Second albums are often the true measure of a great band or musical artist. Led Zeppelin II, Santana's Abraxas and Blood, Sweat and Tears' sophomore effort are three classic-rock examples.
Cypress Hill's Black Sunday, released on July 20, 1993, falls into that category.
After breaking out with their eponymous titled 1991 debut, which hit the Top 40 and sold two million copies, Cypress Hill — B-Real and Sen Dog, two Latino guys from California, and DJ Muggs, a white guy from Queens, NY — aimed higher.
Black Sunday peaked at No.1, had a Top 20 single ("Insane in the Brain"), earned two Grammy nominations and sold more than four million albums. To commemorate that achievement, Sony Legacy has released the Black Sunday 30th Anniversary Edition featuring all 14 tracks, plus three remixes, one rarity and a Spanish version of their biggest hit. Legacy calls it "the ultimate vision of Cypress Hill’s masterpiece."
"Hits from the Bong" was a marked departure from the incessant blunt-smoking that took over hip-hop in the early '90s and continues to this day.
Listening to Black Sunday three decades later is a blast. It begins with the ominous siren leading into the opening notes of "I Wanna Get High" and continues with more of the same on "I Ain't Going Out Like That," which includes a Black Sabbath sample from "The Wizard." B-Real's high-nasal vocals contrast with Sen Dog's bass chants as Muggs anchors the tracks with deep beats. This builds to "Insane in the Brain," with B-Real asking, "Don't you know I'm loco?" and highlighted by the Louis Armstrong bridge:
Like Louis Armstrong played the trumpet
I'll hit that bong and break you off something soon
I got to get my props
Cops, come and try to snatch my crops
These pigs wanna blow my house down
Head underground to the next town
They get mad when they come to raid my pad
And I'm out in the nine-deuce Cad'
Yes, I'm the pirate, pilot of this ship
If I get with the ultraviolet dream
Hide from the red light beam
Now do you believe in the unseen?
Look, but don't make your eyes strain
A n***a like me is going insane
Another powerful trio of songs — "When the Shit Goes Down," "Lick a Shot" and "Cock the Hammer" — follow, before the first "Interlude" (replacing "Lockdown" from the original album) and the Latin-themed "3 Lil' Putas." Then it really gets interesting.
My Appearance on "Black Sunday"
Prior to the release of the album, Cypress Hill's management relayed a message to me that Muggs was looking for some recorded speeches about marijuana. I gave them a couple of tapes from my High Times collection (I was music editor at the time). One was from a panel discussion at the 1992 New Music Seminar in New York that featured myself, B-Real and others and was moderated by Steven Blush. That panel veered off into a tangent about weed. My voice on that tape made it onto the ninth track, "Legalize It":
Me: Marijuana plant is a hemp plant
And it's used for many other things than just smokin'
Blush: An acre of hemp produces four times as much paper than an acre of trees
CH: Legalize it
Me: Pot, herb, marijuana
CH: Legalize it
Me: Every denomination, every color, every religion
CH: Gotta legalize it
Even George Washington who grew hemp on his farm
CH: Legalize it
Gatewood Galbraith: Geneses 1:12, I have given you all the seed bearing plants on earth to use
I had no idea my voice would end on the album until I listened to it myself. I was floored. It's my enduring connection to the band. (I also wrote the liner notes, which are 19 facts about hemp.)
The segue to "Hits from the Bong," with a bubbling bong rip and the sample from "Son of a Peacher Man," is just perfect. After extoling blunts — and being featured in High Times rolling one — B-Real and the guys steered towards a safer inhalation method. It's their best "get high" song:
Just got an ounce in the mail
I like a blunt or a big fat cone
But my double barrel bong
Is gettin' me stoned
"Hits" was a marked departure from the incessant blunt-smoking that took over hip-hop in the early '90s and continues to this day. B-Real regularly lights up a huge joint on stage at shows. Joints and bongs became their preferred methods as evidenced by this clever cut.
The last four tracks - "What Goes Around Comes Around," "A to the K," "Hand on the Glock" and "Break 'Em Off Some" - end the song cycle, each solid in thir own right.
The extras consist of new remixes of "Insane in the Brain" by Statik Selektah and a jazzy version of "Hits from the Bong" by Muggs, "Lick a Shot" by Baka Boyz, the Spanish version of "Insane" ("Loco en El Coco") and "Scooby Doo," the B-side of "Lick a Shot" on a rare UK single.
With skulls and tombstones on the cover, Muggs' foreboding soundscapes and the in-your-face lyrics, Black Sunday is a heavy album, but it's also fun thanks to their love of weed. It's just a terrific mix in so many ways.
The Black Sunday 30th Anniversary Edition is being released digitally and in a vinyl format. Order it here starting July 20.
Live Perfornances of Black Sunday
• 7/20 - Mission Ballroom, Denver, CO; featuring the Colorado Symphony Orchestra
• 7/25 - Jacobs Park, San Diego, CA; featuring the San Diego Symphony Orchestra