With the release today (Dec. 4) of Cypress Hill's new Columbia album, "Stoned Raiders," the Latino hip-hop act is continuing its exploration of the rap-meets-rock world, which it first attempted on th

With the release today (Dec. 4) of Cypress Hill's new Columbia album, "Stoned Raiders," the Latino hip-hop act is continuing its exploration of the rap-meets-rock world, which it first attempted on the successful 2000 double-disc set "Skull & Bones." But the question remains, is the group more interested in being a rocking hip-hop act or a rapping rock act?

"A rocking hip-hop act," Cypress Hill drummer Eric Bobo tells Billboard.com. "First and foremost, Cypress Hill is a hip-hop group which happens to have a strong alternative fan base. So, it didn't seem so out of the norm for us to kind of venture out and do stuff like this. I don't think we turned into just a rock band. We try to keep elements of hip-hop in all of the aspects."

While the hip-hop sensibility that put Cypress Hill on the map -- B-Real's whining and rhyming, noisy loops, and steady percussion -- is ever present on "Stoned Raiders," there's definitely new attention paid to the nu-metal aspect of today's rock scene. This is evident in Cypress Hill's decision to release two singles ("Lowrider" is traditional hip-hop fare, while "Trouble" is aimed at alternative stations) to U.S. radio outlets.

"I believe there are going to be those critics who say we're trying to do it because [rap/rock] is making money now," Bobo says. "I don't really see that to be the case. We've been fans of alternative classic rock forever, so it's just something we wanted to do. Something new for us, not necessarily for jumping on the bandwagon, but we wanted to try something else and that is all we're doing. Don't get mad if we happen to be successful at it or people say, 'Wow, they're sounding pretty good doing this.'"

Along with the core group of Bobo, B-Real (Louis Freeze), DJ Muggs (Lawrence Muggerud), and Sen Dog (Senen Reyes), "Stoned Raiders" features appearances by MC Ren, Kurupt, Redman, and Method Man, along with Fear Factory bassist Christian Olde Wolbers on bass and guitars. For the North American tour currently in the works, fans can expect the outfit to once again employ a live backing band, which it utilized while supporting "Skull & Bones."

"It's a different energy when you have a band up there and live musicians," Bobo admits. "This way, it isn't necessarily going to be the same every night, which makes it really interesting." Cypress Hill does have one live appearance confirmed, at New York station K-Rock (WXRK) Claus Fest on Dec. 10 at the Roseland Ballroom. Bush, Pete Yorn, Nickelback, and P.O.D. are also on the bill.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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