Early 1990s rap kings Cypress Hill are back after a six-year album gap with "Rise Up," a passable effort that should be well-received by their original fan base but is likely to be overlooked by today's hip-hop consuming youth.
Is there anything new for Cypress Hill under the southern California sun? Not really. Much of the energetic, marijuana-lauding songs sound like they're pre-existing discography. A few horns here, some hard-edge guitar there and the occasional turntable scratch for old-school effect.
But rap _ the good stuff and not the gone-in-the-wink-of-an-eye fodder _ has transcended this. Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye West all reach farther into pop culture and the human condition, extracting more for their listener than a few tough-guy bars about pulling "gats" and moving "weight." Cypress Hill filled those innovative shoes when they came out with "The Phuncky Feel One" and "Insane in the Membrane" at the height of their popularity. But time moves on. Even for rap.
Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello joins in the fun on the album's title track, "Rise Up," which ends up sounding more like Rage song than a signature Cypress Hill track with the nasal-staccato vocal approach. Morello is sharp, but the song meanders in plot. The rock-rap hybrid has certainly been done better.
The problem with Cypress Hill (B-Real, Sen Dog, Eric Bobo and DJ Muggs stand-in DJ Julio G) is that they haven't grown their sound. The group leans too heavily on the same approach from 15 years ago. Thus, they'll have a tough time spawning new listeners.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "Bang Bang" has a faster beat that the traditional Cypress Hill sound, clocking in at nearly dance-track pace. More departures like this from their usual comfortable cadence would have helped "Rise Up" do so.