Refresher Course: Cypress Hill
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Music.
It has been six years since Cypress Hill released their last album, the reggae-influenced Till Death Do Us Part. Since then the group has left its longtime label, Columbia Records, joined Priority Records—which boasts Snoop Dogg as its “creative chairman”—and continued work on its eight studio album; all while B-Real and Sen Dog took time to release their solo debuts. This month Cypress Hill returns with their new studio release: The harder cutting Rise Up which features the likes of Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, Everlast, and Daron Malakian of System of a Down. But before Rise Up is released next week (on 4/20—hey-o) Refresher Course takes a look back at Cypress Hill’s 20+ year career.
Following the release of Cypress Hill’s first demo in 1989 the group signed to Columbia Records, the label which would go on to release the multi-platinum Cypress Hill in 1991. “How I Could Just Kill a Man” was the debut single from the record. Released as a double A-side with “The Phuncky Feel One,” both of which would go on to top Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart. On the strength of these tracks—as well as “Hand On The Pump” and “Latin Lingo” which were both released as singles—the group’s eponymous debut propelled Cypress Hill into the hip hop spotlight.
In support of the group’s sophomore release, Cypress Hill debuted the track “Insane in the Brain” as the first single from Black Sunday. The crossover hit would break the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stands as a prime example of why the record is arguably the deepest in the group’s 20+ year history; Black Sunday also produced a variety of time-tested stoner anthems including “I Wanna Get High,” “Legalize It,” and “Hits From The Bong” which samples Dusty Springfield’s “Son Of A Preacher Man.” The album would be the group’s first, and only, to reach the #1 spot on the Billboard 200.
Two years after Black Sunday was released Cypress Hill returned with Cypress Hill III: Temples of Boom. The album introduced a darker tone that contrasted with the upbeat energy of the group’s previous release. “Throw Your Set in the Air” was dropped as the album’s lead single in 1995 and was followed up by introspective “Illusions” and “Boom Biddy Bye Bye.” A remixed version of the last track, which featured the Fugees, was also released as a single. Although Temples of Boom failed to reach the same level of popularity that its predecessor saw, the album still hit platinum status, peaking at the #3 position on the Billboard 200.
After a three year hiatus the group returned with Cypress Hill IV. Led by the album’s first single “Dr. Greenthumb,” a narrative as told through B-Real’s alter-ego, the album would fail to find as broad of an audience as Cypress Hill had with its first three records. IV would become the group’s first album to fail to achieve platinum status, and promotion for the record was canned by Columbia after its second—and arguably better—single, “Tequila Sunrise,” failed to chart in the States.
Despite being the first album to stray from Cypress Hill’s standard formula, the double-disc release Skull & Bones returned the group to the top of the charts (reaching #5 on the Billboard 200), and eventually went platinum. Matching the duality of the record, a pair of singles were released to prime fans for the album: “(Rap) Superstar” and “(Rock) Superstar.” Each track followed a similar lyrical theme but represented a different half of the album: The first disc followed Cypress Hill’s traditional smoked-out hip hop while the second adopted nü-metal’s ultra-aggro power chords.
Following Cypress Hill’s sixth studio album, 2001’s lackluster Stoned Raiders, the group returned in 2004 with the unusual Till Death Do Us Part. Just as Skull & Bones did with hard rock, Till Death Do Us Part introduced another new flavor into Cypress Hill’s repertoire; this time around the album included such influences as reggae, dancehall, and ska. The album was Cypress Hill’s second consecutive album to fail to reach gold status despite finding a wide audience with its lead single “What’s Your Number.” The song featured Rancid’s frontman Tim Armstrong, Armstrong’s Transplants bandmate Skinhead Rob, and sampled the Clash’s “Guns of Brixton.” Despite finding some success in video form—directed by Dean Karr, the video features cameos from the likes of Slash, Everlast, Travis Barker, Xzibit, and Wilmer Valderrama of That ’70s Show—the single peaked at the #23 position on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.