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A Top Five From Hip-Hop Legends Cypress Hill

by Erik R. Slagle

In late 2016, the music industry started to buzz with rumors that Los Angeles rap superstars Cypress Hill would be returning with their first full-length release since 2010’s “Rise Up,” a solid release that featured mind-expanding collaborations with guitarist extraordinaire Tom Morello, Latino crooner Marc Anthony, House of Pain alum Everlast, and the ubiquitous Pitbull.  With the working title “Elephants on Acid,” fans were chomping at the bit for the new release … and we’re still chomping.  2012’s “Cypress X Rusko” was great, but at just five tracks, it was just a dubstep tease.

Now, with rumblings that we might see “Elephants” sometime in 2018, here’s a look back at five Cypress Hill entries that should find a place in any music lover’s catalog:

Cypress Hill (Self-titled):  Hailed as groundbreaking when it was released in 1991, the trio’s self-titled debut brought West Coast rap to a broader audience.  Led by “The Phuncky Feel One” and “How I Could Just Kill a Man” (later available as a blazing live track on the Woodstock ’95 soundtrack), the album also offers deeper dives like “Tres Equis” (featuring an unmistakable “Sophisticated Funk” sample from John Roberts), “Light Another” and “Stoned Is the Way of the Walk.”  This album, of course, was the pre-cursor to their sophomore effort, “Black Sunday” – which helped them break through with the raucous “Insane in the Brain.”

IV:  If for no other reason, get this selection for “Dr. Greenthumb,” one of the most irreverent hip-hop tracks to come out of the late 90s.  Released in 1998, other highlights include “Checkmate,” “Tequila Sunrise,” and “Lightning Strikes” – the first Hill track to include heavy metal guitar riffs, something that would feature prominently on 2000’s “Skull and Bones” double-disc set.  

Till Death Do Us Part:  The 2001 “Stoned Raiders” album was interesting and experimental, but it’s tough to recommend as a whole.  Instead, check out “Till Death Do Us Part,” released in 2004.  It opens strong with “Another Body Drops,” carries a somber mood with tracks like “Till Death Comes” and “Street Wars,” and still manages to have some fun on “Busted In the Hood” (a ‘gangsta’ send-up of the Beasties’ “Paul Revere”).  My favorite track?  “Ganja Bus,” a not-to-be-missed collaboration with Damian Marley.

Live at the Fillmore:  Start to finish, there’s not a weak spot on this 2000 live album.  It opens with the “Duke of Earl”-sampling “Hand On the Pump,” turns up the metal on “Cock the Hammer” and “Checkmate,” and mellows out with a three-track break of “I Wanna Get High,” “Stoned Is the Way of the Walk,” and “Hits From the Bong.”  For a band whose performances were standouts at festivals like Lollapalooza, Woodstock and Smokin’ Grooves, this collection really captures the live Cypress Hill experience.

Judgment Night Soundtrack:  There are so many reasons to get this soundtrack – collaborations from House of Pain and Helmet, Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., Slayer and Ice-T, to name just a few.  And a couple of the REALLY high points include Cypress Hill’s two contributions: “I Love You Mary Jane” with Sonic Youth, and “Real Thing” with Pearl Jam.  The soundtrack got a better reception than the film did when it was released in 1993, but that’s no reason to sleep on this collection of genre-mashing tracks.  Not a radio hit among them, but that’s what makes it all the more special.  After all, where else will you find Sir Mix-a-Lot giving a Mudhoney yell?