It feels surreal to think that twenty three years have passed since Cypress Hill put together their third and iconic Temples Of Boom. With each record they continued to recreate themselves and this time the trio went down a dark avenue. The music videos went the same way too, resulting in MTV and radio refusing to play them. That didn't stop the record going gold and eventually platinum off their reputation alone. This was the first record I became obsessed with and if your familiar with my taste in music it should be no suprise as to why.
1995 marks a peak in the Mafioso Rap movement and despite the dark and violent, gang related themes, Cypress sidestep that particular narrative. It was when Hip Hop was transitioning away from bombastic sampling styles and production was growing towards sequenced beats and slick synthesized instrumentation. With retroactive ears Muggs's production gets a whole new level of appreciation. These beats hold up so well, Muggerud brings together the tightest kicks and snares samples, arranges them with a hard hitting, slick bombastic groove that resonates of dark vibes.
Track after track is hypnotically dark. Deep rumbling baselines glue the power and jive of the drums with their evil and menacing sampled counterparts. Muggs approach usually consists of ambiguous airy ambiences eerily lurking between the obvious instruments. With attentive ears much variety in that region, most notably cold icy pianos return frequently, playing upfront melodies but sometimes lingering in the distance. The mystic cultural vibe makes its mark here with the inclusion of the Indian sitar to bring about esoteric vibes between the beats. It builds up the unique feel of the record as well as the mythic terminology referencing the albums title and tracks like Stoned Raiders.
I will always put B Real in my top five, he is a phenomenal MC and criminally overlooked in the discussion of Hip Hops greatest. Every line on this record is fire, no filler. His nasal tone adds a sharp spice to his flow, giving his microphone persona a streak of attitude that requires no boasting. Its in the air tight delivery and variety of flows that keeps the goods rolling in from one song to the next. His ability to slip into half-sung hooks and killer refrains is timeless. His flows stealthily change pace and on tracks like Locotes they find a groove of their comparable to the beat itself. With Sen Dog chiming in and double tracking the best rhymes. His voice and lyrics hold up all these years later, still vicious and vigorous.
I'm not sure how many verses Sen gets on this record but as always his presences is illuminating, a great compliment to B Real. His roll as a backup man is never overplayed and easily underappreciated in the Cypress formula. No Rest For The Wicked has the group fire back at Ice Cube for stealing their hook and B Real is just an absolute monster with every line, from start to end. Its a savage diss track, almost on par with No Vaseline which he references with the line "No Vaseline, just a rope and a chair and gasoline". Brutal. Wu-Tang Clan's RZA and U-God turn up for some verses on one of the records dingy, dirtiest beats. A fitting match.
The record isn't all dark and shadowy, the lyrically ironic Boom Biddy Bye Bye lifts the mood with a memorizing piano melody looping over a warm, inviting baseline. The classic Illusions may sound a little nicer but its lonely atmosphere and paranoid lyrics quickly dispel the easy listening. A few beats do lean to a brighter degree but lets face it, its a darkened record. Strictly Hip Hop rests as a fairer beat setting a firm tone for the Hill to send out a clear message on the commercializing of the music. The lyrics read like biblical verses as B Real preaches some of the hardest truths on the business consuming the art form. Its my favorite song on the record and all these years later it truths hold up and Cypress Hill have proudly stuck by their integrity. A truly classic record, one of my first tens and perfection for my taste.
Favorite Tracks: Spark Another Owl, Throw Your Set In The Air, Stoned Raiders, Boom Biddy Bye Bye, No Rest For The Wicked, Killafornia, Locotes, Red Light Visions, Strictly Hip Hop, Everybody Must Get Stoned