After 17 years in the rap game as the lead lyricist of one of the West Coast's most recognizable crews, Cypress Hill
shows new life on his debut solo album, Smoke and Mirrors
. Opening with a "Stylistics" sample given the chipmunk soul treatment, the nasal-voiced lyricist promptly falls into his familiar flow, contrasting the trials and tribulations of the streets with the up-and-downs of show biz success on the title track. Though DJ Muggs
is conspicuously absent behind the boards, the production on Smoke and Mirrors
is consistently up to par; its 15 tracks conveying nothing but that quintessential California gangstafied funk. The Soopafly
-produced "Gangsta Music" is '70s blaxploitation funk reincarnated as 2000s G-Funk. On the head-nod anthem "Don't Ya Dare Laugh," yet another track whose hook borrows from Suzanne Vega
's "Tom's Diner," B
and company define Cali as "the home of marijuana" where "streets get hotter than a sauna." And Muggs
' prodigy, the Alchemist
provides the record's highlight with "6 Minutes," a seething funk-guitar driven track that allows B
to compose a cynical treatise on contemporary hip-hop upstarts. Of course, no Cypress Hill
endeavor would be complete without a straightforward weed anthem and the honors here go to the dancehall-inflected "FIRE," featuring Damien Marley which sees B
switching between English and Spanish rhymes. Elsewhere, he dredges up more familiar gangsta rap themes including money-getting ("Get That Dough," "Stack'n Paper"), those pesky haters ("When They Hate You") and the token sex-for-sport yarn ("When We're Fucking"). As such, Smoke and Mirrors
doesn't offer much in the way of originality, but after nearly 20 years on the mike, B-Real
has pretty well perfected his niche and his infectious, nasally rhyme flow, and O.G.
vetting commentary on the game and Cali-centric beats should be more than enough to keep fans' heads nodding.