Cypress Hill – [Album]

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The one constant in the major label music racket is that times change and musicians playing in that game have to change too – or risk being left behind. Sure – a classic album can live forever as a photograph of a moment and the powers possessed by those in the shot, but if a group is still working, they can't afford to rest on laurels. Cypress Hill know this and also know that, after six years away, they had better do something great or they'll be done; fans' patience can be limitless but when that patience is answer with poor material, it guarantees a swift and none-too-subtle dismissal.

Cypress Hill know this so, after six years, they've changed their style somewhat and updated themselves – if only a little.

From the very beginning of “It Ain't Nothin',” Cypress Hill storms out of the gates backed by an imposing wall of crystal-clear (read: more electro-than-vintage production) hip hop tones that are also more Snoop Dogg than Chuck D through and through; there are still incendiary pro-herb and anti-establishment slogans thrown in every corner, but the samples are regularly more R&B than rock or kitsch and so the results come off as cleaner and more poignant than dazed or methodical. The narcotic references are more veiled too; a decade ago, listeners couldn't miss a recurring line like “I wanna get high,” but the emcees occasionally make listeners work to find something in lines like “Rise up, rise up – how high can you get?” which could also work as a double entendre for political action, especially when backed by Tom Morello as it is in the title track. Here, both B-Real and Sen Dog have learned the value of a little subtlety and it works to their benefit perfectly.

Those aforementioned sorts of only partially veiled ambiguity reoccur throughout Rise Up and it works out pretty well overall, but the real surprises manifest when some old friends tag in to help the band out – as Everlast does on “Take My Pain,” the closest to old school track on the album – and add a little levity (if that isn't Cheech and Chong in “K.U.S.H.” somebody does a very believable impression) to the record. Some detractors will call those moments 'fluffy,' but that fluff in the mix somehow becomes welcome as a breather from the far more pressing matters addressed in “Armed & Dangerous,” “Get 'Em Up” and Trouble Seeker.” The contrast shows that, in Cypress Hill's case, getting a bit older only means that they're wiser survivors that know when to keep their shit close to the vest and when it's safe to hang out a banner.

With those facts shown and Cypress Hill's return made apparent, the only thing left to do is organize a block party that everyone (including Pitbull and Marc Anthony) attends on “Armada Latina.” It might sound funny in print to see that counterculture counterculture icons like Cypress Hill are trading lines  with a Top 40 player like Marc Anthony but, again, the jubilant nature of the song compliments both the singer and the group really well and it's arranged so that no one trips over anyone else or hobbles what amounts to a pretty damned good and subversive party pop song.

So now that they're back, what's to come from Cypress Hill? There is no stopping age, but the emcees have worked it well on Rise Up, and left the possibility for a revived career open, now it just depends on how they play it out. As long as they continue along this path, they're on safe ground and prove they can handle it here; let's just hope they realize it.



Cypress Hill – “Latina Armada” (featuring Pitbull and Marc Anthony) – Rise Up

Cypress Hill – “It Ain't Nothin'” – Rise Up

Cypress Hill – “Rise Up” – Rise Up


Rise Up
comes out on April 20, 2010 via Priority Records. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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