smoke you no problem. But can you smoke as much as I smoke of my weed, that’s the question?

XXL: How did that challenge come about?

B-Real: I don’t know we’ve all know each other for a long time, so we're always talking shit. But they all know I’m the reefer king so... anybody that wants the title gotta come try and get it.

XXL: So you being the reefer king, let's say you come home and your son is there and you find some pot somewhere. How would you handle the crisis?

B-Real: Well you know, he’s actually smoked out before. He smoked out with me. Actually, my son is 21. But when he was like 16 or 17 he came up to me and said, "pop I wanna smoke with you sometime," and I couldn’t be an asshole and be like, "hell no you ain’t smoking" because that’s how they get started on the street and fucking around with their friends and then end up in deeper shit. So basically I wanted to kill his curiosity. So I told him, "look, I’ll let you smoke with me but you can’t smoke with nobody else till you smoke with me first and even so I don’t want you smoking with nobody else." If you wanna smoke just come down here and deal with me and my boys and that way you’re safe 'cause you never know what your getting from other people. So I smoked him out and he got so fucking scared that he never really wanted to smoke again. His curiosity was killed. He smoked every now and then, here and there, but on the normal he doesn’t do any of that shit so fortunately it worked.

XXL: I read that you got shot like 20 years ago but I've been following you since your debut and I don't recall you speaking on the shooting much. How do you feel about the way rappers have been addressing getting shot in the last few years?

B-Real: It became one of those things where it was a marketing tool. Certain guys you viewed as a real motherfucker. If you had been shot or popped bullets I think the record companies pretty much exploited some shit like that with a lot of these rappers and that's all good if the rappers are cool with them telling that story and shit, but what it did was perpetuate some shit where a lot of these youngins think they gotta have some shit like that to be successful and be looked at as real, to give them validation in the street and that shit is ridiculous, man. Those were the repercussions of that lifestyle. Now these kids coming up and they wanna be these hardcore rappers who never lived that life and think they got to go through some stupid shit. You ain't really gotta do that. That's just the path that we were on at the time.  For me, I wrote about it here and there in certain songs, like "Lick the Shots" was where I took a piece of the story and put it in there and there was another song that I kind of put it down in there but the whole thing was I was bangin'. I was bangin' in South Central. I was living that lifestyle and one night these motherfuckers punched my ticket. Fortunately I lived through it. I didn’t get shot 12 times or nines times or whatever, or even three times. One bullet was enough and you know... it put me out of commission for a little bit but I got back on the horse and I started fucking up even more. What saved me was the music because I had Sen Dog, Muggs and Sen Dog's little brother, Mellow Man Ace used to come at me like come write some songs with us leave that shit alone and at first I was like, "nah man, I’m cool, I ain't fucking around. I’m right here in the hood, I’m making doe slangin,’ I don’t need none of that— we ain't gunna make no money off no rap shit." Yea I ate every single one of those words but you know it took me a while before I would actually leave the hood and actually do some music.-Carl Chery