I have to admit, when I saw that there was a Cypress Hill album produced by Detroit rapper/beat-master Black Milk, I was very psyched. Cypress Hill has been probably one of my five favorite rap groups from the ’90s, along with Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Bone, Wu-Tang and the Beastie Boys, for their reckless abandon in handling episodic stoned, gun-toting madness on the streets of LA. Their beats were usually really tight, too, from long-time group soundman DJ Muggs.
The general rap on Back in Black (2022), the last Cypress Hill album for which they replaced Muggs with Midwestern powerhouse Black Milk, was that there was an explanation needed for why the group would go with this producer. As a long time Black Milk fan, however, I found it obvious right away — he’s at the upper echelon of his craft, beholden to a musical blueprint that mixes soul and gospel with crisp, rugged, street-ready rhythms. In an interview with HipHopDX, B-Real said at first they’d planned on just doing an EP with the Detroit engineer, but the “‘We got a good little vibe and chemistry with Black Milk… We just kept working and it turned out to be an album.’” Sure enough, the beats are incredible on the new Cypress Hill album — organic, creative and electrifying, and it’s B-Real’s rapping, dabbling in tired old themes and overused terminology, that doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
Right up through Milk’s second-to-last studio album, which is DiVe from 2019, the project floats along with musical creativity and forceful authority. All of his albums seem to grow on me with multiple listens and really, he’s one of the few artists with which this still happens with me. Usually, in other cases, I know right away if a project is worth anything, or I’ll discard it as thin or unoriginal. For his last album, Popular Demand, Milk has made it available only on Bandcamp, no other streaming service, and has demanded a fee for all of the songs but two. It seems that he’s starting to get fed up with the public’s oafish ignorance and negligence of his talents, something that perhaps could have been avoided by more pertinent journalism, recognizing him as the leader and pioneer in hip-hop that he is.
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