Cypress Hill Skull and Bones

It seems that Cypress Hill have forgotten why anyone paid them any attention in the first place. DJ Muggs' downright eerie production coupled with B-Real's intimidating nasal delivery helped the group to deservedly hold down a distinctive and influential lock on the blunted aesthetic. However, the group's recent struggles to remain relevant are painfully evident on this latest release. Showing mere traces of his previous innovation, DJ Muggs continues the pattern he started on his Soul Assassins compilation album of a few years back, managing to perfectly emulate the styles of hot producers. Flooding his tracks with bland keyboards, Muggs issues "Stank A** H**," an anemic Dr. Dre rip-off, while "What U Want From Me" treads dangerously close to the unthinkable territory of a second rate track from Swizz Beatz. Given such lightweight material to work with, it's no surprise that B-Real's bark is worse than his bite and Sen Dog's stilted rhymes just add credence to strictly limit his involvement to hooks. The inclusion of rock-rap tracks on the needless second disc just underlines the unfortunate willingness to follow trends, ironic given the anti-industry stance on the two versions of "Superstar." (Sony)