The Temples of Boom, Cypress Hill (1995)

"Once again the powers of the herb open up the mind...seek deep inside and tell me what you find." With that piece of counsel (soon followed by a coughing fit), Cypress Hill begins its journey through The Temples of Boom, the group's third (and seemingly Halloween-inspired) album. Creepy, catchy, cranky, and very commercial, The Temples of Boom is mostly the same little green bag of tricks, mixed with the occasional Cypress treat.

On each spooky track, the Hill leads the listener deep within the temples, fills the room with ganja smoke, and then suddenly leaps out, flexing its trademark skillz inches from your nose. The blessed beats of DJ Muggs, overlaid with off-key piano loops and eerie sopranos, drive songs such as "Stoned Raiders" and "Throw Your Set in the Air." The Hill reserves sitar solos for its more contemplative sessions on "Funk Freakers" and "Locales." RZA and U-God appear to upstage the Hill and create yet another chamber on "Killa Hill Niggas," extending their Wu-Tang empire to yet another corner of the hip-hop universe.

The Hill must see the threat -- any artistic movement since its very similar Black Sunday has been in the "quick-to-dis" direction of Wu. For guys who theoretically smoke as much weed as the Hill claims to, they seem to still harbor a fair amount of ill will for the rest of the world. They dis fans, they dis critics, they dis Ice Cube ("Now you wanna be Cypress Cube!") -- they even dis former comrades and fellow Soul Assassins House of Pain, who these days "ain't down with the Hill."

Aside from its harder edge, Cypress Hill is stll exactly the same group of in-your-face, buddha-puffin' gangstas they've been ever since they learned the act made money. Instead of being "Insane in the Brain," they're having "Illusions." Such overt commercialization may seem grating, particularly when Samuel L. Jackson delivers his played-out Ezekiel 25:17 monologue before "Make a Move," but The Temples of Boom are worth a trip. It may be formula, but it's still well-done entertaining formula. Besides, if you don't like it, you can always say you never inhaled.

[First appeared in Harvard Independent, 1995.]

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