Cypress Hill, Skull & Bones (2000)
It seems odd to think of Cypress Hill as one of hip-hop’s great hardcore outfits. Thanks in part to B-Real’s distinctive nasal growl and DJ Muggs’ dark, atmospheric production, they’ve occupied a genre of their own, eschewing easy categorization. Unfortunately, Skull & Bones, an album split into “Skull” and “Bones” discs, sounds like too many albums released in the past year. During B-Real’s railings on the hit single “Rap Superstar,” synthesized orchestral strings underscore his (along with Eminem and Noreaga) observations. “Sometimes I wish I was back home/With no radio or video to show me/They’re phony,” he complains. The kick drum keeps your head bobbing, but DJ Muggs’ beat doesn’t possess a personality equal to their raps. And so it goes with “Cuban Necktie,” “What You Want From Me,” and 11 other “Skulls” cuts. While B-Real has maintained a high standard of quality – at one point he brags, “My style’s so dope they should label it illegal” – DJ Muggs’ production has decomposed into keyboard mush. Ironically, the “Bones” disc – six rock tracks recorded with members of SX-10 (Sen Dog’s band), Fear Factory and Rage Against the Machine – exhibits more personality than “Skull’s” rote cuts. “Valley of Chrome” and “Can’t Get the Best of Me” bang as hard as anything by Limp Bizkit; unlike Fred Durst, however, Sen Dog and B-Real’s know how to spit tight lyrics. These songs keep Skull & Bones from devolving into business as usual. Columbia.