Eric Bobo is a man of many styles. The percussionist has worked with a large variety of artists, such as Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, and Ella Fitzgerald. Yet, few know that it all began when he was a youngin’. Born in Queens, NY and raised in Los Angeles, Bobo grew up under the influence of Latin jazz while making a name for himself in hip-hop. Although these two music genres may seem like an odd pair, this open-mindedness is what has distinguished Bobo from other aspiring musicians. The 40-year-old Puerto-Rican artist grew up working with Latin jazz icons, including Tito Puente and his late father, Latin jazz legend Willie Bobo. As he grew older, he transitioned to hip-hop, while never letting go of his Latin jazz foundation.
Bobo later auditioned for the Beastie Boys and ended up working with them on their national Check Your Head tour during the early 90’s. He soon recorded with them on their Ill Communication and Hello Nasty albums. Later in 1993, Bobo began working for Latin hip-hop group Cypress Hill as their percussionist, later becoming an official member in 1994. He has toured with them ever since.
Now, more than 10 years later, Bobo has branched off and released his first solo album this past November, titled Meeting of the Minds. Currently, Bobo is in New York City working with different artists and has already headlined the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) at Central Park Summerstage. In between his many appearances, Bobo talks to nocheLatina about working with the Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill, going solo, as well as what he’d be doing if it weren’t for music.
nocheLatina: You released Meeting of the Minds this past November. What does the album title come from?
Eric Bobo: The title stems from me working with different people on the album- different artists, different genres, putting it all together, and seeing what comes out. Meeting of the Minds is a way to try to come up with something together-to be able to blend in different genres. You just really map it out the best way and put it all together. You come to a meeting of the minds, you know?
nocheLatina: You worked closely with the Beastie Boys and you’re a member of Cypress Hill. What was it like working with these two groups?
Eric Bobo: Wow, well working with the Beastie Boys was a really great opportunity. It was a lot of fun. I was able to learn a lot and I’m very proud of the music that we created together. With Cypress Hill, it’s the same way. I’ve been with them since ’93 and then became an official member in ’94. You’re talking about two iconic hip-hop groups. You can’t mention hip-hop without mentioning Cypress Hill and Beastie Boys. It’s been a great honor and privilege.
nocheLatina: Why did you choose to work on a solo project?
Eric Bobo: I think there always come a time, especially when you’re part of a group for a long time, that you’d like to express yourself in a different way and do things on your own, as opposed to having to share ideas with two or three different guys and compromise. It was really about picking the time and the type of project-that was the key. It was about time to do something on my own, bring it back to the fold, and have fresh ideas.
nocheLatina: Do you think working with the Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill has prepared you for your solo career?
Eric Bobo: I think that a little bit of influence came from them, along with my earlier work, working with my father, and working with different genres. I played with Tito Puente and other artists. A little bit of all that helped prepare me for doing a solo album.
nocheLatina: How would you describe your album as far as its sound?
Eric Bobo: It really touches on different styles. It definitely has a hip-hop base, but it also has its Latin flavor.
nocheLatina: Before you started recording your album, did you had a defined vision of what you wanted?
Eric Bobo: It took me a while to really figure out what I wanted to do. I started recording the album in Tucson, Arizona because I wasn’t getting that creative spark I needed to start it at home. Then it started taking shape of how I was going to approach it. The whole project took about three years to do, and throughout that time, it grew and evolved into its own.
nocheLatina: What has been the response from fans and other artists?
Eric Bobo: The response has been very good, actually. A lot of my peers were really happy that I finally put an album out. What they liked about it was the direction that I took. I was able to incorporate different styles. A common thread in there was me being a part of it.
nocheLatina: How did you feel when you were in the studio crafting your album?
Eric Bobo: It was definitely about time that I had done something on my own-excitement, nervousness, wondering what people were going to think about it- it was a whole lot of different emotions. First and foremost, I had to be happy with it, be confident, and stick by what my project was. When I was finally ready to let it go, I realized that no matter if it only sold one copy, it’s a project that I’m really proud of and I’m happy that I was able to do it.
nocheLatina: I understand your father passed away when you were 15. What do you think he would’ve thought about your music if he were with you today?
Eric Bobo: I think he definitely would’ve dug the music because my father was a fan of different types of genres. I think that’s where I learned to appreciate different styles of music so I think he would’ve been really receptive to it. I’m pretty sure he would be, first of all, proud of the accomplishment, but also happy about the sound.
nocheLatina: Do you have a favorite song on your album?
Eric Bobo: I think that’s almost like saying if you have a favorite child! At the same point, in different times and moods, different songs stand out. When I’m really in a good party mood, the song ‘Fiesta’ with Cultura Londres and Kemo The Blaxican comes to mind. Or ‘Mucho Calor’-that’s always pleasing to the ear. Even the hip-hop stuff as well. They’re all my kids so I love them all.
nocheLatina: If you took a different path, other than music, what do you think you’d be happy doing?
Eric Bobo: Wow. Maybe doing something in film or behind the scenes. I’ve always fantasized about being a director or a radio personality-like a disc jockey, maybe doing the late-night love song hour.
nocheLatina: As far as what you are currently doing, I read on your website blog that you’re currently finishing up another album with Cypress Hill. Do you guys have the date of the album release yet?
Eric Bobo: No, we really don’t have an exact date, we are eyeing like the fall of this year, maybe October. It’s not concrete, but I can tell people that we are really close to completing the record. It’s good to come back and be able to work together. During the time off, we’ve all branched off and done solo projects.
nocheLatina: What else are you currently working on?
Eric Bobo: Right now I just finished doing music for ‘CSI,’ its 200th episode. I’m currently in the city with a few different artists, such as Salvador Santana. I’m also working with a couple of groups and just getting on the grind doing more shows. Expect to hear more music and see more shows.
nocheLatina: I understand you have been influenced greatly by Latin jazz, especially growing up with your father. And you’ve also made a name for yourself in hip-hop. Do you believe there’s a correlation between both genres?
Eric Bobo: I think there is. I think my love of infiltration in music and also the vibe and culture of hip-hop, at the end of the day, is pretty equal. I find it really easy to switch from one to the other. I think without one, I would never have been able to do the other.
nocheLatina: What is your ultimate goal in life?
Eric Bobo: I just think my ultimate goal is to make my mark in music and to try to accomplish more things; you’re never too young to learn- and to be able to spread the music out around the world.
To learn more about Eric Bobo, click here.