Cypress Hill’s B-Real infuses his debut with a lot of the same dark atmospherics and ghetto rhymes that helped his group to success in the 1990s and tries to carve out his own alcove as a valuable solo performer while he’s at it.
Smoke N Mirrors, originally slated for a summer 2007 release and then bumped to a summer 2008 release only to finally be released in February of 2009, features production from Alchemist, Scoop DeVille, and Psycho Realm’s Sick Jacken. B-Real also produced several cuts, dipping even further into the creative process to give the record the exact vibe he was aiming for.
B-Real brings his group’s trademark musical flexibility to Smoke N Mirrors, gracing us with notes of gangsta rap, Spanish guitar, and reggae with the inclusion of the one and only Damian Marley.
With a 17-year legacy to fortify, B-Real is fierce and primed. His delivery is firm and crisp, allowing his trademark tenor to rip through couplets and bars unwaveringly. When he alternates between Spanish and English on some of the cuts, he adds more layers to his already-impressive battery.
In some places, the jams are straight West Coast. Take the Scoop DeVille-produced “Don’t Ya Dare Laugh.” Young De and Xzibit join B-Real for some vintage rhyme-trading over a smooth beat perfect for Sunday afternoons cruising with the top down. Check out the smart sample of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner,” too.
The self-produced “Fire” is a standout cut that allows Damian Marley tonnes of space to work his game alongside B-Real. It ought to be a dance hall treasure.
Snoop Dogg drops in on the B-Real-produced “Dr. Hyphenstein,” a taut cut spiked with a fresh jam and a nice club beat. And “6 Minutes” bounces with Alchemist’s jazzy production and an excellent off-kilter hook that meshes flawlessly with B-Real’s pitch.
Regrettably, B-Real doesn’t truly do much to crack new ground lyrically. The mandatory marijuana and “gangsta shit” cuts are all here, but at times it gets a bit monotonous. When “Get That Dough” and “Stack’n Paper” cover such similar ground, it can get a tad humdrum.
Smoke N Mirrors will work out just fine for fans of Cypress Hill’s sundry musical jams and tight beats. Those looking for B-Real to take those elements and craft a magnum opus will have to wait until the California-based rapper brings a bit more substance to the counter.