*** 1/2 Cypress Hill, “IV,” RuffHouse/Columbia. Cypress. Hill’s 1991 self-titled debut album is one of the decade’s most influential hip-hop records. Rappers B-Real and Sen Dog and producer Muggs created their own niche in the segmented hip-hop market by introducing an abundance of marijuana references and a warped, psychedelic production style into their street-level entertainment.
The album thrust the Los Angeles-based crew into hip-hop’s elite. Its 1993 follow-up, “Black Sunday,” sold nearly 3 million copies and earned Cypress Hill a high profile in the pop world--something the hip-hop community rarely appreciates. As a result, that album and 1995’s “III (Temples of Boom)” were all but ignored by the hip-hop media, even though Cypress Hill’s lyrical and musical approach remained steady.
“IV,” due in stores Tuesday, is another powerful work, with gripping, insightful lyrics detailing the dynamics of ghetto existence and plenty of weed-oriented rhymes. But it’s Muggs’ production that propels this album into the stratosphere. One of the few rap producers who continues to evolve, the goateed beatsmith delivers a relentless onslaught of up-tempo tracks that could serve as the soundtrack for a riot. And when Muggs slows it to a snail’s pace, the eeriness captivates and mesmerizes.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).