Written by Alex Brazeau
In what seemed like a bit of a warm-up to the hip hop heavy day planned for later in the week, Cypress Hill was on deck as the second rap concert to play the Claridge Homes stage on day six of RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest. In stark contrast to the performance put on earlier in the day by Tyler the Creator—or at least from what you could see through the clouds of haze smoke surrounding, seemingly, everywhere—this was a much older crowd, one that had swelled to easily three or four times its earlier size in anticipation of the arrival of these rap icons.
With the sun sitting low in the sky, B-Real and Sen Dog took to the stage alongside renowned west-coast hip hop radio DJ Julio G (stepping in for the absent DJ Muggs) and percussionist Eric Bobo, kicking things off with “Get ‘Em Up”, the lead single from their eighth studio album, 2010’s Rise Up. To the delight of everyone in attendance, that was really as fresh as it got in terms of new music from the multi-platinum Latino-American rappers, as they instead chose to take the audience on a nostalgic trip with a mash-up of tracks from their classic albums.
In his high-pitched, nasal-y voice that has become part of the instantly recognizable Cypress Hill sound, B-Real flowed relentlessly with Sen Dog by his side, hitting all the tracks you would expect as a fan of vintage rap and that signature west-coast feel. Their setlist played like a greatest hits album, with songs like “Hand on the Pump”, “How I Could Just Kill a Man”, “Insane in the Brain”, and “Tequila Sunrise”… and that was all before the mid-set cannon of a joint was sparked at center stage.
Named High Times’ Stoner of the Year in 2014, B-Real (along with the other members of Cypress Hill) has done a lot to promote the marijuana culture in the US and, likely, worldwide through the group’s music. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to see them light up—or to see a large portion of the crowd join them—as they worked their way into the second half of their 60-minute set. Dropping tracks like “I Want to Get High”, “Dr. Greenthumb”, and “Hits from the Bong”, we watched these two rap legends bounce around stage as large plumes of smoke rose up from the crowd.
Cypress Hill put on an epic show at Bluesfest, taking both hip hop heads and casual listeners alike on a trip down memory lane to that classic nineties rap sound. Before leaving the stage, however, they took a minute to announce a new album they’ve got in the works, gave Julio G and Eric Bobo the spotlight as they broke it down on the decks and drums, and then closed their set with one of the signature sounds of the era, the rap rock anthem “(Rock) Superstar”. There wasn’t a more fitting closing to remind us all of why Cypress Hill is still a force to be reckoned with—even in their third decade in the game.