Now, after becoming Hollywoods most bankable actor thanks to his Barbershop and Friday franchises, Ice Cube returns to his first artistic love, rapping. Laugh Now, Cry Later, the multi-platinum, award-winning music icons first solo album in six years, simmers with celebration, as well as the rage, reflection and introspection that are the hallmarks of timeless music. I feel Laugh Now, Cry Later is the state of the world, of America, of urban America, of hip-hop, Ice Cube explains of his seventh solo album. It seems like everybody is playing and nobody's worried about anything.
On the explosive Scott Storch (50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Beyonce) produced Why We Thugs, Ice Cube blasts an oppressive system that cripples Americas ghettos and fosters the perpetual ruin of such areas as South Central, Compton and Long Beach, Los Angeles metropolitan areas that have been war zones for decades.
Now, with the impending release of Laugh Now, Cry Later, his first solo album released on his own Lench Mob Records, Ice Cube is on top of his creative game and relishing in his ability to make his latest album at his own pace and on his own terms.
I'm putting my money where my mouth is because theres nothing a major label can do for me that I cant do for myself, he says. Not being signed to a particular label, putting it out myself, not having to worry about what a company or anyone else has to think about the record, being able to just go in and do it how I feel it with no timelines or deadlines, it made me comfortable. I was able to recommitment myself to rhyming and rapping. That all molded the way that this record sounds, which is important because I want my records to last the rest of the year when they come out.
Truth be told, Laugh Now, Cry Later will last well into the next decade.
Three decades ago, B-Real, Sen Dog, and DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill sparked a trip that left popular culture stoned, stunned, and staggering in anticipation for more. In 1988, the trio certainly didn’t look like any other hip-hop collective, sound like anything on the radio, or smoke like any homie, headbanger, hasher, or hippie. Instead, they rolled up intense rhymes, hard rock attitude, smoked-out psychedelic production, and Latin swagger into a one-of-a-kind strain on the legendary double-platinum Cypress Hill in 1991.
Not to mention, they made history as “the first Latino American hip-hop recording group to go platinum.”
Next up, 1993’s Black Sunday bowed at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, earned a triple-platinum certification, garnered three GRAMMY® Award nominations, and became “the highest Soundscan recording for a rap group at the time.” The platinum Cypress Hill III: Temples of Boom followed in 1995 as 1998’s Cypress Hill IV went gold. In 2000, they merged heavy metal and hip-hop like no other on the platinum Skull & Bones with iconic assists from the likes of Eminem, Deftones, and more. Stoned Raiders  and Til Death Do Us Part  emerged on its heels, while Rise Up  scored a Top 10 debut on the Billboard Top 200. Along the way, they sold over 20 million albums, packed venues around the globe, and embedded themselves in pop culture as immortalized by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019 and getting animated for an episode of The Simpsons. They would also be sampled by everyone from JAY-Z and Black Eyed Peas to A$AP Rocky and Vic Mensa with Chance the Rapper.
Among countless hits, VH1 dubbed “Insane in the Brain” one of the “100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop.” Also, who could forget the trailer for Denzel Washington’s Academy® Award-winning turn in Training Day soundtracked by “Rock Superstar?” It would also certainly be fair to say the bilingual “Latin Lingo” broke down doors for “Bodak Yellow” and “Despacito.” Additionally, the guys waved the flag for legalization and cannabis culture from the onset of their career and via the highly successful Smokeout Festival brand.
However, some things don’t change, and Cypress keep forging ahead. That brings us to the group’s ninth full-length studio album, Elephants On Acid. Comprised of a 21-track-interlude mix, this opus plays out like a rap odyssey around the world, through other dimensions, and back to the hood. For as far as the vision stretches, the union of B-Real, Sen Dog, and Muggs felt familiar in the best way possible. Muggs commenced collating possible ideas for a new record as early as 2013. After dreaming of an out-of-body experience as a man with an elephant head, the vision percolated for the producer. At the same time, he crafted beats around the world, recording in Egypt between spending time alone in King Solomon’s Tomb, making beats in Jordan after floating in the Dead Sea, and experiencing Joshua Tree with third eye wide open. Bringing these ideas back home, B-Real and Sen Dog added their respective truths via one hard-hitting verse after another on tracks like the single “Crazy,” “Band of Gypsies,” “Stairway to Heaven,” and more. Longtime percussionist Eric “Bobo” Correa contributes drums to “Locos” and remains a key force in the touring lineup. The legendary Mix Master Mike will also join the group on tour—both he and “Bobo” notably logged separate stints with Beastie Boys and now will be with Cypress. In the end, Elephants on Acid represents all things Cypress through and through. — Rick Florino, July 2018
One of the premier West Coast gangsta rap artists of the early '90s, DJ Quik was a rapper as well as a producer whose career carried on well into the next decade, as he put his career aside and began working primarily as a beat-maker. Born David Martin Blake on January 18, 1970, in Compton, California, DJ Quik made a name for himself on the mixtape circuit during the late '80s, compiling tapes also featuring fellow rappers AMG, 2nd II None, and Hi-C. On the basis of these mixtapes, he was signed to Priority Records and made his album debut with Quik Is the Name (1990), on which he produced all the tracks (as he would on each of his solo albums) as well as rapper. Quik Is the Name proved quite successful, spawning two hits ("Tonite," "Born and Raised in Compton") and going platinum.
Mac Dre. Too $hort. E-40. These are some of the names that come to mind when you think of Bay area rap. Now, San Francisco native, Gilbert Milam Jr., better known in the rap game simply as, Berner, has his eye set at being the next great artist to put on for the Bay. Starting off participating in rap battles at local coffee shops and open mic nights in the San Francisco area in 2007, Berner took things to the next level by turning his passion into his career.
This story truly embodies every aspect of the phrase “grassroots.” After creating his own label, Bern One Entertainment, Berner soon after released his debut album, “Track Money & Pack Money,” a joint effort with fellow Bay Area rapper, Equipto. A true testament to his never-ending grind, Berner has released 10 independent albums, several of which have charted on Billboard’s “Top Rap Albums” chart.
In March 2012, Berner teamed up with Wiz Khalifa and signed to his Taylor Gang Records, joining the thriving roster which includes the likes of Chevy Woods, Juicy J, Lola Monroe, Courtney Noelle, Tuki Carter and more. “Urban Farmer,” Berner’s first collection to be released on Taylor Gang Records, was released on October 2, 2012 and quickly took the Internet by storm. “Urban Farmer” captures the essence of Bay Area rap on tracks such as “Shut Up (feat. Chris Brown & Problem).”
With an impressive list of artist collaborations on his resume, ranging from rap legends Bun B and Wyclef to Chris Brown, Curren$y and even fellow Taylor Gang members Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J, Berner is showing no signs of slowing down in the near future. In fact, he’s just getting started.
Always one to master multiple entrepreneurial ventures, Berner isn’t stopping at just music. He has two lifestyle/street clothing lines in the works with “FreshKo” and “Cookies,” as well as his own line of hemp water, appropriately titled “H20.” All told, Berner is letting actions speak louder than words as he is on his way to becoming the future of the Bay Area rap scene.
And he’s making sure you hear him, loud and clear.
Despite the circumstances, Bash never allowed himself to get caught up in the world of bling and gangsters. Instead he stays true to his own personal style and love for music and words. "I'm no hard ass gangster wanting to step on toes and I'm no corny cat either," says Bash. "I'm a player and hustler and I love money and love women and love a good time."
Baby Bash's distinctive, all-encompassing style and his distinctive look make him a refreshingly original artist, someone who isn't easily categorized. "I don't really consider my music rap, hip-hop, pop or R&B," says Bash, who is now based in Houston. "It's just a fusion of everything, and you don't really know what it is, what I am. People don't even know what nationality I am, which I like. I'd rather be a little mystery than have all my business out."
Now, in 2007, history seems to be repeating itself. On the heels of the independent success of his "Mamacita" single -- a radio smash in Los Angeles and throughout Texas, among other major locales, in 2006 -- Baby Bash is gearing for the release of his first, yet to be titled, Arista Records album set for release this summer. The first single going to radio on May 28th is "Cyclone," featuring T-Pain and produced by Lil Jon.
Bash is working with longtime collaborators Happy Perez (Frankie J) and Ryan Tedder (Timbaland, Bubba Sparxxx). Working with Perez, in particular, holds a special significance for Bash. "It's my recipe, my formula," he says. "I've been using it ever since I met Happy Perez. He did 'Suga Suga,' 'Obsession.' Without him, there'd be no Baby Bash or Frankie J. Happy P is the one that made those beats that blew up for us."
Amazingly, Baby Bash considers his lengthy track record a mystery of sorts. "I'm still trying to figure out how I got here," he says. "I consider myself a regular dude who just happens to know how to do music."
And one who does it very well.