My Bahian astrologer host-mother tried to lecture me yesterday about the consequences of smoking marijuana, just as our unemployed / semi-professional surfing neighbors settled into their standard pre-dinner blazing session, seeping through our dining room wall. After she ranted for a good ten minutes about “maconha,” I decided to voice my opinion that smoking marijuana does not have as many health consequences as using alcohol or cigarettes, taking a good minute to try to make fun of her 6th grade health class statement that weed is a gateway drug. This did little to calm her high-pitched whine, as she then insisted that all pot-smokers she’s encountered also drink and smoke cigarettes. I told her she was generalizing. She told me, “Wash the dishes,” albeit in Portuguese.
Then, as if feeling some sort of contact high or reacting to the normal spiritual vibes she gets from the astros, my host-mom started blasting Bob Marley. Trying to be a little passive-aggressive, I retaliated, playing Cypress Hill’s “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” out of my tiny netbook speakers. This was an ineffective maneuver, as her speakers were more powerful and she could not understand the meaning of B-Real’s lyrics. Unsatisfied with my failed attempt to be fresh, I returned to intense web surfing and e-mail checking, quickly coming across an e-mail from a scene editor desperately looking for a music review.
So, I began to search for newly released albums that no Yalie — save for the editors of scene, the Bullblog, the Yale Herald and Volume, the non-journalistic founders of Modern Love, and the trolls that like to smoke and grind with them — would possibly listen to, despite my utter praise for the band’s experimental drones, undoubtedly concealing beautifully nonsensical lyrics that are, you know, fucking sonically effusive and shit. As a Yale Herald writer stated in a recent music review, “I like to imagine a scene when I listen to music,” the scene that takes shitty pictures on $15 disposable cameras because they show SO MUCH LIFE and hasn’t lifted a weight or kicked a ball since the first day of 11th grade gym class, before they found out they could take the physical education “writing alternative.”
But then I had a change of heart. Below Cornershop’s CD listing on Metacritic were two gorgeous words — Cypress Hill. I imagined another scene: a cruise around suburban Long Island in my brother’s short-lived Ford Bronco as Big L’s “Ebonics” shakes the truck’s old steel frame, before the mixtape skips and switches to Cypress Hill’s “Hits From the Bong.” Two undercover cops in a white Chevy Impala hear the car bumping and spot my brother’s Phish bumper sticker, prompting them to turn on their siren and pull us over, filing out of the car in bright Hawaiian shirts that scream of Trader Joe’s employees. They ask my brother to step out of the car without mentioning any traffic violation. Bad cop opens my door and starts sniffing the carpet. “Smells like weed,” he says.
I, 16 with eyes glossed over from my pink eye medication (no longer contagious), nervously say, “No, it smells like cigarettes.”
Bad cop replies, “You don’t smoke weed do you? Pot? Mary Jane? Sticky Icky?”
“No,” I reply. “I’m 16.”
Without giving my brother a ticket or an explanation for the highway stop, the cops get back in their Impala and speed off.
With this scene in mind, I sat down to listen to Cypress Hill’s new album, “Rise Up.” The Bronco in my mind continued to bounce to the album’s openers “It Ain’t Nothin’” and “Light it Up,” scratched vinyl and sparse guitar hooks making my head nod. But then, the group tries to borrow a bit too much from featured artist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, with the noisy but empty anthem, “Rise Up,” which failed to motivate me to “rise up to the higher ground.” The album follows in the same manner, trying to find its footing in prog and rock samples, before settling into staples of fratmusic.com’s 4/20 playlist (“Pass the Dutch”) and aggressive hooks with spectacularly cut samples and thick snare hits (“Take My Pain”). Just as I get caught in the hard funk hook of “Shut it Down,” also featuring Tom Morello, the band threw me a new curve ball with the album’s closer, “Armada Latina,” grooving under the mashup of Marc Anthony and an incredible sample of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” only sidelined by a throwaway verse by Pitbull.
As the album ended, my host-mom came out of her bedroom, her Bob Marley shuffle long done. Doing her best interpretation of a pothead, she stared at me lying on the couch.
“Você fuma maconha?” She asked.
“Aqui, não,” I replied.
She smiled and returned to her room, ready for sleep.