With Black Milk at the reins, the hip hop veterans sound refreshed and re-energised
If anyone were in need of a reminder that everything changes with time, look no further than this new Cypress Hill record. The group has been defined by DJ Muggs’ productions for three decades, but Back In Black appears to be their first record with no involvement from him. Instead Black Milk takes the reins, with beats that knock harder than Muggs’ hazy loops and give B-Real and Sen Dog’s vocals more impact.
Open Ya Mind is a great example, with cut-up bell sounds and a delicious noodly bassline underscoring lyrics with a spirit of plus ça change about the life of a marijuana smoker (“Have you seen the news? They legalised in California / But the feds still trying to put the pressure on you”). Although Black Milk is of a newer generation, the boom-bap spirit of the mid-’90s lives on in the percussion and the chemistry is effortlessly on-point.
Champion Sound fuses classic braggadocio with smooth vocal chops, perhaps drawing inspiration from J Dilla’s more ethereal work, and Dizzy Wright provides the only guest verse of the album on Bye Bye, his loose flow a nice contrast to B-Real’s more regimented hook. This isn’t to say that the whole record is perfect, however: Come With Me attempts to channel vintage 2Pac, but its stilted rhythms leave a lot to be desired and the track feels awkward as a result.
Hit ‘Em is perhaps the most modern-sounding song, as 808s boom and a dinky high-pitched synth melody accompanies. Closing track The Ride features more introspective performances focusing on cycles of violence and the grief of friends dying young, over a contemplative vibraphone loop and crunchy downtempo groove, ending the album on a decidedly sombre note. Though it’s only a brief listen, Back In Black finds Cypress Hill refreshed and re-energised.