Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Brain” and the trouble with getting everything you want
Getting the morning’s writing going with a bit of ranting about whatever’s up next in the ol’ random playlist, this is A.M. Shuffle. Today: Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Brain.”
There are certain songs you can identify within a millisecond of their beginnings. “Insane in the Brain” is one of ’em. Sure, you’ve got the short spoken-word intro:
But right after that, boom, that jittery horse-neigh, and we’re off into one of the most distinctive songs the ’90s. It is literally, not figuratively, literally impossible to hear this song and not start bobbing your head and shoulders. Try it. Seriously. Did you stay still? You’re lying.
Cypress Hill rolled out of Southern California in a haze of weed smoke right about the same time as Snoop Dogg and the rest of the next generation of gangsta rappers were bulldogging their way through the popular consciousness. This was a time when rock music was splintering into shards, alt-grunge on one side, hair metal that didn’t know it was already dead on the other.
Cypress Hill hit the lottery with this song, though that metaphor obviously underplays their talent. These guys weren’t one-hit wonders (though it may seem like that to the minivan-bumpin’ crowd). B-Real’s whiny delivery and Sen Dog’s throaty followup were strange, but not so strange that this song couldn’t be used in a kids’ movie (with all offending drug/murder references scrubbed, of course).
What happens to groups that break that big? Some fracture and never really recover. Some completely sell out and become what they think the public wants. Some retreat, terrified, back into the indie shadows. Cypress Hill kept on keeping on; they’re still out there today, working with everyone from Slash to Pitbull to Deadmau5. That’s the best way to go, sticking to what you do best while riding a nice wave of royalty checks. Hey, if nothing else, it got them a gig with this guy: