Wednesday, May 5, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 124: Cypress Hill

A Creative Maelstrom will be taking a short break after this review, but never fear, gentle reader! It shall return in less than 2 weeks time, on Monday, May 17th.

Write it on your calendar now - or put a sticky note on the fridge - or do what I do with "Order of the Stick" - compulsively check back every day hoping something new is up.

Disc 124 is...IV
Artist: Cypress Hill

Year of Release: 1998

What’s Up With The Cover?: A variation on "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" featuring skeletons. I'm pretty sure skeletons have lost the soft tissue necessary to see (eyes) or to speak (lungs), but maybe the guy in the middle's still holding on to his tympanic membrane - so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Synopsis - this cover is silly. Gangsta Rap should have covers featuring the band looking tough, not a bunch of posed skeletons.

How I Came To Know It: As I noted in my previous two Cypress Hill Reviews, I learned about this band through my buddy, Spence. This particular record is me just buying their next album, since I already had (and enjoyed) their first three.

How It Stacks Up: I have five Cypress Hill albums at this point (I'll likely buy more). I'd put this one last of the five, though, for reasons that I'll get into below.

Rating: 3 stars.

Cypress Hill is one of the few examples of Gangsta Rap that I actually enjoy. As I have noted in previous reviews, the band originally only sang about three things. These were:

1. Killin' folks
2. Smokin' dope
3. Killin' folks tryin' to take your dope.

Later they added a fourth topic:

4. Scorin' girls.

As it happens, "IV" is the album where this fourth element was added - fittingly, given it is their 4th studio release. In this case, there is a song called "I Remember That Freak Bitch (From the Club)". While this song is definitely about scorin' girls, it is not exactly high romance. That Parental Advisory sticker on the front is there for a reason, Mom and Dad!

This record has the great bass lines and groovy rap stylings of the earlier three albums, and when it is good, it is very good. Unfortunately, it has a couple of serious flaws.

First, it is too damned long. There are seventeen tracks, where there really should be twelve tops. In fact, you could pretty much chop tracks 13-17 right off the record. None of them are that good, and the one that is passable (#17 - "Lightning Strikes") is ruined at the end by a goofy monologue about buying dope featuring Cheech and Chong.

This brings me to the second flaw on this album. In three or four places, Cypress Hill decides to add in some goofy back story/radio play about a marijuana deal. It is simply not interesting to listen to Cheech and Chong's schtick anymore, and it gets in the way of the music. Not only that, often the dialogue is not a separate track, but rather tagged onto the back or front of a song - making it hard to simply skip and still enjoy the record.

Despite these problems, there is no denying Cypress Hill's talent to deliver tight raps and make you feel like you are on the street (without making you actually suffer the experience). "Checkmate" is a particularly furious track that is a must hear, which I believe is a rare departure from the above themes, returning to the old school rap battle. The rap battle is still my favourite topic of rap music - it never gets old and no one has to get shot.

This is a good album, but not a 'must have' unless you are a Cypress Hill completionist.

Best tracks: Checkmate, I Remember That Freak Bitch (From the Club), (Goin' All Out) Nothin' To Lose, Tequila Sunrise.

No comments: