The opening speech sample on Rise Up reminds us why Cypress Hill are important rap artists. When their breakthrough album Black Sunday erupted in 1993 they shook everyone up with “a mix of futuristic funk with a die hard dedication to a certain herb”. Even today, Black Sunday still holds up as a classic album, but it is a success that’s been difficult for them to repeat.
Rise Up has been touted as Cypress Hill’s comeback album and is their first for Priority Records. Free from a major contract and working for a label presided over by none other than Snoop Dogg himself heralds a new era for the outfit, but greater artistic freedom means that this album, while generally good, could do with some reining in.
Cypress Hill have always been willing to mix freely with other genres and Rise Up does this at every turn. Rage Against The Machine‘s Tom Morello and guests from the likes of Linkin Park appear. There are also moments of their usual spaced out funk and tracks where their Latin heritage is worn proudly on their sleeves. Ultimately this leaves it a little all over the place; hard rock one minute, R&B pop the next, a dash of EMO and then a bit of Miami Bass for afters. While it’s a good illustration of their desire to not be tied to traditional hop hop beats, it does make the album uneven in tone.
But the real disappointment is in the quality of the lyrics. We’ve heard this album before many times and its reliance on pot-smoking anthems, bragging about the quality of their rap styles and the odd mention of guns is beginning to feel a little clichéd. It’s only on the autobiographical Carry Me Away where anything different in the lyrics department is tried, and it’s frustrating that there’s not similar meat on the rhymes elsewhere.
There are some noteworthy moments. The title track is the album’s undisputed highlight, thanks to the guest appearance of Morello providing a typical RATM riff that demands to be played loud. The closer Armada Latina is an instantly likeable jam too.
Rise Up is by no means a bad album, but to paraphrase a line from Tarantino: “Pot robs you of your ambition – but not if your ambition is to get stoned all day.” The same is true of this; it delivers what you’d expect, but ambition is unfulfilled and the constant pursuit of seemingly random stylistic tangents reveals a lack of focus. It’s fine if you’re expecting trademark Cypress Hill action, but considering how long they’ve been on the scene many people would expect this album to rise higher than it actually does.