Sony Music presents
Cypress Hill - Still Smokin' (2001)
I'm just another local kid from the street getting paid for my vocal/Here is something you can't understand/How I could just kill a man!"- B-Real (from How I Could Just Kill a Man)
Stars: Cypress Hill: B-Real, Sen Dog, DJ Muggs, Bobo
Other Stars: Dr. Dre (cameo)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains profanity and drug images)
Run Time: 01h:46m:28s
Release Date: 2001-01-09
DVD ReviewCypress Hill took the hip-hop world by storm in 1991 with original, funky beats and the crazy raps of Latin front man B-Real. Their music springs from the world of the small-time gangster, with an emphasis on endorsing marijuana and its use. Their stage shows ridiculously flaunt this idea with giant bongs and inflatable statues. Yet this band is far from a novelty act, especially with their impressive early material. With their latest double-disc album - Skull and Bones - and its huge single - Rock Superstar - Cypress Hill have re-invented themselves and added new rock elements to their hip-hop persona. While the lyrics might lack the originality of past work, they continue to attempt to stretch the limits of the genre.
Still Smokin' will definitely please Cypress Hill's numerous and ardent fan base. It contains their entire collection of videos, starting with 1991's Phunky Feel One and moving towards recent videos Rock Superstar and Can't Get the Best of Me. The disc also features live concert footage of seven songs from the August 16, 2000 show at the Fillmore in San Francisco. If that wasn't enough, the So You Wanna Be a Superstar TV special is included as a bonus feature. With this DVD, Sony Music has released a comprehensive look at the musical progression of Cypress Hill during their tumultuous career.
I've attended two Cypress Hill concerts, and both provided insight into the appeal of their music and their unusual fan base. In 1995, they joined Hole, Sonic Youth, and Beck on Lollapalooza, the monster tour for alternative giants at the time. So how did this hip-hop band fit into the mix with those established underground stars? Actually, they fit in quite nicely. With the huge crossover success of their single Insane in the Brain in 1993, the band had attracted a huge white audience. Many of the people who liked Hole and Beck also listened to Cypress Hill. This was even more evident during 1998's Smoking Grooves tour, which featured Public Enemy, Busta Rhymes, and the Black-eyed Peas. The inclusion of Cypress Hill on the bill drew a large white rock audience to the show. During some of the excellent early groups, they sat in a bored silence. After going crazy for Cypress Hill, they departed early and missed an energetic set from Public Enemy. The audience are devout fans of the band, but align themselves more with Limp Bizkit, Rage against the Machine, and 311 than traditional hip-hop groups.
The videos section begins with six tracks from Cypress Hill's exciting self-titled debut album. Phunky Feel One leads off the bunch with a foot-tapping hip-hop beat and a nice verse from Sen Dog. The refrain is a little repetitive, but the song showcases their ability to create a memorable, catchy beat. How I Could Just Kill A Man was their breakout hit, and for good reason. This is one of their better anthems, and it gets caught in your head and won't go away. The video contains a nice effect with Cypress Hill moving forward and everyone else moving backwards. Ice Cube, Q Tip, and Dr. Dre appear to add some credibility to the band. Hand on the Pump sports a nice catchphrase and a straightforward beat behind the story of small-time gangsters. Sen Dog gets a larger role on Real Estate—a faster rap with a cool beat. The video contains a cold, hazy look accentuated by it being in black-and-white. Stoned is the Way of the Walk is a fairly stupid slow song with a drug-like beat. The video utilizes a handheld camera to create a stoned atmosphere that fits perfectly with the lyrics. Finally, Cypress Hill pushes their Latin background with the funky Latin Lingo. This isn't really "single" material, but it has an effective beat, and varies from their usual anthems.
Cypress Hill's debut album displayed tremendous talent for creating memorable rhymes and some funky beats. With the release of Black Sunday, they took it a step further and crossed into the alternative mainstream. Their first video—Insane in the Brain—took the band into new heights and generated hordes of new fans. Filmed as an exciting concert video, the track showcases the raw energy and accessibility of their music. It contains all of the best elements of Cypress Hill, including B-Real's original vocal delivery, Sen Dog's backup vocals, a catchy beat from DJ Muggs, and their usual crazy lyrics. This video placed them at the forefront of the alternative music scene. When the Ship Goes Down (renamed for the video) is a fun and simple song that plays out over the story of a small gangster movie. In the video, a small-time hood takes on a big gangster, and achieves the expected consequences. One of my favorite Cypress Hill tracks is I A'int Going Out Like That—a quick anthem with a hard-hitting bass beat and tough lyrics. This is also one of their best videos, with death images everywhere within an oddly tinted location. With Black Sunday, the band was at their peak, and now was ready to try some new things musically.
The videos from the next two albums—Temples of Boom and IV— are interesting because they vary from the proven formula. However, they come off as a mixed bag for me, especially lyrically. Throw Your Set in the Air has a slow bass groove and a similar basic refrain that mirrors some earlier tracks. Next, we have a remixed version—Throw Your Hands in the Air—which has little in common with the original song. This track includes guest appearances from Erick Sermon of EPMD, Redman, and MC Eiht, and they add some life to the track. However, the song still lacks a great deal of energy or life. I enjoyed the interesting xylophone beat on Illusions, a video filled with drug-induced illusions and smoky colors. This is another slow track that is interesting musically, but wasn't that impressive lyrically. The highlight of the Temples of Boom videos is Boom Biddy Bye Bye, a crazy looking video with extreme closeups of B-Real and guest Wyclef Jean. This one works because of a cool piano beat and the energetic presence of Wyclef. The video is hazy and blurred, with chaotic images and colors everywhere. Tequilla Sunrise is one of only two videos released from their fourth album, and it shows the band continuing to mellow out. Some nice horns play in the background here with a slow, weary beat. This song works much better than Dr. Greenthumb, by far my least favorite video on the entire disc. This is a goofy video, with some odd hospital scenes, and the song is just stupid.
The final portion of the videos begins with No Entiendes la Onda—a Spanish version of How I Could Just Kill a Man. This nice variation comes from their 1999 Spanish-language release Los Grandes Exitos en Espanol. Next, we have the giant hit Rock Superstar, which marked their triumphant return to the rock arena. While this song is not one of my favorites, it does possess more energy than some of its predecessors. It definitely works better than Can't Get the Best of Me, which is as far from hip-hop as anything I've hard by Cypress Hill. The sparse guitar riffs work well, but the refrain is repetitive and dull. This video also shows the direction of the band's fan base, with its numerous moshing white kids in the audience. The videos portion concludes with Puppet Master, a video from DJ Muggs' solo album. Dr. Dre makes a guest appearance on this track, and the images are crazy. Dre struts around in a white mask and bishop's outfit, and B-Real is covered in gold paint with large horns and finger nails.
The seven songs from the energetic live show at the Fillmore were recently released as part of a full-length CD. It's interesting to note that the audience is composed mostly of white males in sleeveless white undershirts pushing each other around. There are a few girls mixed into the crowd, but they're few and far between the predominant type. This section begins with a medley of How I Could Just Kill a Man and Insane in the Brain. During these songs, B-Real and Sen Dog really play to the crowd, and let them jump on stage without a worry. Next comes an altered rock version of I A'int Going Out Like That, which suffers in comparison with the original version. Can't Get the Best of Me keeps the pace moving, but suffers again from its dull refrain. During Hits From the Bong, Cypress Hill gets into their weed antics and brings out King Arthur, their giant bong, for a goofy fan to use. Riot Starter is another rock song from their fourth album, and it contains quick raps over a fast guitar beat. Finally, we have Rock Superstar, which gets the crowd into a jumping frenzy.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The music videos on this disc vary between the full-screen and widescreen formats. Both types contain impressive transfers with strong colors and picture definition. I noticed a few blemishes here and there, but overall the images resonate well and look nice. This disc highlights the hectic, crazed images in Cypress Hill's videos, and the transfer doesn't let them down. The concert footage from the Fillmore is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer with a professional appearance. The camera angles and presentation are fairly simple, but they do enough to showcase the energy of their live set.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: DJ Muggs' smooth beats rocket through this excellent audio transfer, and B-Real's catchy lyrics are clear and forceful. This disc contains both a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer and a 2.0-channel PCM track. Both versions sound great and move well through the front channels of the sound field. The surrounds aren't that impressive on the digital track, and they don't really add that much to the music experience. The 5.1-channel mix adds depth to the music, but not nearly as much as you would expect.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Music/Song Access with 26 cues and remote access
Extras Review: This comprehensive DVD contains all the videos and live footage within the main feature. So, it's not a surprise that it includes only one extra. However, the 23-minute "So You Wanna Be a Superstar" TV special provides a nice glimpse at the thoughts of the band. Much of the information here is promotional, with some silly statements by fans about the wonderful talents of Cypress Hill. It is interesting to hear each member speak about the progression of their careers and the business side of music. They also talk about the rock influences in their music and how it played a role in their newest album - Skull and Bones.
B. Real, Sen Dog, and DJ Muggs all came from poor backgrounds, and they obviously had some money problems after Cypress Hill made it big. Each one is making tons of money, but seems to have gained some perspective about not spending it all at once. Considering the craziness of their music and videos, they all seem surprisingly like low-key and humble guys. Granted this is a promotional special, so they have to act a certain way, but it's usually obvious when bands have huge egos. Cypress Hill seems to really appreciate their success, and they realize from tough times that it can disappear quickly. This disc features an excellent overall presentation, with animated menus and creative interludes between each video.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsThroughout their career, Cypress Hill has created a distinctive style that has influenced numerous bands throughout the '90s. Even with some less-than-stellar tracks and their ridiculous marijuana stage antics, they remain a musical force today. This DVD is a must-have for die-hard Cypress Hill fans and is worth a look for music lovers interested in the band.
Dan Heaton 2001-02-26