23 April, 2010@5:01 am
For their eighth studio LP, Rise Up, Cypress Hill returns from a six year hiatus, after 2004′s Til’ Death Do Us Part. Short one member, DJ Muggs, the longtime producer still appears to produce two of the albums tracks, but this leaves the the listener wondering what direction the group will take next.
It has been kind of a rough road for Cypress during the group’s millennial tenure, their biggest hit being 2001′s “Rock Superstar”, which found the group taking a new direction, with increased popularity of rock-rap acts like Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit. This was a natural move for the crew, whom seemed to hit a bit of a stalemate with the hip-hop audience, yet were always able to nab the outdoor music festival crowd. Despite this, during the hiatus we’ve seen B-Real warm up to the hip-hop audience by appearing on recent records from La Coka Nostra and Apathy. So the question remains – which audience is this record for? Hip-Hop heads or rap-rock kids?
Rise Up goes for both audiences, delivering a mixture of hardcore hip-hop tracks, as well as rock-rap fusion stuff, for better or for worse. On the hip-hop end of things, there are some incredible moments that suggest the group never lost it. Case in point is the blazing album opener, “It Ain’t Nothin”, featuring a blistering track by B-Real himself, who proves himself as a best kept secret producer. The Pete Rock produced “Light It Up” also knocks, as Sen Dog states the obvious: “It’s automatic / Pete Rock & The Hill? / Now that’s a classic.”
The wigged out “Pass The Dutch” is one of the few Muggs produced tracks, as Evidence and Alchemist share in the psychedelia, while the uptempo “Bang Bang” is another uptempo B-Real banger, further shows his range as a producer. Jake One helps out on the soulful “Armed & Dangerous”, while Muggs & Khalil chime in for “Take My Pain”, as Everlast provides a whiskey-wallowing hook.
But the crown jewel of them all? The bold “Armanda Latina”, which samples Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s “Judy Blue Eyes”. It’s an obvious sample, but the addition of Marc Anthony’s swarthy hook and Pitbull’s bonus verses, gives the track an instantly classic feel, with crossover appeal that doesn’t drip with soul-selling. Fuck the weed, this is cool as a Corona.
Had Cypress kept the hip-hop sound throughout the entire LP, we could have seen a stronger, more cohesive effort, but they play to their new generation of fans for half the LP, which doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the album. However they went to the right sources to do this. Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello for “Rise Up” – a kind of ill timed “damn-the-man” song (funny, we never envisioned Cypress to be down with the Teabaggers); “Trouble Seeker” with System of A Down’s “Daron Malakian”; and perhaps the most introspective track of their career, the guilt-ridden “Carry Me Away”, with Mike Shinoda. These tracks are not particularly bad, but they do stick out like sore thumbs among the other tracks. It’s kind of like if Francis Ford Copolla decided that the flashback scenes in The Godfather 2 should be done in Japanese anime style; completely pulls the audience out of it.
Despite these gripes, rock tracks aside, this is some of the best music Cypress Hill has created in years. That’s not a slight to Muggs, as the group had to pick a number of outside collaborators to bring it all together (although B-Real is no slouch on the boards). But next time around, we hope the group comes full circle and releases a solid hip-hop LP, without the need for power-chords and slam dancing.
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