Record Review - 2 May 06 2004

On its eighth album, California-based Latino-rap trio Cypress Hill displays a commendable reach. Jolts of Jamaican dancehall (“Ganja Bus”) and Esquivel-ish space-lounge pop (“One Last Cigarette”) contribute to a series of engaging backing tracks. Likewise, a crew of agreeably diverse guest performers (Latin rapper Tego Calderòn, Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong and dance-rock outfit Prodigy among them) keeps Till Death Do Us Part from staying mired too long in a particular groove.

So it’s disappointing that the album’s grasp proves so short. Although numbers like the grabbing opener, “Another Body Drops,” and “Money” credibly build a sense of creeping menace, the effect is nothing that Eminem, Dr. Dre or DMX — or Cypress Hill, for that matter — haven’t long ago done better. And even the stronger, more distinctive numbers — notably the horn-driven, bilingual “Latin Thugs” and “Busted in the Hood” (riding a low-key, ska-guitar spike) — eventually sink beneath the weight of the trio’s unimaginative, dated gangster posturing. “What’s Your Number?” trades the guns-and-bank-robbers cliche for the bravado of a sexual come-on, but not even Armstrong’s usually stirring way with a recycled Clash riff is enough to render the results memorable. Ultimately, the album’s title — Till Death Do Us Part — refers to Cypress Hill’s dogged and unfortunate dedication to a played-out genre that only serves to dull the group’s evident skills.

Cypress Hill performs at HiFi Buys Amphitheatre Fri., May 7. 7:30 p.m. $19.97-$35.