Like Public Enemy, Cypress Hill arrived with an impressive enough mix of noise and menace to change the soundtrack of hip hop. The difference is, what Cypress brought really sounded like noise. While Chuck D and Flaw drove a finetuned, James Brown-powered 98 Olds, these cartoon-voiced gangstas did their drive-bys in a low-rider Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Their spare, off-kilter beats were less stirring than unsettling-- shuddering and squeling like a wheel on a broken rim and framing the nasal, joyfully nihilistic lyrics of Latino lead rapper B-Real ( a sort of Cheech Marin-meets-Eazy-E) in some of the creepiest, most distinctive urban sonics ever. "How I Could Just Kill a Man," with its flashback guitar screams and tense, arid groove, is a genre-changing classic, marrying the gritty sound of New York rap with the frontier dystopia of L.A. gangsta.
For all the scariness and eccentricity, Cypress Hill is full of undeniably catchy tunes. There's the somnambulant " Stoned Is the Way of the Walk," the singsongy "Hole in the Head," the jumpy "The Phunky Feel One," and, best, of all, "Hand on the Pump," proof that, in DJ Muggs, Cypress Hill has an absolute genius of breakbeat concrete. Looping only a fraction of Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl," Muggs continually frustrates one of the most familiar chord progressions in all pop, dooming Chandler to sing the first measure, word, and note of his 1962 doo-wop hit for all eternity-- duke, duke, duking along like a wind-up toy butting into a wall. Like most of the album, "Pump" derives its lyrical power from the dialectic of goofy and deadly, and, in the line " puffin' on a blunt," namechecks a hip-hop prop that would become as pervasive in rap as Muggs-style production (House of Pain and Funkdoobiest produced by him, Redman, Beatnuts, and countless others simply owing him their sound). By the release of Dr. Dre's The Chronic,pot became the national fiber of hardcore hip hop.


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