What a difference a year — and a stiff album — makes. On 1995’s III (Temple of Boom), Cypress Hill went one toke way over the line; in one of pop’s most blatant fits of paranoia and delusion, L.A.’s leading pothead rappers dissed everyone even remotely in their path, especially fellow hip-hop acts who’d supposedly betrayed them. Looking to rebound from that disaster, Cypress return with Unreleased & Revamped, a nine-track, marking-time EP that finds them working with — surprise! — hot-streak rap ensembles like Fugees and A Tribe Called Quest.
The collaborations aren’t merely timely and market savvy: They succeed in blowing the bad haze (if not the recurring gun imagery) away from Cypress Hill’s music. The remixes of ”Boom Biddy Bye Bye” and ”Illusions” — by Fugees and Tribe’s Q-Tip, respectively — work wonders. The airy, stripped-down rearrangements, which hint at the beautifully spacey grooves of trip-hop, soften the claustrophobic belligerence of the original recordings. Exhaling a series of melodic aahs throughout ”Boom Biddy Bye Bye,” Fugees frontperson Lauryn Hill softens the nasal-conges- tion style of Cypress’ B-Real. The EP’s only previously unreleased track, the 1994 outtake ”Whatta You Know,” is typical of Cypress Hill’s latter-day bad trip; its tale of a burglar leads into a don’t-trust-your-homeboys message. It’s the only buzzkill on an otherwise welcome sonic lube job. B+