Insubordination got me fired from my job at Wal-Mart. A high school graduate pondering the use of university, I needed employment. Alex and I, two slackers confined to the same boat, pooled our resources and began the job search. It ended early one afternoon and we found ourselves at his house with no job prospects and weed to burn. “You wanna smoke?” he must have said. Despite not achieving our goal, a full day of job hunting, I said yes. The rest is hazy. We needed music. While he prepped the perfect track, I packed the pipe. As the lighter belched fire and with my lips on the bong, he cued track 10 from Cypress Hill’s second album, Black Sunday. Together we puffed the magic dragon while “Hits From The Bong” played. That’s the Cypress Hill experience. Clouds of ganja smoke impenetrable by bloodshot, barely open eyes, a perma-smirk affixed to your face and bad case of cottonmouth.
You didn’t put on Cypress Hill to do homework unless your teacher—a nasal-voiced composite of Cheech or Chong—asked, “Do you want to get high?”
Anyone who came of age a stoner in the Lollapalooza era knows Cypress Hill’s anthems for 17-year-old potheads were as necessary as Zig-Zags or a pipe, a place to puff and a reliable dealer (although in reverse order). Nearly every memorable song released by the L.A.-based crew and worthy of inclusion on a greatest hits collection was about weed. A shortlist might include: “Stoned Is the Way of the Walk”, “Legalize It”, “Everybody Must Get Stoned”, “Light Another”, and the plodding hypno-high of “I Want to Get High”. So of the tracks to choose from, to find only “Dr. Greenthumb” from IV and no “Hits From The Bong” puzzles me. It’s not just a glaring omission; it’s every reason to avoid a CD you could make better yourself.
By 1995’s Temple of Boom, Cypress Hill and commercial success were swerving to avoid each other. In ‘96, Cypress Hill appeared alongside Sonic Youth and the Smashing Pumpkins in an episode of The Simpsons, (“Homerpalooza”). The highlight: A roadie asks, “Someone here ordered the London Symphony Orchestra, possibly while high. Cypress Hill, I’m looking in your direction.” A classical mash up of “Insane in the Brain” followed. Weed was everywhere—even on TV—and Cypress Hill wasn’t loco enough. Sen Dog abandoned the group, returning only after accepting the limitations of being Flava Flav to B-Real’s Chuck D. But never again would one of their albums spark the public’s interest.
Still, half of what appears here is classic, even if it falls just outside my own myopic view of Cypress Hill’s legacy. “Hand on the Pump” is the flirt with violence type of song the group did so well. Method Man and Redman even lifted most of its “Sawed off shotgun, hand on the pump/ Left hand on a 40, [puffin onna blunt]/ Pumped my shotgun, [niggaz didn’t jump] Lala la la lala la laaaaa…” chorus for “Da Rockwilda”.
Diehard fans need not buy this CD. You no doubt own the first six songs already, compiled chronologically (1991-95) from “How I Could Just Kill a Man” to the gang-friendly, “Throw Your Set in the Air”. Past that, and of the six remaining tracks, only the flamenco-flavored, barrio beat of “Latin Lingo” or maybe “EZ Come EZ Go” deserves any attention. Beyond that, the reggaeton remix of “Latin Thugs” lunges for the contemporary, achieving only artificiality. But what do I know, I don’t smoke pot anymore. A self-imposed hiatus, my ability to review this CD accurately has been blunted.