In theory, one without the other is like bread without jam. But sometimes in hip-hop, the DJ and the MC are at war, even if the rhetoric is all together-forever. Case in point: Cypress Hill's trackmaster Muggs, and the crew he's hitched to.
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Muggs constructs deeply satisfying music. He boasts a more detailed, and more knowledgeable, rock background than the other, ostensibly straightforward "rock" acts (that is, not black or Latino) doing the rap/rock hybrid. And on Stoned Raiders, the band's newest release, he's fully realized his hip-hop/classic-rock amalgam, this time with none of the artificial rap/rock division that marked Cypress Hill's segregated, two-disc Skull & Bones.
Parts of Stoned Raiders sound as though Led Zeppelin survived into the 21st century and kept evolving; others have the grim, doomed grandeur of Black Sabbath at its best. Flashes of lean boogie and slowed-down speed metal also crop up in the mix. But the beats aren't bogged down in a purely rock thump. Muggs' tracks are never less than rhythmically compelling.
But Muggs is definitely carrying Cypress Hill on his deep grooves. Sad truth about Cypress: The rappers aren't worthy of their DJ. B-Real and Sen Dog's rhymes and delivery rarely rise above the obvious, and the subject matter is predictable. Apparently, people behave toward them in a two-faced manner now that they're famous. They wield 9mms and shotguns. They are unconcerned with what critics say, because they make so much money. They refer as often as possible to earlier hits like "Insane in the Brain" and "How I Could Just Kill a Man." You know the drill. Their vocal delivery lacks the funk, the flash, the flare, or even the convincing mad menace of hard, violent rap's more valuable practitioners.
The tracks, though, remain rich and rewarding -- bass lines thick as a fatty slab of steak, and a darkly textured symphonic spookiness. The coda to "Lowrider" is a fine example of what Muggs has going for him, what with its moody, turntablist swirl overlaid with insistently lazy, pistol-shot percussion, all of it capping a track that incorporates subtly Santana-like Latin guitar and conga flourishes. He's so good at what he does that Stoned Raiders rewards listeners who pay close enough attention to hear what Muggs' partners are cluttering.