No matter how bad the air quality was in Milwaukee on Thursday night, it was inevitable that hip hop legends Cypress Hill would bring a wildfire’s worth of smoke with them as well. They did, but they also brought a catalogue of 30+ years of hip hop as well, delivering on all fronts.
Breaking a smoker stereotype and starting promptly on 9:30 p.m., the group came out to meet a mostly full BMO Harris Pavilion, with any fraction of seats left open more than made up for by fans behind the seating bowl’s back rail who didn’t pay for tickets. Flanked by a DJ riser and a Eric Bobo’s percussion set adorned with faux cannabis leaves, B Real and Sen Dog hit the Pavilion stage with an energy that didn’t let up throughout the duration of their 90-minute set.
DJ Lord would cut between tracks, more often than not with a blunt in his mouth, and often throw in plenty of surprises instead of the original tracks’ backing beats. Some things would get muddled in the mix, including a genius flip of Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” during “Rock Superstar,” but with bass that made you feel like you were in a modded-out low rider, you didn’t really need that much treble anyway.
Acts with several decades under their belt often figure out a way to work in moments to catch their breath as they age, but there were no signs of that on Thursday. For an hour and a half, B Real and Sen Dog were relentless, as the set ended up being a barrage of 4/20 friendly hits that moved with precision before a track could get stale. While modern hip hop has devolved into an era where live shows are basically glorified listening parties to some, there were no backing vocals anywhere to be found from Cypress Hill, as both emcees rapped without a safety net, not missing a bar. It felt like a bygone era of live hip hop, but also a reminder that there is still some purity to be found in the genre.
90 minutes of mostly cannabis-themed raps should have also reached a breaking point for the crowd, but Cypress Hill didn’t give the Milwaukee crowd a chance to lose their high. Material from 1993’s Black Sunday did especially well, with album cuts “Cock The Hammer” and “A To The K” getting big responses. DJ Lord and Bobo would also break out for a jam, with B Real joining in on percussion sporadically. A mixture of congas and ultra-fast turntable cuts made for both an impressive display as well as one of the more rhythmic portions of the night, as well as a moment that set up the group’s biggest hits. “How I Could Just Kill A Man,” “Rock Superstar” and “Insane in the Membrane” all dropped in quick succession, before a snippet of House of Pain’s “Jump Around” closed out the night on a high note.
There was no loss of enthusiasm on Thursday night from either Cypress Hill or their crowd, and while their biggest commercial hits may have come a while back, their legacy is one that has remained infamous for the latter portion of their career. Shows like their BMO Pavilion headlining set show why they’ve maintained their status, and will likely continue to do so for years to come.