Cypress Hill – Rise Up (Priority: 2010)
4 out of 5 Potholes
Purchase on Amazon
As any Guns N’ Roses or Dr. Dre fan can tell you, waiting for your favorite act’s new album sucks, especially when the waiting time stretches on for a few years. In Cypress Hill’s case, they haven’t exactly been invisible since releasing 2004 Till Death Do Us Part, as all the members have kept up appearances through solo projects and guest appearances that ranged from awesome (GZA and DJ Muggs’ Grandmasters) to okay (B-Real’s and Sen Dog’s solo albums). But during the time between the last album and now, you’d be hard-pressed to find a track with Muggs, B-Real, and Sen Dog together doing their thing. As excited as I was to hear that the gang was getting back together again in 2010 for Rise Up, one look at the tracklist and producer lineup had me a bit wary for one reason: only two Muggs songs, and both are co-produced by DJ Khalil. Not to front on Khalil, because he’s a great producer, but it would be nice to see only the original trio get together for a few songs. Instead, leaves the production in the hands of B-Real, Pete Rock, Jim Jonsin, Jake One, and rockers Mike Shinoda, Tom Morello, and Daron Malakian. While I was initially skeptical despite the name brand producers, Rise Up delivers some pretty solid sounds and an enjoyably diverse Cypress Hill experience.
In honor of the recently-passed 4/20 and the fact that if you love Cypress Hill, you might enjoy (ahem) herbal remedies, I’ll start with the songs about the ganja, which are among the most enjoyable songs on the album. “Pass the Dutch” features fellow L.A. natives and noted stoners Evidence and The Alchemist and is vintage Cypress Hill: Muggs on the simultaneously grimy and funky beat, and a salute to California’s favorite herb that you won’t find in a kitchen (unless you’re making some brownies!). “K.U.S.H.” opens with reunited stoner icons Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, who also appear at various points throughout the album. B-Real, who also produced the track, goes on a roll call of famous stoners, including Halle Berry (who knew?!). I point to this track as further evidence of B-Real’s production skills, as he continues to pleasantly surprise me since his production work on Smoke N Mirrors.
If Cypress Hill’s rock-infused sound is more your thing, two things are clear: 1) chances are you live in L.A.; and 2) you’ll like what they’ve cooked up on this album. Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello is featured on “Rise Up” and “Shut ‘Em Down”; the former an electric, motivating headbanger while the latter is a Public Enemy-esque assault on the crooked establishment that musicians have railed against for decades. Both songs are quite a treat for fans who enjoy both Rage Against the Machine and Cypress Hill, as the groups seem to be a perfect fit for each other. “Trouble Seeker,” produced and guitar by System of a Down’s Daron Malakian, is a pedal-to-the-metal ride that seems tailor-made for playing while flying down the freeway at 100 mph with a mean mug or a twisted smile on your face. Too bad the traffic in L.A. limits drivers to 5 mph as you sit bumper-to-bumper on the 405. Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park drops by for “Carry Me Away,” which shows another side to Cypress Hill. Instead of the wild tough talk that we’ve heard since “How I Could Just Kill A Man,” B-Real and Sen Dog recount their rough upbringings in L.A. and show heartfelt remorse and sadness, particularly B-Real’s verse about his mother.
Rise Up does a great job presenting diverse sounds with several different producers without sounding scattershot. The requisite “radio song” with Marc Anthony and Pitbull, “Armada Latina,” produced by Jim Jonsin, is a smooth throwback to my parents’ generation of cruising around in lowriders on a sunny day, reminiscent of the sounds of War. Pitbull you can take or leave, but the song oozes that “summer” feeling. In contrast, Muggs’ dark production “Take My Pain” also draws on older influences, as Everlast quotes The Doors in the hook. While the first track, “It Ain’t Nothin’” sounds like a leftover from Smoke N Mirrors, the album isn’t much on filler, as there is something for everybody, each of the “somethings” are great in their own right. The album isn’t completely cohesive, but I think most listeners will let it slide due to its diversity. Even the songs that don’t fall into the classic/stoner/rock/radio categories that many of the album’s other songs fall into are great, specifically “Bang Bang,” another worthy production effort from B-Real. Rise Up is the strongest Cypress Hill-related effort the rap game has seen since Grandmasters, and while it won’t be mentioned in the same breath as Cypress Hill and Black Sunday, there’s little reason that it won’t be mentioned right after those albums.