Westside Gunn – 10: Review

Hitler Wears Hermes 10, or simply 10. A decade later, Westside Gunn continues to be as ferocious as ever, weaving intricacies of his characters with auspicious production that shifts on a dime as he explores foundational growth as an artist. Though Westside Gunn isn’t present on all the tracks, his energy, and stylistic virtuosity breathe through them. It’s a semblance of Gunn’s craft, buoying rich writing over distinguished production as he reflects on ten years of the Hitler Wears Hermes series. Adding a platoon of features, Westside Gunn doesn’t deliver the best of the series as some come and go with typical expectancy but stands as a statement about his everlasting legacy through memorable adlibs and flows. Many mixtape series have a lasting impact, like Trap or Die, The S.O.U.L. Tapes, and Dedication, amongst others; Hitler Wears Hermes 10 stands tall amongst the many with its consistency and shifting intrigue from tape to tape.

10 opens with a beautifully delivered spoken word verse that captures the depth of art; despite the content, there are layers to the verses than the surface layer of humdrum some conservative people attack hip-hop for being. As Bro A.A. Rashad speaks in the “Intro,” “​​You, the listener, with all due respect/Some of us are here for the art/Some of us are here to try to be far too discerning/When it comes to cultural iconography/And narrative unfoldment within historical alignment to greatness;” it expresses this need to see more than just the apropos rhetoric on display. For Westside Gunn, he is more than the street-slanging luxury; he imbues an essence of humbled living after years of adversity. 10 has themes surrounding gang life, systematic racism, and more, as we see a solid contrast between tracks. With its features, they come understanding and delivering on the assignment, which boasts that success we’ve seen throughout the years.

Westside Gunn comes through with the heat on “Super Kick Party” and “Mac Don’t Stop” with the fierce integrity we’ve heard when he rides solo on a beat, but 10 rides or dies by the features. Though it isn’t a surprise, especially with the last two in the series, Westside Gunn brings in features and subverts our expectancy due to the stylistic area Gunn revolves. However, this time, that isn’t the case; Gunn brings features that offer nuance bars containing histrionics and boasting themes further. Everyone comes with reflections and physical characteristics that establish an identity, whether it features Busta Rhymes with the members of Wu-Tang Clan, along with Stove God Cooks, or Run the Jewels, again with Cooks. Gunn finds ways to incorporate that subtle celebratory aspect by conducting these tracks that fit the mode thematically while having an essence of grandeur.

Unfortunately, despite being a fan, 10 brings Stove God Cooks fatigue, becoming a slight deterrent with his presence being as frequent as Gunn’s. That isn’t to say he doesn’t deliver, but sometimes the lyrical repetitiveness and redundancies can come across as reductive, like on “BDP” and “Science Class.” The latter would have been nice to see Gunn with the last verse instead. However, there are moments where Cooks is fantastic, reflecting greatness when given a proper footing to spit, like on “Switches on Everything” or the glorious posse cut “Red Death.” Beyond Cooks, other features come and deliver on a high, save for Westside Pootie, which is cute but not that effective. Fortunately, most leave a lasting memory with their verses like the aforementioned rappers, Doe Boy on “FlyGod Jr.,” A$AP Rocky on “Shootout In Soho,” and Blackstar on “Peppas.” They assent with Westside Gunn’s style, especially the latter three, who blend into gritty, boom-bap beats, which are equally memorable.

Produced predominantly by Griselda signee Conductor Williams, 10 contains additional production by The Alchemist, Pete Rock, RZA, and Swizz Beatz, to name a few. Besides The Alchemist, the beats from the others bring that New York grit and swagger we’ve come to hear throughout the years. Westside Gunn smoothly shifts from the boom bap to the gritty street-percussion-heavy beats or sometimes jazzy golden age modernism. It helps round out Gunn’s history in the industry and growing prominence mixtape after mixtape. The production allows him to bring continuous intrigue, despite the dark tonal consistencies that shroud these beats atmospherically, but that’s the style fans get accustomed to–for the new audiences, just going through tape-by-tape, you’ll see growth in production choices and quirks within his lyricism.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Armani Caesar – The Liz 2: Review

With hungry MCs in the game, fans have been propping up independent rappers for years before their evidential rise to prominence within the world of pop. Though not everyone aspires to reach these heights, pushing aside notoriety for identity, rappers have been able to define themselves instead of being defined by archetypal trends within their genres. Armani Caesar stands out amongst her contemporaries, bringing natural flows and virtuoso dirty rap lyricism with cadence while disregarding any chance to hit celebrity. Her growth has been subtly grand from the mixtape Hand Bag Addict to The Liz. And The Liz 2 is no joke. Continuing that veracity, Armani Caesar continues to flex, weaving beautiful melodies in between ruthless lyricism over crafty boom-bap-inspired gritty beats that embolden whichever style Caeser evokes through her flow and words.

Inspired by the bravado and influence of Elizabeth Taylor as an auteur, Armani Caesar evokes similar sentiments, taking us through these varied turns that establish her art in the same vein. Evident through oil painting album covers, The Liz 2 sees Armani Caesar feeling rejuvenated after delivering a hard-hitting intro with The Liz. The bars are raw, and the content and styles shift, allowing Caesar to flex in varying ways, like with raw and emotional singing on “First Wives Club,” where she expresses her ways of living with relationships and having control instead of vice-versa. It’s part of the bigger picture that predominantly sees Caesar talking her shit. Caesar makes sure it’s known with the intro, which incorporates an interview with Elizabeth Taylor done by Barbra Walter; the audio clip centers on Taylor’s lack of care for the public opinion of her based on attire–think “never enough shoes” mindset, except with jewelry. 

[Intro: Elizabeth Taylor & Barbara Walters]

Elizabeth, I have never seen anything so magnificent as all of this jewelry.

It’s just staggering, not to mention what you’re wearing

I acquired this about a month ago; isn’t it the most gorgeous?


That— it’s unbelievable

You bought this for yourself?


How nice of you, you’re so good to you

Well, there’s not anyone else around

Do people still go out and wear jewelry? Do you still wear this?

Well, honey, I do.”

After the intro, Armani Caesar reminds us of her ferocity, followed by a luscious, melancholic beat that complements Caesar and Kodak Black’s luxurious flexes on “Diana.” Rapping through these darker, intimidating beats and more intimidating verses keeps you engaged, whether the track is two minutes with one verse and a sick intro or a longer construct that explores unique structures and delivery. “Liz Claiborne Jr. 1 & 2” comes fiercely as a nuanced extension of “Survival of the Littest.” The latter explores Armani Caesar’s growth from working as a stripper to becoming a rapper, throwing modest shade at Cardi B and how she sold her past. “Liz Claiborne Jr. 1 & 2” establishes these contrasting perspectives, one that explores the ferocity she has to gain respect amongst her peers, and the second shows us Caesar understanding her worth.

Though these flexes have inherent value, themes get coded deep within the confines of the album’s progression. After the crisp duality of “Liz Claiborne Jr. 1 & 2,” “Meth & Mary” continues to establish Armani Caesar’s person, defining her loyalty for those she’s been close with for ages. Furthermore, Armani Caesar delivers content related to success, materialism, and differentiating mentalities. It’s pertinent with tracks like “Big Mood,” “Mel Gibson,” and “Snofall.” We hear Caesar express how extended that clip is as she walks with a bag she copped from Saks Fifth rather frequently. Despite its shift in thematic approach, at times, there is no denying that The Liz 2 contains some repetitive bars; however, that doesn’t always constitute a dip in quality, as The Liz 2 is quality.

The Liz 2  continues to show Armani Caesar’s wicked talents through various beats, elevating her lyrical craft further. It’s a testament to the consistency in the Griselda collective/label, and I’m here for it. I’ll be spinning this as frequently as others from the area, like Che Noir, and I hope you hop on this train too, as these artists have something artists like Cardi B and Drake don’t, raw lyrical prowess beyond the boujee.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

YG – I Got Issues: Review

Consistency is key. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been a key for YG since the release of his sophomore album, Still Brazy. Teetering between raw, authentic Gansta-Rap/G-Funk and West Coast Hip-Hop style influenced by So-Cal flavored popular rap hits, YG has this esoteric identity–it now shifts, stunting by pandering features and weak beats and hooks. He’s trying to find ways to make his style more vivacious. Though this isn’t to discredit YG since he still delivers full skillets of different food of quality, and on his latest album, Issues, he returns to past recipes that has better consistency. I Got Issues is leveled, giving us an exuberant force of those West Coast Hip-Hop and Gangsta Rap/G-Funk bangers boasted by layers of authenticity and unique samples. He’s bringing levity musically, flexing his range, and having fun at times, as he relays these delineations of issues YG’s been through and still goes through, as he continues to cement himself as one of the younger heavyweights killing.

Opening with “Issues,” you’ll immediately start to get whiffs of what has been present in past albums but not as effervescent since his solo tracks on Stay Dangerous. YG gives us four straight songs that embolden YG’s essence. It’s what is in the middle of the album where most stumbles appear, specifically from the artist’s side and some of the production. Though he’s treading toward keeping himself relevant through certain features–I mean, let’s face it, YG isn’t hopping on something as poppy as that song with Fergie, “L.A.LOVE”–they are predominant misses. It’s easy to find yourself veering back toward his solo tracks, especially with his clear direction. “Go Dumb,” “Sacred Money,” and “Sober” aren’t the most gripping, at times feeling distant; some don’t have lavish production like “Go Dumb” and “Toxic,” and others have weak features that tune you out like Post Malone. 

When it comes to beats, the consistency is high, but there are a few blemishes. “Toxic,” you get a gut punch immediately as you hear “Be Happy” by Mary J. Blige get sampled. As it progresses, your sense of positivity with slight bewilderment starts to fade with lackluster verses and a nearly monotone beat. It’s similarly the case in the middle as YG whips up some poor concoctions that get lost by the features’ drab performances from ones you wouldn’t expect. One of the first tracks you’ll notice on the tracklist, “Sacred Money,” will be so because of the names J. Cole and Moneybagg Yo, but push that aside since it explores particular characteristics YG has beaten to death lyrically. It’s not like the crisp street-cut “How To Rob A Rapper,” which features D3szn & Mozzy, two artists that understand the assignment. The aforementioned “Go Dumb” and “Sober” show levels of mediocrity as YG tries to adhere to radio standards, except these tracks aren’t that memorable. Even when YG shifts in this direction, there are some highlights due to the sheer fun he has had making tracks like “Go Loko” with Tyga and Puerto Rican rapper Jon Z. I Got Issues isn’t absent from that kind musical fun, though it can be more subtle than apparent.

From the crisp gangsta-rap-influenced bleakness of “No Love” and “Killa Cali” to the more adventurous “Baby Momma” and “I Dance,” YG is coming with his all, even though not all translations work. There is musical depth amplified by its sonic layer, mirroring elements from other hip-hop subgenres and allowing us to finally see YG express a slight melodic digression from the known. “No Weapon,” featuring Nas, creates harmonious equilibrium as the producers bring elements of Jazz-Rap and that Southern Cali sound of the 90s, more modernized. “Baby Momma” isn’t far from your normative G-Funk track; the funk is subtle, the percussion fruitful, and YG is jovially performing about his disdain for baby momma. Fortunately, these tracks are smooth surfaces on the dirt path you take toward your destination. And on this path, that flurry of greatness elevates the I Got Issues further, especially with the external layer coming from the perspective of his performances. “I Dance” sees YG attempting to bring that So-Cal Latin/Hip-Hop hybrid to the forefront, but unlike “Go Loko,” this one has more flavor and potent featured work from Californian singer-songwriter Cuco and Argentine reggaeton artist Duki.

Listening to I Got Issues wasn’t so much rejuvenating because that essence of gangsta/west coast hip-hop has seen variations, and here, it’s more consistent. My Life 4Hunnid gave us “Blood Walk” and “Out On Bail;” 4Real 4Real gave us “In The Dark” and “Stop Snitchin’,” and so on and so on, but when that flavor spreads more thoroughly, you get something that’s more repeatable. Coming in hot with “Issues” and captivatingly closing on a somber note with “Killa Cali” I Got Issues is a YG album I’ll be returning to rather swiftly.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

The Game – Drillmatic – Heart vs. Mind: Review

There is nothing cornier than hyping yourself up only to fail at delivering convincing arguments toward claims one boldly makes to get eyes and ears. There is an arrogance to it that you love when they can produce, and characteristically, I wasn’t surprised with all the chatter from The Game as we awaited the release of the new album, Drillmatic – Heart vs. Mind. From interviews to random posts on social media and more, he imparted a high standard for fans, who have been starving for consistency since 2016’s 1992. He comes proclaiming: “This album is better than Doctor’s Advocate. Shit, it’s better than The Documentary. I’m not here to gas shit, I don’t even shoot most of my videos, I don’t over promote, I don’t even give a fuck if one nigga buy it…This Drillmatic shit [is] different. This shit got Ye out the house on some different shit. This shit got niggas moving different.” It isn’t. But it’s there, alongside albums in the tier below The Documentary, meaning, despite a flurry of great tracks, it’s overlong, pumping the breaks early as you start to get tired before the last 40 minutes so end.

Though 1992 was a great follow-up, it became drowned amongst albums like Block Wars, Born 2 Rap, and Streets of Compton and some singles; fortunately, Drillmatic – Heart vs. Mind delivers some satisfaction on the consistency front, despite being another unnecessarily long album. At 30 Tracks and nearly two hours, Drillmatic – Heart vs. Mind felt more like a dwindling and tiring process that never proves Game’s point about it being his opus, though that isn’t to say we don’t receive some of his best work in some time. There are moments where, like in The Documentary, sadness, and pain get heard potently–his aggro-sounding flow temper in one direction, turning the notches on another. It gives us a greater understanding of why he makes confident proclamations, especially with certain tracks reflecting the nature of his talents, whether flows or lyricism. We hear these flows coming at a constant, eventually becoming redundant as it progresses, despite his lyricism still shimmering through the cracks.

It’s similarly the case with its production, which contains work from an abundance of producers with enough synergy to keep it afloat, even when some aren’t as interesting as the Game’s content within the track. We hear it on “Outside,” a classic west coast romp that personifies character within the gangster rap realm. “Twisted” similarly lacks the intrigue of other percussion-heavy beats, but like how the swagger boosts the potency of “Outside,” Game’s lyricism does so here. Having lesser production, comparatively, makes other tracks explode on repeat, like “Burning Checks,” Game’s attempt at Drill–and one of my favorites–or the nuanced sounds from late 90s/early 00s gritty NYC street rap on “K.I.L.L.A.S.” They hide amongst varying styles that remind you of radiant melodies and beats that offer stylistic overtures and subtleties within ever-shifting drum patterns on the over or underhead. We hear him rapping over beautifully eclectic percussion on “Nikki Beach,” and then there are the eloquent piano notes playing between rhyme schemes and verses on “Start From Scratch II.” Stagnant transitions aside, there isn’t much on that front that distorts how you take in the sounds.

Though it isn’t pertinent throughout, minor transitional pivots like between “Nikki Beach” and “Talk To Me Nice” push you aside harder as they are complete opposites tonally. Going from this incredible, slightly island-like production to the drilling loudness and annoyance that is Meek Mill’s flow doesn’t give you much to fall back on. It’s a second pair after two earlier tracks, “Chrome Slugs & Harmony” and “Start From Scratch II,” where the transitions sound more seamless, even though the former isn’t as strong, which is the opposite with “Nikki Beach” and “Talk To Me Nice” where the latter isn’t great as the former. That isn’t saying much when features on these tracks can sound mundane in comparison. The outliers here have distinctions in tempo, and these slightly wayward moments further affect the mellow-to-hard sonic transitions on more listen-through–specifically from “Burning Checks” to “La La Land.”

The influx of features on Drillmatic – Heart vs. Mind pushes the album to its limits with seven solo tracks of thirty, including albatross of a diss– “The Black Slim Shady;” it undermines the hardened, testosterone-pumping flows/raps, which contrasts the more personal tracks. Seeing the plethora of featured artists ahead of time offered no surprise as we’ve seen Game do it out the wazoo since The R.E.D. Album. And we’ve seen it work ceremoniously on The Documentary 2 & 2.5; however, it starts to feel more gimmicky, as if Game isn’t capable of giving us something tight and focused like 2016’s 1992. Though I’m not decrying the quality, as some don’t stick to the landing, thus adding more pressure on the project to be its best, but a weak verse or lackluster chorus/hook or even both derail the final product because you’ll then find it hard get through it. Some that come to mind are “O.P.P,” “Talk Nice To Me,” “.38 Special,” and “Universal Love,” further reminding me that Game is at his most consistent delivering tracks solo. 

You love to hear The Game express himself, delivering visceral depth in his storytelling, whether through flexing or being retrospective–especially as you forgive his consistent name drops–most of them are fantastic, like the smooth “La La Land.” But “The Black Slim Shady” stood out like the sorest thumb mostly because it was conceptually, lyrically, and ridiculously bad. I knew The Game was hungry for beef with Eminem after expressing fright in the past, and if you come talking big, one best deliver, and he doesn’t. I found myself picking apart the directions of his various satirizations, narrative pivots, and more; eventually, I started thinking Meek Mill’s first response to Drake is more of a piece of Mozart when it isn’t. It left me feeling mum, at times bored, because I’ve heard Game get down and dirty before and deliver it, specifically with disses, and coming at 110%. Comparatively, this is the first Game project I’ve liked since 2016.

It could have used some trimming to make it feel less bloated and more fluid. The Game tries to bring too much into the fray, making way for tracks to teeter in quality, especially as he tries to connect with the youth and incorporate them poorly, like Blueface on “.38 Special.” It’s like a roller coaster with an appeal to keep riding, even if it isn’t the most extravagantly designed ride. You’re sitting there, headphones plugged in or speaker blaring; the allure comes from your appreciation of the construction of the best tracks, which, in this analogy: the best twists, loops, and turns the ride takes you through. It doesn’t help that this ride will be long as the album caps at two hours, which can feel longer than after 70 minutes. Definitely give this a spin, as I can hopefully guarantee you’ll leave with at least 50% of the track finding rotation amongst your fave rap tracks of 2022, and if not, that’s okay; it isn’t every day you sit back and decide to listen to a two-hour album.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Westside Gunn – Peace “FLY” God: Review

The sheer persuasive prowess that Westside Gunn brings behind the microphone has no bounds. Though I’m being facetious, there is something to how he incorporates vocal gunshot noises before, between, and sometimes after a verse, boasting its poignancy. He’s done it in various ways, and yet, this time, it feels slightly different. Coming straight off the tail end of Paris Fashion Week, where one assumes he visited the Louvre, Westside Gunn delivers a mixtape with a construct akin to an abstract painting. Peace “Fly” God is Gunn’s new mixtape that’s grimy, rough, and naturally flowing; it has these soundscapes take us through exceptional complexions that parallel the artistic energy flowing through his veins at the moment. It’s altruistically flawed, creating a world unparalleled to the apropos standard Hip-Hop he has delivered with his Hitler Wears Hermes series. It follows similar thematic styles of the past; however, the way it’s constructed on these distinct canvases offers an elegant perspective into Gunn, Estee Nack, and Stove God Cooks. 

Peace “Fly” God isn’t something that hits you immediately. Its sonic composition shifts the parameters of what to expect, eventually hearing its fluidity through the verses. It’s a balance between abstract and core-drum beats that continues to batter you with slick bars–and to a lesser degree–flows. Unfortunately, there are moments where you’re left dazed by the production, and the rest becomes the same song and dance. However, Westside Gunn gives us some more gun sounds than the boom, boom, boom, boom, and that’s been enough to retain my attention, especially in the lackluster “Derrick Coleman.” All of that is pertinent in “Jesus Crack,” which takes content from a shallow puddle, but there is swagger and a smooth Brand Nubian sample. Beyond constructing a bold 8-minute epic flex, Westside Gunn takes a chance with Don Carrera’s atmospherically gritty and ghostly production. It’s a notable contrast to Madlib’s soulful work in the second half. 

Production doesn’t come from those two exclusively–Daringer and Conductor Williams taking the helm at the end–but they handle the bulk. In some ways, it plays like Westside Gunn’s journey from thoughts to microphone–feeling the highs within bars about gang life, hustling, and high fashion. It gets delivered to you through the varying production styles, which feed off lustrous moments like the wickedly wild piano overlays on “Ritz Barlton,” followed by a trove of spiritually connected verses that expands on each topic, like fashion on “Big Ass Bracelet.” It sees Gunn and Stove God Cooks focusing on the glitz while reminding us of their grit. Gunn does so with sequences like, “In the ghetto, AP strapped the coke out a soupie (Whip)/Neck full of Veert pearls, lookin’ all bougie” and “Anybody violate, I annihilate (Boom, boom, boom)/I switched the band on the Dick, you rockin’ time today.” Within the context, he offers a distinction that splits surface and reality. Stove God Cooks does similarly, after proclaiming to be a Jay-Z–MF Doom hybrid, with lines like, “​​Either way you die alone, my shooter Pat Mahomes (Brr)/My bullet thrower/I was court-side watching Syracuse play Villanova (Go).” Cooks echoes the accuracy of his shooter’s aim while reminding us of the casualness of his success.

The casual flaunting continues, focusing slightly more on the excess of their success. The flows are grounded and fluid, specifically Westside Gunn, who takes on two Madlib productions solo. They give you a proper descent into his emotional side, like with “Open Praise,” which twists the view of gang life violence, giving us a darker side than arrogance. From the flows to his emotionally gripping singing a the end–he sings about love and envy. There is a consistent quality within the penmanship of these artists, especially their gripping details and stylistic directions. However, the deliveries don’t consistently acquiesce. “Derrick Coleman” is one where the platter we get doesn’t offer anything new. It has crisp production from Madlib, but the flows make it feel more atypical. It’s similarly the case “Big Ass Bracelet.” We get a trove of complex beats that feel like mosaics, painted with great detail. Unfortunately, not all strokes look the same. There are minimal stumbles that deter me as the last two tracks mentioned, but it’s enough to find a place amongst the many releases by Westside Gunn.

Don’t get me wrong, Peace “Fly” God is fantastic and covers ground exponentially. It’s disappointing; however, there are still quality tracks which evokes the replay button, like “Ritz Barlton” or “Horses On Sunset.” It gives fans something to digest while awaiting his follow-up Michelle Records. So enjoy the appetizer cause Westside Gunn’s 2022 is only just getting started.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Cypress Hill – Back In Black: Review

Stoner rap has had an evolution that is not quite like other sub-categories in Hip-Hop. From being its own genre to dissolving into more prominent forms, though it’s never lost the essence of what made it great. It’s become lazier, trying to fit two criteria, slow-to-mid-pace beats and rapping about smoking marijuana or displaying the culture in passing as the topic steers in another direction. Cypress Hill are the masters of it, and they continue to prove that on their 10th studio album, Back In Black. Prominent for acquiescing stoner-culture (positively) with gangsta rap and Chicano rap has given them a platform to bring out themes of gang violence and cultural differences, allowing the fans to indulge in smooth weed raps with layers in the song’s personality. Back In Black continues to show there is enough in the motor, especially after a solid return with Elephants on Acid–B-Real and Sen Dog are back in prime form; however, the production eventually begins to sound too similar–specifically the percussion. 

Back In Black is poignant and smokey, delivering darker lyricism about life or blissful tracks about smoking weed. As constructed, the tracks have a consistent aura while transitioning from topic-to-topic. It can shift from a realistic view of adolescence and young adulthood to taking us on a journey to get higher. “Come With Me” is an immaculate vibe with its lusty hi-hats and trickly guitar strings as they interlope “Hail Mary” by 2Pac on the chorus to fully reel you into the verses. B-Real and Sen Dog deliver with lines that work as both soothing and inspiration, from B-Real’s first verse with the lines: “Blessed by the desire to create the fire/I must get you higher/You’re required to enjoy it, it inspires,” and Sen Dog’s second verse: “Mind reaching for higher levels, I never settle/I was a young pup from out of the ghetto that set the tempo/God bless the leaf, rest in peace/To anyone that stands between the legalization that we want to see,” blending beautifully as the two trade-off eights-bar verses. It’s simple to make tracks like this interesting, as there as easy ways out–slow tempos = easy to flow–making it uninteresting–you just have to make it fun for those to kick back and replay.

There aren’t many tracks like “Come With Me” on Back In Black as they tackle musical and street growth, and legalization, specifically in the track “Open Ya Mind,” which takes a stance on issues that underline why it’s needed. From reform in the judicial system to the economic benefits that stem from it, they keep it grounded while explaining, though it’s not hard when they tell us to smoke and open up our minds. It has a funkadelic core with hard-hitting snares entwining us with its smokey demeanor, making it a track that is painless to repeat. It goes the same for the others, which oozes with that braggadocio confidence, which has been one of their best traits–they have an innate swagger that comes off naturally to them. They introduce with that swagger on “Takeover” as a reminder to the listener about their greatness. As well, It’s fitting when they trade bars with rapper Demrick on “Certified” and “The Original,” which sees the two keeping it OG. They ooze a semblance of their past work at its peak.

Unfortunately, after “The Original”–the three tracks that follow meld together into a coherent mess of orchestration as you lose yourself forgetting when “Hit Em’” starts and then wishing for “Champion Sound” to end, as it comes across as a little forced–the percussion patterns begin to mirror each other too closely. “Hit Em’” isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s as forgettable as Dizzy Wright’s verse on “Bye Bye.” His softened and raspy voice offers little to the track, though it properly mirrors Sen Dog’s equally forgettable verse–his voice gives him presence, so it isn’t difficult to remember it like that, but it isn’t one of his strongest verses. While three of the last four tracks offer little to be desired, it doesn’t disappoint like “Bye Bye.” B-Real offers rhythmic gymnastics, with his multi-syllabic flow that can cause tongue twisters if you were to rap along. It wastes a solid song, but it’s easy to skip and indulge in the other great songs Cypress Hill has to bring.

Back In Black shows that Cypress Hill has enough in the tank. If we consider 2010’s Rise Up as a fluke pivot to try something new, especially when Sen Dog sounded burnt, then Elephants On Acid shows that their deviation didn’t have the personality from when they were at their peak. It’s a fun ride that is slightly forgettable but a thrill to have them continuing to make solid gangsta/stoner raps.

Rating: 7 out of 10.