It’s easy to look at Cypress Hill and wonder what the hell they’re actually doing. Maintaining crossover presence as a hip-hop act in the rock world isn’t easy, and they deserve a lot of credit for keeping it up as long as they have, but recent output really hasn’t hit the necessary benchmark. 2010’s Rise Up was painfully average; their foray into dubstep on their 2012 collaborative EP with Rusko was just painful; and neither B-Real’s nor Sen Dog’s side-projects have done that much, with Prophets Of Rage being better but subjected to far more critical derision, and Powerflo being just plain mediocre across the board.
As such, that leaves Elephants On Acid with the dubious honour of shunting everything back into place, something you’d think that, for a Cypress Hill album heavy influenced by weed, based by psychedelic rock and specifically designed to be “hallucinogenic”, it’d be able to do that with minimal hassle. Except that is most certainly not the case, and some incredibly fleeting moments of quality can’t save this from being everything that its title would infer – lumbering, overweight and with no comprehension of how to function correctly.
At least on the bright side, this is probably the most instrumentally diverse that Cypress Hill have been in some time, especially in the inclusion of live sitar and oud to solidify that stoned, hazy atmosphere, and when they’re rapping at their most cartoonish and expressive, like on the lucid Oh Na Na or paired with the parping tubas of Reefer Man and Crazy, this can all be quite enjoyable. That’s pretty much the only instance when it is enjoyable though, because Elephants On Acid displays such an incompetence when it comes to the assets it has on hand that it’s hard not to stand back and wonder what’s actually going on. There’s barely a coherent structure at the best of times which leaves tracks like Band Of Gypsies drifting along aimlessly, and when paired with blaring, obnoxious samples like on Put ‘Em In The Ground and especially Muggs Is Dead, it’s a mystery how anyone could possibly think it sounds good.
In fact, quality control is easily the biggest problem here, mostly because it’s hard to believe that there is any. For one, the tracklisting is so fractious and haphazard that it’s nigh on impossible to glean anything beyond surface-level impressions, as songs are cut far too short and broken up even further by copious amounts of interludes that serve no purpose. It frankly destroys any hope these tracks have of being memorable, and with a grainy production filter slathered over basically everything for presumably a ‘90s hip-hop throwback, it just sounds really amateurish and unpleasant to listen to. It doesn’t help that this is primarily a B-Real album either, and while his slippery, nasal flows do have personality, without Sen Dog’s more authoritative tones to balance them out, it can really grate, just like everything else here. Hell, it would be tempting to call this an endurance test given how much Cypress Hill seem to actively want to test their listeners’ mettle, but the fact of the matter is there’s barely anything here to make that much of an impact; for a twenty-two-track album, there’s about enough worthwhile material here to fill an EP, if that.
And when considering the storied history that Cypress Hill have had, and how they’ve managed to keep their status as a crossover act for so long, it’s more depressing than anything that this is how they’ve ended up, making unformed psychedelic albums to only potentially get something interesting from it. Even then, it’s all done so poorly that this feels like a totally wasted exercise and only serves to continues Cypress Hill’s current line of inessential, ineffective releases. There’s maybe a seed of an idea with Elephants On Acid, but that’s being pretty charitable, and it’d take some serious work to find it.
For fans of: Flatbush Zombies, La Coka Nostra, Funkdoobiest
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Elephants On Acid’ by Cypress Hill is out now on BMG Rights Management.