Perhaps no band has embraced the weed life as much as Cypress Hill and with their newest release Back in Black, the group returns to the sounds and substances that made them famous. It has been a long time since 1993’s Black Sunday and “Hits from the Bong”, with the world-changing in unforeseen ways, but as the long-running hip hop outfit’s newest album’s title suggests, they are trying to recapture that sound and do an admirable job of it overall.
The Los Angeles-based foursome reunited on the sprawling 2018 release Elephants on Acid, which looked to expand their sound with more tripped-out musical exploration. Now they scale back to their roots as DJ Black Milk returns to the horror movie-like beats accented by Eric Bobo’s percussion, B-Real’s nasal rhymes, and Sen Dog’s barking. Tracks get in and out quickly, never overstaying any welcome, and of course, there are heaps of verses dealing with herb in various forms.
Opening impressively with “The Takeover” the creepy screeches, ominous exhales and bass bumps bang around Sen Dog’s gruff yelled chorus rhymes and B-Real’s piercing verses. The group reps their hometown and smoking ganja throughout, but never more impressively lyrically than with “Open Ya Mind”. The track discusses the inadequacies of current drug laws from state to state and on the federal level, while still delivering dark, disturbed, bubbling beats.
The fact that weed is increasingly legal is also brought up in the excellent “Certified” which features a dynamite guest verse from Demrick, while “Bye Bye” is rolling along before a less successful, overly verbal stanza from Dizzy Wright’s. The group is strictly old school on Back In Black with their gangsta rap ways breaking out in murder rhymes and boom bap slaps.
Things can become a bit derivative on the boasting “Champion Sound” and “Hit’Em” but neither drags and all involved sound like they are having fun with the throwback album. The Goodfellas samples around funky grooves and high horns on the flexing “The Original” recalls the best of 90’s West Coast hip-hop while album closer “The Ride” delivers the hippest sounds with a killer DJ Muggs beat, vibrant Bobo drumming, and confident rhymes from B-Real and Sen Dog to wrap up the album brightly.
Back In Black is a tribute, extension, and reminder of Cypress Hill at its peak, to do this so successfully thirty years after that era is impressive in its own unique way.