July 28, 2009

Reader Review: Psycho Realm - The Psycho Realm (October 28, 1997)

(Almost immediately following his take on Liquid Swords, which I swear I only posted last week, Banksta returns with his write-up for B-Real's other group, Psycho Realm, and their debut album, conveniently titled The Psycho Realm. I'm not personally familiar with this album, so I'll let him take it from here.)

As you may remember from reading my Liquid Swords review, I was a huge Cypress Hill soldier back in the days. I still really like B-Real, even though he thinks 3 multiplied by 4 equals 7, but back in the day I was checking for as much of his work as possible, even from outside of the Cypress Hill confines.

His primary side project was this.

I think some kind of introduction to Psycho Realm is in order. From what I remember, the group was founded by brothers Joaquin (Sick Jacken/Jacken/Uncle Fester) and Gustavo (Mr. Duke/Big Duke/Duke) Gonzalez, and in 1993 B-Real heard their show, which he loved so much that he wanted to join the group. Charming. The three-member group was signed to Sony and released their first album, The Psycho Realm, in 1997, which was chock full of socio-political commentary on the state of the world today, with the three artists leaning toward a darker world view more often than not. I always considered Psycho Realm as the West Coast's Gravediggaz, since they share many common things in their history (if you want to read more about them, check out my first Reader Review for their second album, The Pick, The Sickle And The Shovel, or Max's write-ups). At first, Psycho Realm may look like a spin-off from much more successful group (Cypress Hill, of course), but it's a completely different project. Both groups consist of a star (B-Real here) and his two rhyming partners (Jacken and Duke), with one more guy on production (Eric Bobo was part of the Psycho Ward, a production team consisting of him and Psycho Realm). Lyrically, B-Real forgets about his usual topics (smoking weed, killing hundred people in less than five minutes, smoking weed, chilling in his lowrider, and smoking weed) and assimilates into the new environment very well.

Sadly, just like with Gravediggaz, the most famous guy in the group would leave (Cypress Hill was calling), leaving his two rhyming partners alone, and while they could have continued making more music, one of them would find himself unable to rhyme (Duke was shot in 1999 and was paralyzed from the neck down). (While this tale correlates with what happened with The Rza and the Gravediggaz, at least the second Psycho Realm album didn't turn into a pseudo-Cypress Hill project. Banksta oversimplifies what happened, though: Sick Jacken and Duke were dropped by Sony because of their lyrical content, and B-Real was unable to legally follow them to their new home because he was obligated to Cypress Hill, which is why he only made a few appearances on their follow-up.)

While I found more comparisons with Gravediggaz than anyone deems necessary, and both groups (on their first albums) come off as morbid and demented, Gravediggaz was more of a dark humour, while Psycho Realm are dead serious. Last time I heard this album, it was... huh, I can't remember..

Let's see if it has changed any.

B-Real handles only hook duties here, in order to properly introduce Sick Jacken and Mr. Duke. The interlude at the end of this track (a recurring theme on this album) is enjoyable, thanks to the climax and its instrumental. I believe this was a single, which is an understandable choice, because this is probably the only track here that could even fit on a radio station's playlist.

B-Real doesn't impress me much on here, but his flow is less high-pitched and nasal than on, say, Black Sunday, which may make him more accessible for a general audience. Duke's lyrics are more complicated that Jacken's, but the latter comes off better, because Gustavo has a horrible delivery, although it is not visible that much on this particular song. Maybe it comes off as a part of his “psycho” image, but the quality suffers. The beat is really good, too.

I never cared for it. Not that it's bad by any means: the beat is solid, but nothing special.

This is really just a short B-Real solo song. The beat sounds Latin-inspired and sad, and the mixing of the song with interludes works well. Side note: unlike Legend Of The Mask & The Assassin, the DJ Muggs collaborative album with Sick Jacken, every song on The Psycho Realm is performed in English.

This was the first Psycho Realm song I ever paid attention to, and it might have also been the first single. The musical background here is both depressing and magnificent, and Sick Jacken outraps everyone else here, even though he rhymes about dying on the street and smoking weed within the span of four lines. This shit is just awesome.

Conceptually the most “insane” track here, and I like the chorus and B-Real's verse. This review may sound like a lovefest so far, but the quality of The Psycho Realm is really good, and although each beat resides in the same climate, they all manage to sound distinct.

This was pretty awesome, too. The vivid imagery on this one is just unbeatable, and everyone does a great job on here. However, I have to state that Duke's spitting still sucks balls.

This is my favourite interlude on here. The punchlines take this song to another level, but then again, I could say that for every other song on The Psycho Realm.

The beat is decent, and B-Real's verse is not bad, but Mr. Duke completely ruins the whole song , coming off as a guy who never heard of the concept “rhyming to the beat”.

Joaquin sounds impressive, and the message presented here is good. Gustavo still doesn't give a fuck about the simple rules of rap, but the song is good enough to make me forget about him.

Nice title. This track features a faster-paced beat, one which forces everyone to keep up. Even Duke manages to sound like an actual rapper. Color me impressed.

Gustavo also doesn't sound that bad over this slow, melancholic beat, which compliments the lyrics perfectly.

The two last tracks are a story divided into two parts (and an intro), with Psycho Realm acting as fictional characters. B-Real is the only guy creative enough to give his character a completely different name than his own, as his Sonny kicks off a pretty good track.

And we're out. This was a really good way to end such an album.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The Psycho Realm is very depressing listen. Sick Jacken, Mr. Duke and B-Real spit on such topics as warring between neighborhoods, drug addiction, crime, and death, but without glorifying anything. The production on here is impressive and much more entertaining (if I may call this disc), than some of the work by Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs. You've probably heard of B-Real and already formed an opinion on him, but it's good to hear him rhyming about something other than marijuana, especially since he sounds fully immersed within the crew. Sick Jacken is talented and solid (I strongly recommend Legend of the Mask & the Assassin, as he's stepped his game up tremendously), but for some of you may find yourselves annoyed with him. Some of Mr. Duke's written lyrics are actually really fucking good, but his delivery is horrible, for reasons unknown to me. The Psycho Realm's booklet also contains the lyrics, and I recommend listening to this album while following along with the them, as your experience will be a better one if you understand exactly what's going on. All in all, this album is brilliant, even with Duke's uneven contributions.

BUY OR BURN? This may be blasphemy, but if you had to choose between this album and, say, The Infamous or Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), you should go with this one. Every hip hop fan in the world knows about those two discs, but not everyone is familiar with Psycho Realm. Support real hip hop.

BEST TRACKS: “Stone Garden”; “Confessions Of A Drug Addict”; “R. U. Experienced”; “Temporary Insanity”; “Bullets”; “Lost Cities”; "Bullets"; "La Conecta (Pt. 2)"

- Banksta

(Huh. I may need to track this one down. Be sure to leave your questions, comments, and concerns below, and if you're interested, here is a link to the Cypress Hill reviews I've written thus far. Not truly related to Psycho Realm, I know, but it'll do.)


  1. Look just because you like West Coast hip-hop doesn't mean you should make that last statement. I understand Enter... and The Infamous don't have the levels of bass that you like in The Psycho Realm but what?

  2. okawoa you misread his comment. im a west coast fan but he's right. every hip hop fan owns 36 chambers and the infamous so what he's saying is that you should pick this up simply cuz it flew under the rader (as most west coast classics do). all 3 of those albums are great i dont see why west/east even matters

  3. AnonymousJuly 29, 2009

    I've got to agree that this album's great. def top 10 hip-hop albums of all time (personally) and i actually liked duke's delivery on the album. it reminded me a bit of grym reap/too poetic on 6 feet deep, so i guess gravediggaz and psycho realm do have a lot in common. but not a bad review overall

  4. Shit i own all the Psycho Realm Albums they have never dissapointed on the content this is RAW west coast hip hop that should be used as a blue print on what Hip Hop should be like unlike the garbage rap you hear on the radio

  5. Psycho Realm are so unknown it's sad....if y'all didn't know, Pete Rock did a sick remix to stone garden, I actually prefer it to the original.

  6. this is a very good album, although i prefer war story no.2 that album is (almost) perfect.

  7. Imperial Skillz Empera & Sick Jacken - Tha emperor & Tha assassin



  8. I've got to say i understand where your coming from regarding big duke but i absolutely love his rap style. I especially loved his verse on love from the sick side which you seemed to hate. I guess it may be an aquired taste.

  9. Hip Hip bleed'sFebruary 18, 2010

    I listen to a lot of Hip Hop and Psycho Realm is one of the best that I've ever heard, when B-Real left it got even better, man if Duke hadn't been shot...

  10. Sick Soldier 4Ever, since the first song i heard in 1997, i like their shit for the only reason that almost every song is based on this street living, and what they say is true. Stick to the real shit, not that commercialized radio shit.

  11. This album DEFINITELY deserves a lot more attention than it gets. It's on some real next level shit! It's straight up art... Put this CD on, sit back, spark up, listen and tell me it ain't like wathing a film... A dark and twisted street film... This is rap music with ideas, with creativity. Everything fits together - the music, the rhymes, the tone, the delivery. Even if it is unconventional, Duke delivers one of the most unique performances in rap history... He sounds like a demonic revolutionist! It's a shame so many people have and will continue to sleep on this...

  12. Considering this album was a personal favorite in high school, and contributed the backstory to a friend of mine's schizophrenia, I might have a slightly biased opinion here, but HOW THE HELL can you say Duke's delivery is terrible?! It just doesn't make any sense, the guy has one of the most unique flows in the game..

    anyway most people I know agree this is a classic album and Jacken's new rhyming partners in the group Sick Symphoniez just can't compare to Duke. I'm really wondering why I wrote this, but since it's finished, let's make it official :p

  13. Most people growing up in California, Hispanic or not, knew at least one dude who talked just like Big Duke. His style was great, particularly in "Showdown". And I agree with the reviewer's comment on Sick Jacken's recent work: the man is incredible these days. Check "Stray Bullets" for a sampler or his collabo with Muggs. Finally, the "La Connecta" songs are brilliant. Real DIY stuff with the Psycho Realm guys doing all the voices.... With great heavy beats to boot.