Cypress Hill

There are few acts who have genuinely changed hip-hop and DJ Muggs - producer, arranger and DJ for Cypress Hill - was one of them. Alongside The Bomb Squad for Public Enemy, Dre both for NWA and solo projects and The RZA, who started with The Wu-Tang Clan but moved on to many, many side-projects, Muggs looked like he could have been the most influential of all and artists queued up outside The Soul Assassins HQ for Muggs to spare them a few licks from his fuggy, weird mixes of songs.

Unlike other producers who so longed to be taken seriously that they removed all traces of scratchy funk from their tracks, Muggs' records were born over bongs. The marijuana smoke that drifted onto his tapes gave Cypress Hill's music a lazy, muffled sound. If it rose slowly, and likely to be well into the evening when it did so, Cypress Hill's debut was an immediate hit as it scored just at the moment when the blunted sound of the west coast took over from the east with the roll of Rizla papers, revolvers and life in South Central.

Of course, whilst the producer can occasionally be considered king, Cypress Hill worked spun their muggy tracks out of Los Angeles under cover of B Real's bizarre, weird, comical vocals. As likely to be cocking a pistol inside a nursery rhyme as cracking another hit from his bong, B Real's blurry half-sung/half-rapped style was the other half of the Cypress Hill story and the mix of B Real and Muggs' dense, dark productions created stoned, twisted, funny and brutally violent songs not far from a white-boy gangsta fantasy.

Unsurprisingly, rock fans fell over each other to get the guitars, fat bass, funky drums and weird samples sparked up by Cypress Hill in a way not seen since Public Enemy sampled Slayer and re-recorded Bring The Noise with Anthrax. But this is a great debut - just take the songs. Opening track, Pigs, opens with the chatter of a police radio but is soon taunting cops with a loaded-with-weaponry update on West Side Story's Gee, Officer Krupke, complete with a list of every crooked cop on the beat. Whilst it's not likely that B Real is ever gonna be asked to an LAPD Thanksgiving dinner, there's a cartoonish grinning behind the songs that was missing from Body Count's Cop Killer. Better yet is the hit from the album, How I Could Just Kill A Man, in which B Real loops tales of self-defence before giggling as he remembers that he, "Watched the rookie pass out, didn't have to blast him / But I did anyway". Hole In The Head is one of the many songs that takes a similar route but twists a wah-wah guitar around the heavy rhythm, which gives B Real the chance to point some chrome in the direction of the listener.

If that all sounds too much - and gangsta thrills do, as Tupac Shakur proved without doubt, eventually fade - then head for the party sounds of The Phuncky Feel One, Psychobetabuckdown, The Funky Cypress Hill Shit and Born To Get Busy, all of which straddle the ground between rap braggadocio and saying nothing at all but which are as funky as music gets.

The best moments are those when the full effect of the drugs are felt in the music and the stoned beats loosen up behind funky guitars and bass. So, Ultraviolet Dreams beats with the scratch of a Zippo lighter, a fat bass synth and features stoned mumbling in place of vocals. Light Another and Tres Equis are fast funk and stoner rock, respectively, but best of all is Stoned Is The Way Of The Walk, where a loping rhythm, stretched-out trumpet and loose lyrics praise the effect of the weed, which so funks-up the song that the sweet smell of sensimilla drifts off the disc.

Cypress Hill's debut still works some twelve years on for, despite DJ Muggs spreading his skills a little too widely, the murky Cypress Hill sound didn't last. A couple of albums here, House Of Pain and others under the Soul Assassins banner, a few tracks for, amongst others, Ice Cube, and even Muggs moved on. For that reason, Cypress Hill still sounds fresh, exciting and so funky. Whilst it's unlikely to really pull in fans of hip-hop - it is a little too rock for that - those who dabble with Dre, Wu-Tang and PE are those for whom Cypress Hill was recorded.



out of 10

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