Editor’s Note: This review is proudly sponsored by our patrons. Click on the link if you’d like to learn more about how to support the site!
“Up until the summer of ’91
Wasn’t no motherfuckers talkin’ about smokin’ blunts
From the West coast to the East coast
everybody be braggin’, but I’m the one who be puffin’ most”
If this is not your first Cypress Hill joint then it won’t surprise you to hear “Temples of Boom” open with “Spark Another Owl.” B-Real, Sen Dog and DJ Muggs have never been shy about their use of or enthusiasm for marijuana, and I believe their influence has helped normalize it as a recreational drug with less harmful side effects than many others. Even though this has led some to conclude they are the Cheech & Chong of rap groups, the evidence of their darker themes has been there since day one. The first song of theirs I ever bumped in my car or Walkman was called “How to Kill a Man” after all. While it’s tempting to think of them as the pied pipers of pot, a label they certainly don’t shy away from, their third album was a purposeful shift toward the dark side.
“Some people tell me that I need help
Some people can fuck off and go to Hell”
“Illusions” can make the argument for being one of the most underrated songs in the whole of Lawrence Muggerud’s catalogue. It manages to be head nodding, mesmerizing, funky and sinister all at the same time. Every now and then a “ding” breaks you from the trance that Muggs’ creates with layers of samples, while B-Real’s nasal delivery perfectly compliments the sinister overtones. Whether the menace B sees in every shadow is real or imagined is ultimately unimportant. If the best songs create an atmosphere that fills a room, “Illusions” fills an entire movie theater. The same can be said for the third single “Boom Biddy Bye Bye,” where Sen Dog and B-Real let their lyrical bullets fly in all directions. “Get your ass on the floor and don’t ask why.”
The tonal shift of “Temples of Boom” might have been jarring for some people. I have only anecdotal evidence to support this assertion, but nevertheless I don’t hear people talk about the third album as a classic like the first two. There may have also been some people who shied away from the drama of “No Rest for the Wicked,” one of the most surprising diss songs I’ve ever heard. Allegedly the beef started when they accused Ice Cube of jacking the hook of their single “Throw Your Set In the Air” for his single “Friday” from the movie of the same name. I’ll put the two side by side and let you decide for yourself.
Frankly I always thought it was a coincidence, but we all know rappers who have beefed over far less. For five minutes B-Real pulled no punches in a response almost as vicious as “No Vaseline” was to N.W.A, calling him “Cypress Cube” and claiming he would shamelessly jack more than just beats from others. “How many ways will you bite my shit? Would you wet me, or start throwing up a set?” Thankfully this feud never escalated to violence, but with lines like “Don’t trust that n*gga named O’Shea/fuck him and send him on his way” it certainly could have. It was hot for a minute.
Other than this one diss song “Temples of Boom” has no specific enemies. “Make a Move” samples from Samuel L. Jackson’s famous Pulp Fiction speech, but the group isn’t directing their “great vengeance and furious anger” at anyone other than people who try to impede their success. It’s almost comical considering that Cypress Hill had gone platinum with every album to date and this release would too. Nobody was getting in their way but if they needed to invent foes in “Killafornia” to stay motivated, the DJ Muggs production certainly supported their mission.
A standard bonus track for this album is “Everybody Must Get Stoned,” which feels like a return to their grass roots after an entire disc of hardcore hip-hop, but I’m intrigued to learn there’s a Japanese version with a song called “Smuggler’s Blues” that I’ve never heard — and apparently a “bonus disc” version with a 20 minute “Buddha Mix” as well. There’s a lesson in that. Just when you think you know an artist’s catalogue front to back, you’ll discover some brand new shit you didn’t know, and I think “Temples of Boom” might be that for fans who heard “Insane in the Brain” and didn’t stick around for what came next. Since “Black Sunday” went multiple times plat’ off that song’s viral success (before “going viral” was even a thing), this album was probably not what those fans expected — but it was very necessary for Cypress Hill’s artistic longevity.