Every Cypress Hill album ranked from worst to best

Cypress Hill
(Image credit: Michael MIller/Sony)

Best known for certified bangers like (Rock) Superstar and Insane In The Brain, Cypress Hill have long been recognised as the hip-hop act most likely to appeal to rock and metal fans. It is also undeniably true that they are rap’s most passionate advocates for the legalisation of marijuana, and they have lots and lots of songs about that very subject. But beyond the usual stoner cliches, Cypress Hill have also amassed a deep and diverse collection of albums full of everything from gritty gangster rap to unhinged psychedelic rock. MCs B-Real and Sen Dog are the perennial party-starting stoner sages; DJ Muggs is a maverick sonic magician, conjuring all kinds of weird and wonderful backdrops and funky beats. 30 years in, they are still entirely unique. And very stoned. So while you definitely don’t smoke something illegal, here are the Hill’s studio records, rated from slightly baked to higher than the sun. 

A divider for Metal Hammer

10) Till Death Do Us Part (2004)

It would be unfair to say that Cypress Hill lost their way in the mid 2000s, but their seventh album didn’t quite spark the weed-addled imagination in the same way that their earlier classics had. Only partly produced by DJ Muggs, Till Death Do Us Part offers a curious mixture of mildly eclectic West Coast hip-hop and several more adventurous tunes. In particular, Cypress Hill dabbled in thunderous dub reggae on Ganja Bus (featuring Damian Marley) and skanking punk-funk on single What’s Your Number (featuring Rancid’s Tim Armstrong). A ragbag of occasionally brilliant ideas, this still trounces most comparable records from the same period.

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9) Rise Up (2010)

After a surprising, six-year wait, Cypress Hill’s eighth album continued the genre-hopping approach of Till Death Do Us Part, but with much more red-eyed pizzazz. Notable for collaborations with Tom Morello, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda and System Of A Down’s Daron Malakian, Rise Up is easily the most rock-friendly album in the Hill’s catalogue. On Shut ‘Em Down and the title track, Morello and B-Real effectively laid the ground for their later Prophets Of Rage collab, and Malakian’s Trouble Seeker is simply berserker. Again, the more straightforward hip-hop tracks – with the exception of the twitchy funk of Light It Up – are overshadowed by the rowdy curveballs.

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8) Skull & Bones (2000)

Released at the height of the nu-metal explosion, Skull And Bones cemented Cypress Hill’s reputation as rap’s ultimate crossover crew. A double-disc deal, with one album dedicated to full-bore LA hip-hop and the other to raucous rap-rock, it captures a feverish creative moment in time. Everybody knows and loves (Rock) Superstar, but thanks in part to contributions from guitarist Dino Cazares and bassist Christian Olde Wolbes (both then members of Fear Factory), songs like Valley Of Chrome and Can’t Get The Best Of Me were equally great and startlingly heavy. On the rap-only first disc, Eminem pops up on (Rap) Superstar and the copycat-dissing Stank Ass Hoe is as funky and obnoxious as it sounds.

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7) Stoned Raiders (2001)

Barely a year after the release of Skull And Bones, Cypress Hill embarked on their second dalliance with the nu-metal world. Roughly split between rock-friendly anthems and gleaming, modernist hip-hop, Stoned Raiders brims with energy and swagger. It opens with the balls-out Trouble: a deeply funky groove with big rock crescendos and a killer chorus. Elsewhere, Amplified and It Ain’t Easy conjure new ways to mix loud guitars and boom-bap beats. In truth, the best songs on Stoned Raiders are the monochrome sonic assault of DJ Muggs’ Southland Killers and the P-Funk shimmy of Red, Meth & B (featuring, as you might imagine, Redman and Method Man): timely reminders that Cypress Hill are old school to the bone.

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6) Cypress Hill IV (1998)

Following up the universally acclaimed III: Temples Of Boom was never going to be easy, but Cypress Hill came pretty close to pulling off a second successive masterpiece. Home to some of the most hectic and heavy tunes they have ever released, Cypress Hill IV is the real starting point for its creators’ love affair with the rock and metal worlds. From the fast and furious breakbeats that propel the likes of Checkmate, Riot Starter and (Goin’ All Out) Nothin’ To Lose along, to the snotty gallows humour of Dead Men Tell No Tales and 16 Men Till There’s No Men Left, IV was a dark, heavy record with a mischievous streak. Marijuana fans were well served by wobbly, stoned stomp of Dr. Greenthumb, while From The Window Of My Room is gritty street poetry of the highest order.

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5) Back In Black (2022)

Cypress Hill have collaborated with a few producers over the years, but Back In Black is their first album to feature no input from sonic advisor and lifelong alumnus DJ Muggs. Eschewing the esoteric madness of Elephants On Acid in favour of dark, hard and inventive underground hip-hop, Back In Black was produced by red-hot studio guru Black Milk, and his beats come close to equalling the best of Muggs’ efforts over the years. Comfortably half the length of most of the Hill’s albums, their tenth is laudably lean and mean at 32 minutes, and there is not a scrap of filler to be found. The best moments – the heroically stoned Open Ya Mind; the menacing Certified; the lurching, percussive Break Of Dawn – are as strong as anything they have rolled and smoked over the last 30 years. 

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4) Black Sunday (1993)

If Cypress Hill’s debut had alerted hip-hop to a potent and funky new force, Black Sunday dragged everybody else into the smoke. Plenty of people had written songs about huffing ganja before, but never with this much enthusiasm or with such dedication. An entire album of songs devoted to smoking, selling and growing weed, with LA gang violence hovering like a ghost in the background, Black Sunday is a non-stop barrage of shout-along classics. Also notable for sampling Black Sabbath’s The Wizard on I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That, the second Hill joint confirmed DJ Muggs’ off-kilter genius and turned Cypress Hill into heavyweight contenders. It’s also brilliant to get really, really stoned to. Apparently.

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3) Cypress Hill (1991)

Three decades on, Cypress Hill’s trademark blend of rugged beats and thick weed fumes is so familiar that it would be easy to forget how original they were in 1991. The first major Latino hip-hop act, they thrived on DJ Muggs’ ingenious arsenal of samples and effortlessly funky old school beats, and sounded like nothing else on Earth as a result. When combined with B-Real’s nasal flow and Sen Dog’s gruff threats, the effect was pure magic, whether one was baked to fuck or not. Famously covered by Rage Against The Machine, How I Could Just Kill A Man is a stone cold classic, while every other track on their self-titled debut added more potency to the pot. The ‘90s was an insanely fruitful decade for rap music, but this still stands out as a unique and subtly revolutionary piece of work.

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2) Elephants On Acid (2018)

With giant clouds of legalised weed fumes billowing in their sails, Cypress Hill were in imperious form on their ninth album. Produced entirely by DJ Muggs, it is by far the most imaginative record the band have ever made. Awash with esoteric samples, collected by Muggs on his travels, songs like first single Band Of Gypsies and the hazy, tripped-out Jesus Was A Stoner owed as much to the outer limits of psychedelic rock as they did to traditional hip-hop. With B-Real and Sen Dog revelling in their newly lysergic surroundings, the Hill delivered plenty of hardcore beats via the likes of Put ‘Em In The Ground and Warlord, but it was Muggs’ wild experiments that glued everything together. Elephants On Acid delivered on the psychotropic promise of its title, and it really does sound great when you’re stoned. Or so we hear.

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1) III: Temples Of Boom (1995)

After two albums that nonchalantly conquered both the hip-hop and alternative rock realms, Cypress Hill had little to prove on their third album. Released almost at the exact midpoint of the ‘90s, III: Temples Of Boom is one of countless classic rap records that emerged during that decade, but in terms of sheer originality, it tops the lot. Eschewing the quirky, sing-song style of Black Sunday in favour of a darker, moodier approach, DJ Muggs' wild imagination blossomed in real time. From noirish, jazzy cuts like Illusions, Let It Rain and the genuinely menacing Boom Biddy Bye Bye, to rugged anthems like Throw Your Set In The Air and Strictly Hip Hop, Cypress Hill’s lyrical and musical world was reaching its peak potency. As ever, the THC content is off the charts: everything from woozy intro Spark Another Owl to the paranoid swirl of Red Light Visions reeks of the stuff, but these stoners have sharp teeth, too. If there is a more brutal diss track than No Rest For The Wicked (wherein Cypress Hill give Ice Cube a verbal slapping for (allegedly) stealing one of their hooks), we would love to hear it. Meanwhile, guest cameos from Wu-Tang alumni RZA and U-God kept the straight-ahead hip-hop crowd happy. As one of the album’s bonus tracks would have it, Everybody Must Get Stoned to this timeless masterpiece.

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Dom Lawson has been writing for Hammer and Prog for 14 intermittently enjoyable years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He listens to more music than you. And then writes about it.