May 8, 2008

Cypress Hill - Black Sunday (July 20, 1993)



The three-man West Coast rap collective known as Cypress Hill (made up of rappers B-Real and Sen Dog, with production assists from DJ Muggs) released a surprisingly popular eponymous debut album in 1991. Their clever mesh of blunted production values coupled with tales of street violence, laced with the relaxed-yet-paranoid sensation of being stoned out of your fucking mind at a carnival funhouse in Minnesota with your cousin's scantily-clad girlfriend while being chased by a masked serial killer who uses a serrated golf club in lieu of sensible words, resonated with listeners who were growing weary of their gangsta raps leaving out all of the fun. In fact, the primary hit from their debut, "How I Could Just Kill A Man", remains popular to this day; overtly political rap/rock group Rage Against The Machine recorded a version for their Renegades covers album in 2000. It sounds terrible, by the way, but the mere fact that the song was covered in the first place is pretty impressive.

With dollar signs in their eyes, Ruffhouse/Columbia commissioned more product, and Cypress Hill were soon hitting them corners with their re-up, Black Sunday. Lyrically, B-Real and Sen Dog kept things at their most primal level, which is a nice way for Max to say that their content didn't change one single bit. However, Muggs stepped up behind the boards, creating a sound that essentially defined Cypress Hill, one which they are still unable to live down. Thanks to hit singles such as "Insane In The Brain" and "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That", Cypress found themselves crossing over onto rock radio playlists, which sparked talk amongst hip hop purists that the crew 'sold out' for the perks a wider audience entails (i.e., all of the Fruit Roll Ups they can get on their concert riders). This is an argument I never understood; all of their musical output up to this point was tinged with a rock sensibility anyway. It wouldn't matter much, since Cypress Hill was raking in the dough as the most successful Latino rap group in history. (Interestingly enough, in the case of "Insane In The Brain", the white guys in the mosh pit with their very carefully-color-coded grunge attire make for an odd contrast with the fact that the song was recorded by B-real as a dis towards Chubb Rock. Seriously.)

Black Sunday sold tremendously well, hitting the number one spot on the Billboard 200 in 1993, moving the highest number of units in its first week than any other rap album at the time. That success was short lived, though, as it woul dbe eclipsed later that year by Snoop Doggy Dogg's Doggystyle, which sold over eight hundred thousand records in its debut week. This was back in 1993, mind you, back when people still bought CDs.

Shit, do I feel old.

1. I WANNA GET HIGH
A very slow and hazy way to start an album. At least it's a short song and not a recording of B-Real coughing and telling us why Black Sunday will be the best album since Jesus Christ's King of Kingz Presentz: Tha Disciplez.

2. I AIN'T GOIN' OUT LIKE THAT
The soundtrack to murdering your ex-wife and her lover, snatching up your friend, and riding down the freeway in your white Ford Bronco leading a frantic-yet-slow-moving police chase while having a paranoid freak-out in the back seat while holding a gun in your mouth and babbling incoherently. Wow, that example got weird.

3. INSANE IN THE BRAIN
I shouldn't have to write much about this song. So, I won't.

4. WHEN THE SHIT GOES DOWN
A very weak song to follow "Insane In The Brain". I was always amused at the fact that the radio edit of this song was retitled "When The Ship Goes Down", but for the life of me, I can't remember why I found that so funny to begin with.

5. LICK A SHOT
The beat is truly more impressive than the violent-for-no-good-reason lyrics, although I have to admit that B-Real is probably the only guy that would sound good over this instrumental, so at least he has that going for him, which is nice.

6. COCK THE HAMMER
I've always liked the dark, dank production of this song. Also, Sen Dog completely outshines B-Real, this being one of the few occasions where he actually pulls that off. Could have done without the ridiculous chanting on the hook, though.

7. LOCK DOWN
An instrumental piece from DJ Muggs. Back when I first bought Black Sunday, I would use this song as a signal to find something else to listen to, since I could never get into the remainder of this album. What follows is possibly the first time I've heard the second half of Black Sunday in at least ten fucking years.

8. 3 LITTLE PUTOS
An instrumental piece from DJ Muggs would have been preferable to being subjected to this boring-as-fuck track.

9. LEGALIZE IT
Skit.

10. HITS FROM THE BONG
The world's most effective sleep aid, now available without a prescription. Never has smoking out sounded so boring.

11. WHAT GO AROUND COME AROUND, KID
I know, I couldn't believe that Justin Timberlake and Timbaland would choose this Cypress Hill song to cover, either. Personally, I would have gone with "Dr. Greenthumb".

12. A TO THE K
I swear to God, all of these songs are starting to sound like one long suckfest. It doesn't help that B-Real and Sen Dog can't be bothered to switch up their lyrical content. I almost wish they would start rhyming about being stoned again.

13. HAND ON THE GLOCK
I prefer the remix, with its "Duke Of Earl" sample. This track sounds okay lyrically, but the beat betrays the artists by sucking more than a group of whorish leeches.

14. BREAK 'EM OFF SOME
Listening to this album closer today, I have to admit that I don't remember the beat sounding this good. Its fast pace would be better suited to a tale regarding an escape, either on foot or behind the wheel, rather than what B-Real actually talks about. We get it, you carry a gun and like to shoot people that look at you funny! Why did you become a rapper and not take a job at the post office again? Oh, yeah, right, the drug testing.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Overall, I'm not one hundred percent on why people who loved the debut album hate Black Sunday so much. Is it because of "Insane In The Brain"? Maybe. I don't really consider this to be their sellout disc; I think Cypress Hill just got lucky. However, with every single song showcasing a very limited scope of lyrical content and beats that sound better than they deserve to be, I do consider Black Sunday to be a bad album.

BUY OR BURN? You don't really need to buy this one. A burn will satisfy your curiosity, although if you were really that interested in the group, you'd already have this disc, so I guess it's a wash.

BEST TRACKS: "Cock The Hammer"; "Insane In The Brain"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
DJ Muggs - Soul Assassins Chapter 1
DJ Muggs - Soul Assassins II
Cypress Hill - Cypress Hill

9 comments:

  1. AnonymousMay 08, 2008

    Is this album really a hip hop album?...

    I remember having it and thinkin' that it was a new group...

    Not the crew who put out "how could just..
    mr.childs

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  2. I'm a lil' bit disappointed of this review. I think Black Sunday is a really good album, thanks to tracks 1, 2, 3 and 10. The main atmosphere of this album is simply brillant, so dark, so weird. But it's true, the second half is weaker than the first, even if Hits From The Bong is great (how come somebody can find it boring ??). I can accept that somebody thinks Black Sunday is disappointing, but not bad.
    Well, I'm waiting for your Temples of Boom and IV reviews.

    PS : great description of I Ain't Goin' Out Like That, the best track from Black Sunday !

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  3. I feel kind of old too when I see that release date but I had some great times with this album. I haven't heard this in a while so I don't know how well it holds up but I have a feeling cypress Hill is gonna end up being like my generation's equivalent of those Iron Butterfly albums I used to find in parents' old record collection. But I hope my kids find this tape in my attic when they start smoking weed because that's when this stuff is really great. And Muggs was still in his zone here with the beats and B Real is the goofiest, least threatening guy ever to base half his rhymes about killing people and Sen Dog is the, uh, gruntiest hype man ever. But this one and the first classic are really all you need from Cypress before they officially Jumped The Bong and became totally irrelevant.

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  4. Believe you me, it wasn't the beats, it was the boring, lame a** weed induced lyrics. How is it that Redman can rhyme so well with his brain full of herb and B-Real says the same old crap? I was mad as hell at that CD when I bought it. I do need those instrumentals, however.

    Vincent
    thimk.wordpress.com

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  5. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessMay 09, 2008

    Hits From The Bong is a shining moment in music history. Go fuck yourself, Max. With a bong.

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  6. soucleanmusicMay 09, 2008

    It sold so well because of the popularity of the theme of the nihilistic bravado of the outcast in the early 90's, e.g. Nirvana, drug culture. I think I remember Naomi Klein writing something about how through the 90's, media corporations which traditionally marketed from the perspective of middle class white Americans, moved to start marketing the idea of diversity. And while it was good in that it increased the portrayal of groups that were usually invisible in mainstream popular culture, it also led to the corporations starting to take it upon themselves to market rebellion, in order to make a profit. The slick move gives people a very accessible outlet to express their rebellious inclinations, but it has the effect of neutralizing less easily marketable dissenting views because the corporations decide what should be portrayed.

    90's hip hop grew out of the political situation in the U.S. in the 80's, e.g. the policies of an apocalyptic minded president, inner city decay, the crack epidemic, formerly unionized jobs going overseas, etc. The shift in the popularity of the hip hop of society's outcast of the early 90's, to status bling oriented hip hop of today comes from changes in the media and the political situation.

    The rage of the earlier rappers, representatives of a cornered group fighting their way through the circumstances that society had dealt them, had some of its origins in the fact that they were a silenced group who weren't having their story told. The momentum built up until it broke through the oppressive single perspective of the white middle class media. Like in previous generations, the appeal to young white people was that they also felt oppressed by white culture, i.e. mom, and dad.

    Through the new media superstructure, will the artists of tomorrow in any (new?) genre be able to capture the collective id, rebellious spirit, and fascination of society ? Has the demand been pacified ? With advances in technology, will the DIY artists be able to command the destiny of popular music without the coin required for the skill of the top producers and marketing budget ?

    Diamonds form in a cruel inhospitable environment. But while society may continue to be cruel and nasty, the climate generated today by consumerism's representations of rebellion is lukewarm.

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    Replies
    1. Dude who wrote this must've been strung up like a mufucca...

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  7. a dis towards chubb rock ... seriously? max has a problem with mellow shit...he just does'nt get it...and i beg to differ, i believe Freaky Tah(R.I.P.)may have been the, uh, gruntiest hype man ever...

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  8. Can't really believe nobody called you out on this bullshit verdict.

    ReplyDelete