"We need to make this happen again." Cypress Hill make hip hop history with the London Symphony Orchestra (and a former member of Fear Factory) at the Royal Albert Hall

What started as a gag on The Simpsons becomes a part of music history as hip hop legends Cypress Hill celebrate their 1993 breakthrough Black Saunday with a full orchestra

Cypress Hill London Symphony Orchestra Royal Albert Hall
(Image: © Andy Paradise)

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Given The Simpsons' Nostradamus-like levels of prediction, it was only a matter of time before the show started manifesting all new creations and team-ups. Make no mistake; Cypress Hill's team-up with the London Symphony Orchestra is a direct result of a 28-year-old gag and as the clip plays out to signal the band's arrival, a clash of cultures that was once an out-there joke has officially become a part of hip hop history.

Only, flagging it as a purely hip hop phenomenon feels redundant to both parties. Given Cypress Hill's own flirtations with everything from funk and rock to their role inspiring nu metal, the group have always been open to experimentation, while the classical world has plenty of instances where it has been used to create all-new takes on contemporary music ranging from Ibiza and Haçienda Classiçal to all-metal orchestral compositions like this year's Bright & Black.

Adding to the historical value of the show is the fact that Cypress Hill are performing their 1993 chart-topping breakthrough Black Sunday in full. The album that officially established them as a leading force in hip hop, the opening triple-salvo of I Wanna Get High, I Ain't Goin' Out Like That and Insane In The Brain has the crowd up and dancing, shouting along with absolute glee.

The symphonic underpinnings are evident, but subtle to start with. Orchestra conductor Troy Miller leads a steady ebb-and-swell for I Want To Get High while B-Real and Sen Dog's percussive vocals take centre stage, though the person having the most fun appears to be former-Fear Factory bassist Christian Olde Wolbers, who stands next to B-Real bopping along on a massive double bass with intense enthusiasm throughout the show.

From there, the show settles into a comfortbale groove. Between the songs the symphony often strike up their own instrumentals that add a John Williams-like cinematic element to the show, as if Indiana Jones or Darth Vader are going to pop up amidst the narratives of gang violence and drug use in Los Angeles. Songs like When The Shit Goes Down get a funk-orchestral makeover that feel like they wouldn't be out of place alongside Isaac Hayes' Shaft, while the Dusty Springfield sample of Hits From The Bong feels utterly massive being played by a full orchestra. 

But when Black Sunday wraps up it's the excess material that feels most transformed. Much like with Metallica's S&M, when Cypress Hill start picking out choice cuts from their catalogue they're able to hone in the songs that benefit most from a symphonic reimagining.

Dr. Greenthumbs and Illusions are turned into gorgeously resplendent, Bond-like pieces, while live rarities Money and Cuban Necktie are given an extra swell of drama and grandeur, the orchestra even contributing to a sped-up How I Could Just Kill A Man and almighty close for (Rap) Superstar.

With some genuine reinventions, hits-aplenty and an overall air of triumph, Cypress Hill's team-up with the London Symphony Orchestra feels less like a fun one-off and more like a bold new direction for the group to explore going forward, especially considering the group have already performed similar orchestrally-underpinned shows in the States. 

Clearly, the sentiment is shared by B-Real, who muses towards the end of the show "We need to make this happen again, yeah?" Before adding that the Temples Of Boom 30th anniversary is just around the corner. Strictly hip hop? Not on your life - this is music that transcends boundaries and sets a whole new standard for crossover - much as the album did in 1993. 

A to the K, Cypress Hill and the London Symphony Orchestra live at the Royal Albert Hall 10 July '24 - YouTube A to the K, Cypress Hill and the London Symphony Orchestra live at the Royal Albert Hall 10 July '24 - YouTube
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Cypress Hill setlist Royal Albert Hall July 10 2024

I Wanna Get High
I Ain't Goin' Out Like That
Insane In The Brain
When The Shit Goes Down
Lick A Shot
Cock The Hammer
3 Lil' Putos
Legalize It
Hits From The Bong
What Go Around, Come Around Kid
A To The K
Hand On The Glock
Break 'Em Off Some
Dr. Greenthumb
Colombian Necktie
How I Could Just Kill A Man
(Rap) Superstar

Cypress Hill London Symphony Orchestra Royal Albert Hall

(Image credit: Andy Paradise)
Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.