Gig review: Cypress Hill at O2 Academy Leeds

Twenty-five years ago west coast rappers Cypress Hill, flushed with the success of their eponymous debut record, unleashed '˜Insane in the Brain' on an unsuspecting audience.

Cypress Hill

Infectious to its core, this hip-hop stoner anthem, with the aid of some heavy MTV rotation, managed to garner mass appeal including a rock audience, propelling the song into the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 whilst helping hip-hop to regain momentum after momentarily being stopped in its tracks by the onset of Grunge.

‘Black Sunday’, arguably the band’s definitive long-player from whence ‘Insane’ came, cunningly fused hip-hop, jazz and hard rock with Latin and Middle Eastern textures. The ensuing cartoon gangsta rap seemed percolated with catering sized clouds of industrial strength dope smoke; even the Kalashnikovs feted in ‘A to the K’ would’ve only fired bullets at 4mph after lying around at chez Cypress for a week. Nevertheless, ‘Black Sunday’ resonated with the music buying public, shifting upwards of 3 million units, not to mention helping a few ancillary snack sales at all-night garages along the way.

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Those turned on back then and more besides stayed loyal through the intervening years, turning out in force to see their heroes tour their ninth record, the Muggs produced ‘Elephants on Acid’, ensuring tonight’s O2 performance being a sell-out, part of a pretty lengthy European tour culminating in (surprise surprise) Amsterdam, just before Christmas.

It’s also something of a coup for Cypress Hill to have secured talent of Michael Schwartz, aka ‘Mix Master Mike’, as the show DJ. We’re talking turntablist royalty here, wheels of titanium in fact, Schwartz expertly getting a packed house bumping and grinding showcasing some dazzling skills ahead of the arrival of B-Real, Sen Dog and Bobo for ‘Band of Gypsies’, the Arabic tinged lead single from their new record. One has to say ‘Gypsies’ proves a bit of a banger, as does ‘Crazy’, played later in tonight’s Cypress set, the welcome return of Muggs to the production desk clearly reaping dividends.

Predictably, debut album staple ‘Hand on the Pump’ and ‘When The Shit Goes Down’ from ‘Black Sunday’, both bring the house down as Real and Sen trade vocals, the former’s nasal drawl still sounding not unlike Choo-Choo from Top Cat, the latter earning sartorial house points when donning his famed bucket hat. Speaking for myself, it’s the ‘Black Sunday’ numbers I’ve come to hear more than most and ‘I Wanna Get High’, ‘Lick a Shot’, ‘Cock the Hammer’, ‘I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That’, and of course ‘Insane in the Brain’, are all greeted with raptures, everyone else seemingly on the same page.

In all likelihood ‘Elephants on Acid’ will have experienced a deserved upsurge in interest following tonight’s show; from a personal point of view, you’re already preaching to the converted.