“How I Could Just Kill A Man” by Cypress Hill (1991)

When discussing the great hip-hop producers of all time, certain names come up repeatedly; Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, Pete Rock. All are deserving of the respect sent their way. There are others, though, who are just as talented and influential, but don’t get as many props. One of those producers is Muggs, best known as the DJ and beatmaker behind the decks for Cypress Hill.

Truthfully, the “G-funk” sound that Dre perfected on The Chronic was an amalgam of the soulful instrumentation that became a hallmark of DJ Quik records and the neck-snapping eerie quality found on Cypress Hill’s debut album. Because lead rapper B-Real’s nasally voice and the group’s obsession with violence and weed (another wrinkle that Dre clearly had his eyes on when making The Chronic) got old really fast, folks forget how blown away hip-hop heads were with The Hill’s debut, which was released in the middle of ‘91 but really started to bubble as the calendar pages flipped to ‘92. Key to the success of that debut was the double-A side single of “The Phuncky Feel One” and “How I Could Just Kill A Man”. Both songs take the noisy aesthetic of Public Enemy records (as perfected by The Bomb Squad) and marry it to lyrics that are darker and more menacing. Kinda makes you forget that stoners are supposed to be all about “peace and love, bro”.

Hip-hop had rarely sounded so menacing as it did on “How I Could Just Kill A Man”, and in order to do that, Muggs had to create a beat that played off of B-Real’s cartoon-y vocal style. From that distorted guitar (backwards?) loop that runs through the chorus to the insistent backbeat, swiped from Lowell Fulsom’s “Tramp”, to the abrupt change after the second chorus (it sounds like you’ve just entered the most fucked-up amusement park you’ve ever been to), to the various pieces of ear candy darting in and out of the mix (radio static, screams, someone mumbling “what does it all mean?”)–”Kill A Man” is a high-water mark in rap production. And to think it was created by a white dude from Queens for two Mexican rappers from L.A. to rhyme over.

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