Am I the most qualified person to write about hip-hop or rap? I think not. Until a few years ago, I usually found rap musically void with an absence of harmony and humility. If I could help it, I limited my listening sessions to the sound systems of cars stuck next to me in traffic jams. But even though it might appear out of my—and perhaps your—comfort zone, I think Cypress Hill is a masterpiece.
Senen Reyes (Sen Dog), Lawrence Muggerud (DJ Muggs), and Louis Freese (B-Real) were the nucleus behind this 1991 Ruffhouse/Columbia release, and, by employing samples brilliantly, they created an organic, grooving audio collage that sounds like a house band in heaven. Samples include Jimi Hendrix, Grant Green, James Brown, Lowell Folsom, Albert King, Parliament, Junior Walker and the All-Stars, Muddy Waters, and more. All the tracks have a humanity and harmonic intelligence that is inspiring and real, and while they were composed from samples, they manage to sound as if a cohesive unit of human musicians slammed down grooves while crafting interesting hooks. “Real Estate” has an infectious guitar sample over a Sly Stone-inspired groove I never tire of. “Psyco-betabuckdown” sounds like a Prince “Black Album” out-take, and “How I Could Just Kill A Man” is my favorite track. It sounds like Bootsy Collins, Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer, and Jeff Beck pounded out a downbeat, while an infectious, looping guitar sample of Jimi Hendrix repeats.
Cypress Hill is so musical and inspiring that I’ve internalized its esthetic of playing organically creative loops, and this has changed my guitar playing. By embracing a repeating a part in my live playing, I can utilize the familiarity and power of a part so immovable that it becomes hypnotic.