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Skull & Bones

Cypress Hill

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Album Review

Despite the best efforts of DJ Muggs, Cypress Hill ran out of gas fairly quickly, entering a tailspin as soon as their third album. Back at full strength with the return of Sen Dog, Cypress Hill devised a full-scale comeback with their fifth album, Skull & Bones. The idea behind the album was to divide it into two — a hip-hop disc ("Skull") and a rock disc ("Bones"). This would guarantee some publicity, at the very least, and, hopefully, it would win over the new generation of adolescents who flipped for rap-metal acts like Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit. On paper, it's a sound theory, but there was a slight flaw — the group is kind of lame when they rock. Their band is competent enough, and B Real's voice does sound good with overdriven guitars, but their rock songs utterly fall apart, since they have no hooks, no catchy riffs, and no character. If rap-metal was all there was to Skull & Bones, it would be a bit of an embarrassment. Fortunately, the "Skulls" disc is their finest effort since Black Sunday. Muggs is in prime form, creating funky, ominous, evocative soundscapes, which B Real makes the most of with fluid rhymes. At times, B Real does descend into tastelessness ("Stank Ass Hoe"), and neither he nor Sen Dog really find any new lyrical ground, but sonically, "Skulls" is a blast; B Real's whine and Sen Dog's gruff, blunt style are the perfect match for Muggs' darkly cinematic soundscapes, and, on a purely sonic level, it's quite intoxicating. At their best, Cypress Hill are a hip-hop experience unlike any other, and, ignoring the "Bones" disc, this is the best they've been in a long, long time.

Biography

Formed: 1988 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Cypress Hill were notable for being the first Latino hip-hop superstars, but they became notorious for their endorsement of marijuana, which actually isn't a trivial thing. Not only did the group campaign for its legalization, but their slow, rolling bass-and-drum loops pioneered a new, stoned funk that became extraordinary influential in '90s hip-hop — it could be heard in everything from Dr. Dre's G-funk to the chilly layers of English trip-hop. DJ Muggs crafted the sound, and B Real, with...
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Skull & Bones, Cypress Hill
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