B Real

Smoke and Mirrors

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    7
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After 17 years in the rap game as the lead lyricist of one of the West Coast's most recognizable crews, Cypress Hill, B-Real shows new life on his debut solo album, Smoke and Mirrors. Opening with a "Stylistics" sample given the chipmunk soul treatment, the nasal-voiced lyricist promptly falls into his familiar flow, contrasting the trials and tribulations of the streets with the up-and-downs of show biz success on the title track. Though DJ Muggs is conspicuously absent behind the boards, the production on Smoke and Mirrors is consistently up to par; its 15 tracks conveying nothing but that quintessential California gangstafied funk. The Soopafly-produced "Gangsta Music" is '70s blaxploitation funk reincarnated as 2000s G-Funk. On the head-nod anthem "Don't Ya Dare Laugh," yet another track whose hook borrows from Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner," B and company define Cali as "the home of marijuana" where "streets get hotter than a sauna." And Muggs' prodigy, the Alchemist provides the record's highlight with "6 Minutes," a seething funk-guitar driven track that allows B to compose a cynical treatise on contemporary hip-hop upstarts. Of course, no Cypress Hill endeavor would be complete without a straightforward weed anthem and the honors here go to the dancehall-inflected "FIRE," featuring Damien Marley which sees B switching between English and Spanish rhymes. Elsewhere, he dredges up more familiar gangsta rap themes including money-getting ("Get That Dough," "Stack'n Paper"), those pesky haters ("When They Hate You") and the token sex-for-sport yarn ("When We're Fucking"). As such, Smoke and Mirrors doesn't offer much in the way of originality, but after nearly 20 years on the mike, B-Real has pretty well perfected his niche and his infectious, nasally rhyme flow, and O.G. vetting commentary on the game and Cali-centric beats should be more than enough to keep fans' heads nodding.

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