After gauche forays into dancehall, dub, and ska on Till Death Do Us Part, there weren’t too many complaints when Cypress Hill went on a six-year hiatus. Their 2004 effort exposed B-Real and Sen Dog as one-trick ponies who had ferried their cartoonish violence and brazen marijuana endorsement one step too far, released unto a market that had heard it all before. Perhaps deciding it was Till Death’s Caribbean flavor rather than the increasingly tedious subject matter that sparked such unanimous disinterest in the record, Cypress Hill stubbornly sticks to their tired ganja-and-guns formula on their latest effort, Rise Up.
Shooting for a sound that dwells in that well-worn gray area between rap and rock, Cypress Hill has roped in Tom Morello, Daron Malakian, and Mike Shinoda to instill the record with some much-needed vigor. With such a hodgepodge of producers, writers, and contributors, though, Rise Up fails to form any identity of its own: “Carry Me Away” sounds like a timorous Linkin Park ballad, “Trouble Seeker” like a hysterical System of a Down number, while both “Rise Up” and “Shut ‘Em Down” sound as though they’ve been lifted directly from Rage Against the Machine’s discard pile. These tracks are swamped with hackneyed diatribes on rebellion and littered with lame rants of unconvincing self-appraisal, churning out the same messages that have plagued the group’s forgettable output for the last 10 years. Of course, these themes have always been enveloping elements in the hip-hop industry, but Rise Up sees B-Real and Sen Dog offering such rudimentary prose on the topic that the material is rarely engaging.
If Cypress Hill’s emcees are an authority on anything, though, it’s certainly droll ditties about all things marijuana. “Pass the Dutch” and “K.U.S.H” play exactly as you would expect them to, buoyant jaunts about getting high in typically explicit detail. The former outlines some basic rules about smoking weed in company, imploring listeners to “Pass the joint on the left hand side/Only on the left hand side” in an exceedingly straightforward refrain. The latter, then, divides its time between championing California weed strains and namedropping celebrities with a penchant for the herb, exploiting all those keywords that Cypress Hill has paraded ever since their 1991 debut. For those listening to Rise Up with a joint between their fingers, hearing the duo cite Cheech & Chong, sticky green, bongs, and cottonmouth may well be wildly amusing, but without one it all seems a little frivolous to hear B-Real boasting about “weed so strong that knockout King Kong.”
The red-eyed listeners are Cypress Hill’s target audience, and when Rise Up settles into this pro-marijuana groove, the album does begin to serve its purpose, however stunted that purpose may seem. Beyond that, there’s very little to savor here, with the two emcees struggling to tender a memorable verse between them during 14 tracks spanning just under an hour. And with DJ Muggs’s notable absence from the producer’s chair, it rounds off a completely forgettable experience from a group whose decade-long downward spiral continues with an unremarkable release six years in the making.