B Real
Smoke N Mirrors
(Audio Hustlaz/Duck Down)

As the front man for rap/rock outfit Cypress Hill, B Real hasn’t always gotten his just due. But fresh off the group’s honoring at VH1’s 2008 Hip-Hop Honors, the L.A. native emerges with his solo debut, Smoke N Mirrors, which aims to cement B Real’s 17-year legacy once and for all.

On the Scoop DeVille–produced “Don’t You Dare Laugh,” BR and newcomer Yung De detail a hustler’s life over a vintage-sounding West Coast track, which cleverly borrows from Suzanne Vega’s 1987 dance hit “Tom’s Diner.” The Alchemist provides another sonic gem, with the jazzy “6 Minutes,” where B Real targets rap rookies, spittin’, “He’s young and dumb and don’t sync with the drum/But all the little girls love him ’cause he’s No. 1.” Although the OG holds his own alongside reggae rocker Damien Marley on the self-produced Buddha banger “Fire,” he fails to consistently deliver, evidenced by tracks like the Spanish-guitar-tinged “1 Life” and the obligatory money anthem “Get That Dough.”

Sonically, the funk-filled disc is all California love. It’s just that B Real doesn’t break enough new ground lyrically for the album to go down in the annals of history. What the rapper does manage to accomplish, though, is to create a solid effort minus all of rap’s usual smoke and mirrors. —ROB MORALES