What you hear is what you get: enough cusswords, heavy weapons, trails of dope, lapsed-Catholic imagery, and threats to satisfy Cypress Hill's global fanbase....

WHAT YOU HEAR IS WHAT YOU get: enough cusswords, heavy weapons, trails of dope, lapsed-Catholic imagery, and threats to satisfy Cypress Hill’s global fanbase. The formula should’ve worn thin by now, but somehow DJ Muggs still comes out with a sound that’s as fresh, distinctive and competitive as any in current hip-hop. And most of this is down to the inclusion, in places, of faster beats than the prevailing ethos of soporific R&B, plus a sharper focusing of the trademark mid-tempo grooves.

Los Angeles, the City Of Lost Angels, is built on illusions. But the illusions peddled by B-Real (and sometimes Sen Dog) in these rhymes have the corrosive whiff of a hard reality listeners can barely face. The Hill might’ve physically put some distance between themselves and the ghetto, but the ghetto doesn’t relinquish its iron grip that easily.

And from the first sounds, the crackle and static of police radios, to the last noise of blue touchpaper being lit, ‘Cypress Hill IV’ feels like frontline reportage from a sad, intractable war that has no end in immediate sight.

The astonishing opener, ‘Eye Of The Pig’, is a first, of sorts, in mainstream rap. Over slicing beats and a bass thump complete with farmyard noises, B-Real goes deep into the mind of a crooked cop and tells a first person account of the life of a man at the end of his tether, a disillusioned, alcoholic, coke-fiend. Sheer literary licence, but good with it.

Then it’s time for DJ Muggs to show what can be done with his cinematic mind and sample collections of strings, spaghetti western samples, Spanish guitar lilts and a beat library. The overfamiliar strains of ‘Checkmate Fool’ and ‘Audio X’ are aberrations here, as even the lyrically pornographic ‘Freak Bitch’ (a disgusting study in amateur gynaecology and proctology) has a to-die-for groove.

‘Riot Starter’ is all propulsive jolt and Public Enemy siren sound; the apocalyptic ‘Clash Of The Titans’ tolls the bells of war; and the closing ‘When Lightning Strikes’ moves along to a slashing metallic guitar sample.

But Cypress Hill always remember to be Cypress Hill. ‘Dr Greenthumb’ and ‘High Times’ are the now customary adverts for marijuana, while a diss tradition continues with ’16 Men’, literally the group’s current shitlist.

What isn’t so immediately apparent, apart from the career advice to wannabe drug dealers on ‘From The Window Of My Room’, is the moralistic undertow. The streets have always had rules. Cypress Hill now want to introduce some guidelines to keep ghetto youth out of jail. And that’s commendable. If the conflagration isn’t already out of control.