Thursday, October 17, 2013

Revisiting Westside Connection's "Bow Down"

To begin things, mad props to Brandon "BFresh" Foster for this recommendation, which is more like a revisit, because I honestly haven't bumped this in a long time. 

Take a look at the album cover above. Not only is it powerful, but it also makes a statement, even if it's a bit of arrogance thrown in: We rep the West Coast and we ain't going nowhere, bow down! The origins of the Westside Connection can be traced back to 1995, as Ice Cube, Mack 10 and WC came together for "West Up," which was featured on WC and the Maad Circle's "Curb Servin" album, and that song can be checked out below.

Moving on to 1996, not only was it a COMPLETELY different time in hip hop, but one of the notable things about that year was the tension between the East and West Coasts. In hindsight, this may seem silly, pointless and childish, but at this point, the tension was SO thick you could cut it with a knife. Activist Kevin Powell, who followed this and covered it well, made a good point, in that the "rivalry" sold records, magazines, achieved media attention (which sold more records), and keep in mind the internet was still in its infancy. I guess you can say it was only fitting that Cube, Mack 10 and WC came together in 1996 to release "Bow Down," their first album together as a trio. Another point I want to make before I begin. Mack 10 once said that "Bow Down" was the number one song in the country (a fact), and it received no spins on East Coast radio stations (true). As you can see, this was an interesting time indeed.

1. World Domination (Intro)
This is the "objective" (and introduction) of the Westside Connection, a fitting intro indeed.

2. Bow Down
Produced By: Bud'da

This was a clear statement of demanding respect if there ever was one in hip hop. Not only were they demanding that you "bow down" when you come to their town, they were also demanding you bow down period, end of story. Although this was not a diss in the traditional sense of the East, I don't recall there being any type of response to a song of this magnitude. Either way, it worked big time. And again, keep in mind that as I mentioned earlier, this was the #1 record in the country, and it got NO spins on any East Coast radio stations.

5 out of 5

3. Gangstas Make The World Go Round
Produced By: Ice Cube and Cedric Samson

The Stylistics' "People Make the World Go Round" is NICELY sampled with a gangsta twist, with Cube, Mack 10 and WC completely at home on this track. Appropriately titled too I might add.

5 out of 5

4. All the Critics in New York
Produced By: Ice Cube and Binky

As an admitted "East Coast head," I have to put my bias to the side for this one, lol. Oh man, they went IN on the critics here, but before I talk more about the song, allow me to throw in a few historical tidbits. As far back as the mid-80s, there was always talk of a perceived jealousy/hatred between the East and West Coasts, and I would say a large part of that has to do with sales. A lot of people have said that while the East Coast had more lyrical artists, their records weren't selling as big as their West Coast counterparts, and in a sense that is true. This became even more true, if you will, when Death Row Records blew up in 1992, followed by the releases of classics such as "The Chronic" and "Doggystyle." In addition, when it came to the East Coast's perception of the West (New York in particular, and I'll use the "Welcome To Death Row" documentary as a reference here), it was almost as if an artist from the East would be welcomed with open arms by the West (California specifically), but let a West Coast artist go to do a show in the East, the feelings were not mutual. And as noted by one Kevin Powell, there was a time when East Coast DJs refused to play any West Coast hip hop. So, in this song, you can hear the frustration and anger in the group's voice, and I'm sure as time went on, Cube went back on his statement "the East will never get their respect again." Speaking of going in, WC even threw a shot at the classic "Hip Hop Hooray," saying "can I get a heyyyy, hooooo, fuck that shit!" Wow, as you can see, the tension was indeed thick. Overall, tight song and a blatant "FU" to any and all critics in New York.

5 out of 5

5. Do You Like Criminals 
featuring K-Dee
Produced By: Bud'da

An interesting question here: Do you like criminals? Well, it's a dope song to be sure, and it's up to the listener to make that determination. I remember what the mindset was back in '96, so the answers then likely would've been mixed at best. There's no telling what the answers would be today.

4 out of 5

6. Gangstas Don't Dance (Interlude)

7. The Gangsta, The Killa and the Dope Dealer
Produced By: Bud'da

This very good, apply titled song highlights the crew's nicknames. I also recall a promotional picture having these nicknames on them too, but they probably weren't meant to be on the final album cover we got.

3.5 out of 5

8. Cross Em Out and Put a K 
Produced By: Bud'da

Like you need to ask what this song was about, lol. Cube, Mack 10 and WC are STILL going in on all the naysayers and critics, specifically those on the East Coast. Cube is even sarcastically saying "in about 4 seconds, a killa will begin to speak," which can be taken as a homage AND a jab at BDP's "My Philosophy." It doesn't stop there; he and Mack 10 throw shots at Cypress Hill (more on this on the next track) and WC had a few lines for Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest for some apparent comments he made about not being happy with the "gangsta rap scene" at the time. This is gangsta through and through.

4.5 out of 5

9. King of the Hill
Produced By: QDIII

Oh man, this is probably one of the more underrated/forgotten diss songs right here. Cube wastes no time with calling out names, Cypress Hill in this case. The story goes that Cube had originally wanted Cypress Hill's "Throw Your Set In The Air" for the Friday soundtrack, however, they decided to keep it for their third album, "III: Temples of Boom." Apparently, Cube wasn't pleased with this, and, well, after hearing that same song, he basically jacked their hook and used it for the "Friday" song on that same soundtrack (I'm trying not to say "stole," although others would say that's exactly what he did, and that's fine). One thing led to another, which resulted in Cypress Hill's "No Rest for the Wicked," which then prompted this response. WC, to his credit, decided not to take part in this because he and Sen Dog were cool, so you gotta respect that. On the other hand, Cube and Mack 10 lyrically hold nothing back ("the B in B-Real must stand for bitch," "B-Real, soundin' like he got baby nuts", etc). Mack 10 even said "Sen Dog so wack he ain't even worth dissin." Wow, that had to hurt. Although Cypress Hill did respond with "Ice Cube Killa" (in which B-Real used the "King of the Hill" instrumental), things almost got out of hand, and before it did, Cube and B-Real (as well as Mack 10) squashed the beef in mid-1997.

5 out of 5

10. 3 Time Felons
Produced By: Bud'da

After that previous track, I would say this was a well-timed "breather" of a song. But make no mistake about it, they're still gangsta with it, just look at the song title!

4 out of 5

11. Westward Ho
Produced By: QDIII

Even though it's catered to the ladies, they're still gangsta, lol!

3.5 out of 5

12. The Pledge (Interlude)

13. Hoo Bangin (WSCG Style)
featuring K-Dee, The Comrads and Allfrumtha 1)
Produced By: Ice Cube
I remember there being an alternate version of this song, plus it had a video, which included Cube, Mack 10 and Yo-Yo. Of course, I remember seeing that video for the first time and really liking it. This "WSCG Style" version is dope, and a good way to close this album.

4 out of 5

Although "Bow Down" and to an extent "Gangstas Make The World Go Round" were hits, this album is still quite underrated today. The production was the familiar hard-hitting West Coast sound at the time, a true cross between ruggedly smooth and gangstafied dopeness. Cube hadn't sounded this aggressive since "The Predator" and I feel this album has WC and Mack 10's finest moments on the mic, and that can be attributed to being alongside a veteran like Cube as well as the dope production. As mentioned, this was released at a time when the tension between the East and West Coasts was at an all-time high. This album also set out to prove that West Coast artists were just as good as their East Coast counterparts as if the "Death Row era" didn't prove that already, but I understand where they were coming from. Overall, I gotta go with a 4.5 star rating for this album. For those that haven't heard it, I strongly recommend it and if you own it but haven't played it in a long time, revisit it, especially "King Of The Hill." 

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