Soul Assassins 3: Death Valley
In the last five years, Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs has done over a dozen joint albums with the likes of Mach-Hommy, Rome Streetz, and CRIMEAPPLE, and in 2023, he teamed up with Madlib and Meyhem Lauren for the album Champagne for Breakfast. Still, the rapper/producer’s Soul Assassins compilations have always been special: They're a chance for him to bring in whatever MCs he wants to on his own terms. Previous installments included the likes of Mobb Deep, Goodie Mob, Dr. Dre, KRS-One, and Kool G Rap. But the first two of the series dropped in 1997 and 2000. Soul Assassins 3: Death Valley arrived accompanied by a film with director Jason Goldwatch (Pharrell, Kid Cudi, Action Bronson), dropping weeks later. Whether Muggs is working with established greats or lesser-known names, he always brings his A game—and the rappers return the favor with inspired performances of their own. CeeLo Green turned in a memorable verse with Goodie Mob on the original Soul Assassins’ “Decisions, Decisions,” and he returns for the haunting “Jokers Wild.” Scarface and Freddie Gibbs sound right at home over the ominous bells and plodding drums of “Street Made,” and “Sicilian Gold” is a perfectly luxurious backdrop for a sharp Ghostface Killah and Westside Gunn to show off their jewels and opulent wares. Boldy James (who makes three appearances on the album) gives vivid imagery of packing a Ford Escape with weight on “We Coming for the Safe,” and T.F comically refers to blood-splattered boots as “tie-dye Timbs” on the aptly titled “Shell Casings.” Slick Rick even tries out a double-time flow alongside Method Man on “Metropolis,” and “Dump On Em” places B-Real with Ice Cube and MC Ren for as satisfying a West Coast anthem as you'll hear in 2023. It's not just a list of stars, as compilations may seem. There are a variety of different vocal timbres here, and DJ Muggs has the beatmaking chops and decision-making necessary to to get the most out of each of them.