During my childhood, I had few friends as loyal as my first G.I. Joe action figure. No one could compare to him in strength, bravery, flexibility… he was an all-around perfect companion. However, shortly after I received my first Joe, I got a second one, and then a third, and it wasn't until a few months after that when I realized that all three of them were exactly the same - just with different clothes. They all had the same stern expression, the same body, build, and appeal, and reaching for my original companion now …
DJBooth Album Review
Fast-forward a few years (or maybe just a few days) and we have street-vet Latino rap quartet Cypress Hill's latest effort, Rise Up, which is essentially an album full of identical action figures, each wearing a different outfit - there are 15 tracks but only one formula, and that's all that's really needed. Calling me Einstein would be a little bit of a stretch, so I'm not going to say that the formula is as simple as e=mc2, but B-Real, Muggs, Bobo, and Sen Dog's energy, humorous wordplay and bravado are an indisputable recipe for success. It shouldn't be difficult for any of us to understand how the veteran group have managed to continuously breathe life into their careers for over two decades.
With that said, allow me to address something that may be a distraction for some folks: Cypress Hill was formed in the '80s. Make no mistake about it. But calling the group irrelevant based on this fact is like calling Paris Hilton an OG because she's been to jail; the past isn't defining the present here. That being the case, no one should have any reason to doubt that Rise Up will leave a mark on the industry just as dark and heavy as those of its predecessors.
With that cleared up, dive into this album and you'll find yourself in the waters of introductory track It Ain't Nothin', which does a decent job of setting the tone for the LP as a whole; with a guest verse from Young De and some gritty, pounding production from B-Real, the track serves as the CliffsNotes version for the entire project. Swim a little deeper and you'll hit Light It Up, which is more or less forgettable in the context of the album, but following closely behind to pick up the slack is the project's title track which, thanks to some signature guitar licks from Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, is a standout effort. Not only is it the first cut loud enough to get some real attention, but it also is a harbinger of subsequent rock-influenced tracks Get It Anyway and Trouble Seeker, both of which dilute the album's weedy air with harder-edged, guitar-driven beats. There's something here for everyone, and that ends up doing the Hill much more good than damage.
The West Coast foursome aren't known for having had a sheltered upbringing in the suburbs, so if ever there were a track born on the streets, it would have to be Armed & Dangerous. Produced by Jake One, it even puts the smoothly aggressive Bang Bang and theatrical Get 'Em Up to shame. Rise Up isn't all a party, though. One look at Mike Shinoda's name as a feature told me exactly how somber Carry Me Away was going to sound. Fortunately it turns out to be a highlight, marking one of two vulnerable moments on the album (the other being the less memorable Take My Pain). In the end, though, Armada Latina is the set's high point, and has the greatest potential to stir up mainstream buzz. Boasting a laid-back verse from Pitbull and Marc Anthony's vocal perfection on the hook, it's simply one of the most masterfully constructed cuts on the album and, since its initial attack on the airwaves, I don't doubt that it's gained the Hill brothers more fans than they can handle.
Rise Up has no misses, just a series of hits with some aimed more precisely than others. But there's really nothing to complain about, especially considering Cypress Hill are long past the "we're evolving as artists" stage, yet still continue to explore new territory. I'm not ashamed to say that there may still be a G.I. Joe somewhere in my house, and if that's any indication of how long you'll be spinning this record, then you have ample reason to get excited.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Matty K on 04/19/10
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"It Ain't Nothin'" (2010)
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