In 1991, just a few years after Public Enemy released the single “Bring the Noise,” Cypress Hill, a hip-hop trio out of South Gate, near Los Angeles, released a debut that followed that exhortation to astonishing effect. The rapper B-Real delivered his anti-cop, pro-weed rhymes in a taunting, nasal tone, countered by the abrupt barks of Sen Dog. DJ Muggs created beats that were inventively off-kilter and put high-pitched whistles and sirens under and around hooks that were more than earworms — these tracks got under your whole skin.
Directed and narrated by Estevan Oriol, a photographer and filmmaker who’s been around the group since its inception, “Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain,” named for one of its signature songs, is an often engaging chronicle of the group (which has sold more than 20 million albums), one that is probably best appreciated by fans. B-Real has harrowing tales of his experiences in gangs as a teenager. As he and his cohorts started to make music, they imposed an impressive discipline on themselves, doing two or three years of woodshedding at DJ Muggs’s home before seeking out a recording deal.
Their early music was suffused with threat. One of the group’s first hits was titled “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” and its debut album kicked off with an anti-police song titled “Pigs.” Their stance morphed to some extent as they rapped about what they were in favor of — which is prodigious marijuana use. Whatever the mode, the exhilarating abrasiveness of the Cypress Hill sound held true. And in the contemporary interview segments here the members are modest, soft-spoken, thoughtful and hardly at all burned out.
Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes. Watch on Showtime.