Music

Cypress Hill: Rise Up

Twenty years later and middle-aged, Cypress Hill returns with a mixed bag of all the highs and lows from their career. Yes, they're still doing rap-rock.


Cypress Hill

Rise Up

Label: Priority
US Release Date: 2010-04-20
UK Release Date: Import
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It came as a shock to Cypress Hill fans, and everyone else, when the band decided to take a stab at rap-rock on their 2000 LP, Skull and Bones. Talk about a divisive decision. It is equally surprising to discover that over the next 10 years, they would continue to hold onto that sound. Who can blame them, though? In today’s rap game, selling singles like the chronic-laced, mid-tempo “Insane in the Brain” isn’t going to fly. So the L.A.-based rappers tried to flip that shit and re-invent themselves for the sake of maintaining relevance while making a few greenbacks. It is with this in mind that I approach Cypress Hill’s eighth LP, Rise Up, with as open of a mind as possible. In doing so, let’s start with the good.

For a 39 year-old MC, B-Real still solidly spits with that trademark high-pitched nasally flow. Immediately on the opening track, “It Aint Nothin” (which he also produced), he makes it known that he’s still got it. This continues on the following track, "Light It Up”, ladened with a funky, east-coast Pete Rock beat. Both tracks showcase the group in good form behind unusually upbeat production as they re-establish their rap CV. A few tracks later on “Bang Bang,” also produced by B-Real, positive results continue. Over an eerie, hyper-staccato snare, in concert with a liquid-y stretched out keyboard sample and the occasional high-pitched vocal sample, B-Real is in full gangsta-mode, warning us to “never forget what you say in the street / if you talk too loud / you’ll get laid with the heat.” The track feels both updated and a throwback to the darkly ominous, chronic-laced gangsta rap of old Cypress Hill. Unfortunately, these kind of tracks no longer produce radio singles and thus are in short supply on Rise Up. Which leads us to the bad.

As much as B-Real still seems lively, Sen Dog seems to have smoked himself out of being a rapper. He sounds exhausted and unimaginative all over this record. He doesn’t even appear on all of the tracks. This imbalance, coupled with the array of random producers, causes an inconsistency in the LP’s sound that hurts Rise Up on tracks like the half-hearted, street-wise attempt at positive rap “Get It, Anyway” or “Pass the Dutch” – a reinterpretation of Musical Youth's 1982 hit “Pass the Dutchie” – which re-samples the classic live, “Do you want to get high?” introduction of “Hits from the Bong.” This re-hashing of an old hit (no pun intended) showcases the mixed bag that Rise Up finds itself stuck in. It gets worse, though.

Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave appears twice, as Cypress Hill takes another stab at hard rock that would make, dare I say, Kid Rock or even ZZ Top happy. Unlike Morello’s early work with Rage, neither track contains much of an edge but sounds dated already. However, the lowest point of Rise Up may be the awkward confessional “Carry Me Away”, where both Sen Dog and B-Real take their turns rapping about the confusion of being young and the regret they feel for the wrongs they have committed. If these saccharine admissions were not enough, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park takes over during the chorus to serenade us with enough sugary sadness to make us vomit all over our I-pods. Amongst these awkward low-points, Everlast and Daran Malakian of System of a Down also make appearances, just to solidify this record as being at least half in dedication to reuniting a bunch of has-beens looking to re-ignite their careers.

That leaves us with “Armada Latina”, the surprisingly catchy, Marc Anthony-featuring single and album closer. Despite finding itself in uncharted territory for Cypress Hill, the mid-tempo track, which oddly pairs a Stephen Stills sample with the clanging of mid-tempo Latino-infused drums, is kind of…awesome? Couple that with the laid-back swagger of the Miami-born Cuban guest rapper Pitbull, and “Armada Latina” works well for what it is --a radio-friendly, laid-back club single. The track is so out of left-field and fits nowhere on the album that it's refreshing, ending the awkwardly bloated and unbalanced Rise Up on at least a strange and interesting note, if not a positive one. Is Latino-drenched R&B next on the Cypress Hill agenda? Hell, why not?

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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