This is one of those songs that wasn’t a hit that I’m surprised wasn’t a hit. Even today, you hear it all the time, predominantly in commercials for things like energy drinks and as bumper music on sports talk radio programs. When it came out, it was one of the signature songs of the era, combining rock and rap, which was a thing professional musicians that looked like creeps were doing at the time. This song was everywhere in 2000, or maybe that’s just to me, because I lived in Eugene, Oregon, at the time, and Eugene and Cypress Hill famously have a common interest.
Multi-format songs were a moderately popular experiment in music at the turn of the century, pioneered by Shania Twain, with her poppified/de-countrified singles doing well at pop and AC radio. Except Cypress Hill did more than change a token twangy guitar riff to a token keyboard riff—they subbed out the spoken-word part done by rapper-turned-folk rocker Everlast on “(Rock) Superstar” with one by Eminem, at the time the biggest rapper in the world, if not the biggest pop star. The result was “(Rap) Superstar.” Rock songs about the pros and cons of being a rock star are always popular, like “Juke Box Hero” or “Turn the Page.” Likewise, all rap songs are about how awesome it is to be a rapper.
This song had everything going for it. Cypress Hill enjoyed some name recognition, an excellent track record (the classic “Insane in the Brain,” “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” “Dr. Greenthumb”), and a favorability among the young people for its then-controversial pro-marijuana stance, And they had Eminem on board. (Or Everlast.) Also, it’s a pretty kickass song, one of the few rap-rock mashups from the era that’s aged well.
“(Rock) Superstar” charted at only #18 on the alt rock chart. “(Rap) Superstar” charted at #43 on the rap chart. I do like how in the title the genre of music is in parantheses, ready to be changed out for emerging markets. Had this song been bigger, we could have had “(Klezmer) Superstar” or “(Zydeco) Superstar.”