I want to start this post off by saying rest in peace to MF Doom and Double K from People Under The Stairs. Thank you both for your contributions to this genre that we all love.
By 1995, the Los Angeles-based trio, Cypress Hill were bona fide rap stars. With two multi-platinum albums under their belts and a few legitimate cross-over hits, Cypress Hill was able to find commercial success while staying true to themselves with their patented brand of “weed-smokin’-gun-totin’ hip-hop, punctuated by DJ Muggs’ blunted beats. The trio would return in 1995 with their third release, fittingly titled: III: Temples Of Boom.
On III, Cypress Hill would stick with the formula that worked for them the first few go rounds: Muggs blunted production as the foundation for B-Real’s gangsta raps and Sen Dog’s occasional appearances, while heavily advocating the legalization of marijuana, and smoking it…heavily. The results? Their third consecutive platinum selling album. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
If you read my blog on a regular basis, you already know I wasn’t crazy about either of Cypress Hill’s first two albums (you can read my thoughts on both of them here and here). Both albums had some dope shit on them, but they contradicted Aristotle’s theory, because the whole was not greater than the sum of its parts on either album, but I’m sure I’m in the minority with that opinion. Let’s get into the album and see if the third time is truly a charm.
By the way, I love the album cover artwork. It’s very fitting for an album that was released 25 years ago on Halloween.
Spark Another Owl – III opens with Sen Dog sharing a few words about the power of marijuana, which is followed by, what sounds like stereotypical monk temple-esque music playing, while Cypress puffs and chokes in the background. Then you hear the sound of Muggs’ slow rolling dusty drums and a super warm and relaxing loop that makes you feel like you’re floating on a cloud. B-Real warms up for the evening, getting off a quick verse about his love affair with Mary Jane, and he takes claim to making smoking weed a popular topic in hip-hop, as he spits: “Up until the summer of ’91, wasn’t no muthafuckas talkin’ ’bout smokin’ blunts”, which is a legitimate point. The song ends with Sen Dog getting a hard on, as he lists off a bunch of different weed strands. This was dope (no pun intended).
Throw Your Sets In The Air – After a short skit that features an exchange between O.G. Showtime and a wannabe gangsta, who eventually gets his ass kicked as a form of initiation into Showtime’s gang, Muggs hits us with more of his cough-provoking drums mixed with a haunting vocal loop and some horror movie-type synth chords that create the dark backdrop that B-Real uses to set trip all over. This was the lead single from III, and it still bangs just as hard as it did in ’95.
Stoned Raiders – After a short snippet from The Exorcist plays, Muggs drops what might be the most beautiful sample ever used in a hip-hop song. It’s so beautiful it almost moves me to tears every time I hear it, and I’m not exaggerating. I imagine this is what you hear when your soul leaves your body and begins its journey to heaven’s gates. Eventually, drums drop underneath the celestial loop and B-Real comes in to talk his shit, and his nasally flow sounds great over Muggs brilliant backdrop.
Illusions – This was the second single from III. B-Real’s apparently suffering from some form of mental illness or his weed was laced with some bad shit; either way, my man’s hallucinating. I literally laugh every time I hear B-Real’s opening line: “Some people tell me that I need help, some people need to fuck off and go to hell”. Muggs’ subdued grimy instrumental works well underneath B’s content.
Killa Hill Niggas – After a short dark and mystical instrumental interlude, Rza gets the only outsourced production credit on III. He hooks up a solid Shaolin-flavored bop for this Cypress/Wu-Tang collab that he, B-Real and U-God (which sounds like a random choice out of all the Wu-Tang members) use to take turns wielding their lyrical swords, breaking up the verses with Spanish rants from a Captain Pingaloca. I didn’t find this one spectacular, but it makes for a solid record.
Boom Biddy Bye Bye – Sen Dog spits his first verse of the evening, as he joins B-Real in rockin’ some poor chap to sleep…permanently. Muggs pairs a pretty xylophone loop with a deep bass line and dusty drums that contradict the duo’s violent verses, but they sound great together.
No Rest For The Wicked – As the story goes (according to B-Real): Cypress Hill invited Ice Cube to the studio to hear a song they made for the Friday Soundtrack (“Roll It Up, Light It Up, Smoke It Up”), and after letting him hear the song, they decided to also play a few songs from their upcoming album, with “Throw Your Sets In The Air” being one of them. B-Real said that Cube really liked the song and wanted it for the soundtrack, but Cypress’ label (Ruffhouse/Columbia) didn’t want the song on the soundtrack because they wanted to use it to push Cypress’ new album. So when Cypress finally heard Cube’s song “Friday”, which curiously have a similar hook to “Throw Your Sets In The Air”, they felt he stole their shit. This song would be the first shot fired in the feud between Cypress Hill and Ice Cube. B-Real lands a couple of decent jabs on this one, but not enough potent blows to score a knockout. After the song ends, Cypress tacks on an instrumental interlude that features an enchanted piano loop and a haunting female vocal sample. It probably would have made more sense to have this interlude stand alone, but whatever.
Make A Move – This one starts with a classic scene from one of my favorite movies, Pulp Fiction. After Jules gets off his scripture reading and gun fire, Muggs’ dense bassline and cool drums drop, as B-Real and Sen Dog share their brand of gangsta battle raps. This song sounds like a leftover from the Black Sunday sessions, but I still enjoyed its bluntedness.
Killafornia – I love the mixture of melodic and dark vibes in this instrumental. B-Real doesn’t really cover any new territory with this one, but his nasally vocal sounds great paired with it.
Funk Freakers – After a brief temple music interlude, B-Real and Sen Dog use Muggs’ cool airy backdrop to stake their claim as the supreme funk freakers in the game (I guess I wasn’t aware that was a highly-sought after title). This was short, sweet and entertaining.
Locotes – “Locotes” is Spanish for an “insane person”. That is the role Real and Sen Dog play on this one, as the two share a tale about a night filled with jacks and robberies that leaves the duo on the run from the
pigs cops, before the story ends with an interesting plot twist. B-Real and Sen Dog aren’t the greatest storytellers, but this song was decent enough.
Red Light Visions – Over a chilly piano loop and snappy drums, B-Real gets off a quick verse chock-full of threats to, as they said in the nineties, “peel a buster’s cap back”, while Sen Dog co-signs for his partner in rhyme.
Strictly Hip-Hop – Muggs lays a drowsy backdrop that B-Real uses to call out rappers that CH deems as sellouts, and this list includes: those who model clothing, make Sprite commercials or rap on r&b songs. Boy, has the standard of “keepin’ it real” changed since the nineties, and probably for the better. B-Real (and Muggs in between verses) takes shots at House Of Pain and calls out the writer, James Bernard, who apparently started to shit on the trio in The Source after the two parties had a disagreement. This was mildly interesting, mainly because I wanted to know who the “Cindy Crawford ass muthafucka” is that Muggs calls out at the beginning of the song, but I quickly lost interest once his instrumental begin to put me to sleep.
Let It Rain – B-Real continues to dish out verbal lead showers (including another shot fired at James Bernard) over another bluntedly bangin’ Muggs’ production. Nuff said.
Everybody Must Get Stoned – Our hosts close out the album (well, technically the proper album ended with “Let It Rain” and this is considered a bonus track) with a mellow and melodic backdrop that they use to celebrate and advocate smoking cheeba, aka cannabis, aka marijuana, you know, weed, fool. This was a very pleasant and fitting way to close out III…unless you have the Japanese pressing of the album, which has another bonus cut: “Smugglers Blues”. I’ve never heard it, but I’m sure it’s readily available out there on the world wide web if you’d like to give it a listen.
Musically, III definitely has a mellower vibe than Cypress Hill’s two previous releases, but the chill vibes don’t affect B-Real’s content. Like the first two albums, our nasally host uses the entire album to issue out death threats and bodily harm, while puffing and praising Mary J. Even with the monotonous content, the trio from the Hill manage to make III a quality and entertaining listen, as both B-Real and Sen Dog’s unique vocal tones sound great over Muggs dusty-blunted brand of production. III may not have the big hits the first two albums had, but pound for pound it’s a better body of work than the former two.