Friday, July 18, 2014

The Ice Cube Effect: Amerikkka's Most Wanted

Welcome to the first part of "The Ice Cube Effect." After having his first four albums in my ride a few weeks ago (as of this post), as well as officially naming him my #11 favorite MC of all time, I decided to do this series on Cube to show my love and respect for all of his contributions to hip hop since the first N.W.A. album. Speaking of N.W.A., a good portion of his early days was with the crew as we all know, but I'll go into more details, respectively, when I get to the "Death Certificate" album. So without further delay, we'll start things appropriately with his 1990 solo debut, "Amerikkka's Most Wanted."

After his somewhat bitter departure from N.W.A. in 1989, Cube headed to New York, linked up with Public Enemy's production team, The Bomb Squad, in a history making event, marking the first time a West Coast MC hooked up exclusively with East Coast producers for a full album. Although this was mentioned years after the fact and as recently as June 2014, Cube stated that he initially wanted Dr. Dre to produce the album, but with the tension between Cube and N.W.A. at a fever pitch, it was not likely. Think about that for a second: a still in his prime Cube over continuously evolving Dre production for his debut. Either way, Cube over Bomb Squad was bound to be dope as hell. Let's head back to 1990.

Release date: May 16, 1990


1. Better Off Dead
The album intro starts off shockingly, pun intended. In what could be looked at as a "dream sequence," Cube is taken out of his jail cell, pending execution. He's asked, "do you have any last words?", and he infamously replies, "yeah I got some last words, fuck all y'all!" And without no further delay, this leads us into.....

2. The Nigga Ya Love To Hate

"They say keep em on gangs and drugs/You wanna sweep a nigga like me, I'm under the rug/Kickin' shit called street knowledge/Why more niggas in the pen than in college"

Well, this is certainly the first in a LONG list of apply titled songs in Cube's career, and what better way to begin this album. He may not say the things you want to hear, but you're definitely going to get what you need to hear, and that comes across very clearly in this banger.
*5 out of 5*

3. AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted

"One time can't keep the law in order/Cause everybody's goin crazy for a quarter"

"I think back when I was robbin' my own kind/The police didn't pay it no mind/But when I start robbin' the white folks/Now I'm in the pen wit the soap on a rope/I said it before and I'll still taunt it/Every muthafucka wit a color is most wanted"

The second set of lines define this song in a complete nutshell. At this point (and some may argue it still happens today), the black man was unjustifiably stereotyped and targeted in America, specifically by police forces all over the country (it was notorious in California). Cube illustrates this point VERY well, including the notion that to those on the outside looking in, there was not a care in the world when blacks would rob other blacks, but all hell would break loose the moment a black person robbed someone white. That's not justifying robbery by any means, but it calls into question unfair stereotypes and profiling that blacks, specifically the men, have dealt with for decades. Powerful.
*5 out of 5*

4. What They Hittin' Foe

Clocking in at 1:23, this is one of the shortest songs on the album, but leave it to Cube to tell a story about a simple dice game gone wrong, complete with a beginning, middle, and end. "What they hittin foe" exactly.
*4 out of 5*

5. You Can't Fade Me/J.D.'s Gafflin

"..... Cause all I saw was Ice Cube in court/Payin' a gang on child support/Then I thought deep about givin' up the money/What I need to do is kick the bitch in the tummy/Naw but then I'll really get faded/That's murder one cause it was pre-meditated"

Cube tells an interesting story here. He finds himself meeting up with a woman named Carla, someone he hasn't seen in a long time. In the midst of this, she informs Cube that she's pregnant and the baby might be his. Ouch! You can tell in the first verse that Cube was caught off guard with this revelation, plus he "was only out for one thang." When you look at the lines above, you know that he's in the wrong for even thinking about kicking the woman in the stomach, but then thinks the better of it and decides against it. Smart man. Over the course of the second and third verses, he goes from getting drunk and sleeping with the woman to being around when she goes into labor, only to the find out that it wasn't his baby all along. She tried to "set him up for the okey-doke," but it didn't work. Cube certainly knew how to flex his storytelling muscles.

(J.D. "gaffles" as we head into song 6.)
*5 out of 5*

6. Once Upon A Time In The Projects

The storytelling continues on, and they seemingly get more hilarious and dope with each passing song. According to Cube, you won't get anywhere with (or get anything out of) dating a "girl from the projects." My words for this can't quite do it justice, must be heard to be appreciated.
*5 out of 5*

7. Turn Off The Radio

"Turn on the radio, take a listen, what you missin'/Personally, I'm sick of the ass kissin'/What I'm kickin' to you won't get rotation, nowhere in the nation/Program directors and DJs ignored me/Cause I'm simply said fuck top 40/And top 30, top 20, and top 10/Until you put more hip hop in"

Wow, talk about a song that's MORE relevant today than it was in 1990. The lines above reflects Cube's frustrations with hip hop's presence on the radio at that point. As the 80s came to a close, R&B was a major presence on radio and TV, and when it came to hip hop, most of what made the air were your more commercial/mainstream acts, such as MC Hammer, Young MC, even Vanilla Ice, etc; things would balance themselves out as the 90s wore on thankfully. Cube's words make much more sense in retrospect and those same frustrations he had then, most of us have those now in reference to hip hop overall. 
*5 out of 5*

8. Endangered Species (Tales From The Darkside)
Featuring Chuck D

"How the fuck do you figure/That I can say peace and the gunshots will cease/Every cop killing goes ignored/They just send another nigga to the morgue/A point scored, they can give a fuck about us/They rather catch us wit guns and white powder/If I was old, they'd probably be friend of me/Since I'm young, they consider me the enemy/They kill 10 of me to get the job correct/To serve, protect, and break a nigga's neck" -Cube

".....Nobody knows but I suppose the color of my clothes match the color of the one on my face/As they wonder what's under my waist" -Chuck D

This was another powerful song talking about the depiction (and others would say decimation) of the black man in America. This was also the perfect song to feature an appearance from Public Enemy's Chuck D.
*5 out of 5*

9. A Gangsta's Fairytale

Leave it to Cube to take some of the most recognized and popular storybook characters ever and bring them all into one complete fairytale with a gangsta twist. Cube's storytelling never ceased to amazed me.
*5 out of 5*

10. I'm Only Out For One Thang
Featuring Flavor Flav

If you don't know what "one thang" is referring to in this song, you have no business reading this review. As evident by the Flavor Flav verse, this was meant for laughs and it did that in spades.
*4 out of 5*

11. Get Off My Dick & Tell Yo Bitch To Come Here

"Now I was taught, back on my block/That you don't ride on nobody's jock"

Whether Cube meant this (in reference to the song title) literally and/or figuratively may still be up for debate after all these years, however, the line above sums up this very brief song.
*4 out of 5*

12. The Drive By
This skit sees a couple of guys get smoked by Willis Lenchmob. Not only that, but the guys subject to the drive by had Young MC's "Bust A Move" playing in their ride. I remember The Source magazine's 100th issue talking about this (as part of their top 10 skits) and hilariously saying "anyone bumpin' Young MC deserved to get smoked," lol.

13. Rollin' Wit' The Lench Mob

Very good song right here, straight rollin' wit the lench mob. Not too long afterwards, Cube would take a 4 man team under his wing, which would also be known as Da Lench Mob (J-Dee, T-Bone, Shorty, and Maulkie). See what I did there?
*5 out of 5*

14. Who's The Mack

"Mackin' is the game and everybody's playin"

 "..... I'm a mack in my own right, when it comes to rhyme and rap/Cause all I do is kick facts"

Pimpin/mackin in its very form is rooted in one thing: money. Cube makes the points that whether it's through rapping, sex, etc, there's no shortage of how far people will go for the almighty dollar. The horns, saxophone, and flute also make this one smooth and mellow, still with a gangsta touch though. So ask yourself, who's the mack.
*5 out of 5*

15. It's A Man World
Featuring Yo-Yo

This classic is notable for a few reasons: 1) it was the debut of Yo-Yo in what was her finest performance on the mic, and 2) it's the best "battle of the sexes" song ever in hip hop in my view. As a man, I can't fully be biased on this one, because in addition to Cube, Yo-Yo makes some very good points herself, especially when she counters Cube by saying "the world wouldn't be a damn thing without a woman's touch."  To her credit, she goes toe to toe with Cube, countering everything he says and not backing down one bit. THIS is a textbook example of how to do a "battle of the sexes" type song.
*5 out of 5*

16. The Bomb

The album closes with the same intensity as it opened. Cube just flows with such breath taking, ruggedly smooth ease is almost an understatement. 
*5 out of 5*

As a debut, this was incredible when it debuted in 1990 and it's still incredible in 2014. Cube was clearly at the top of his game and hadn't even reached his prime yet. Throughout this album, he was rugged, smooth, charismatic, informative, provocative, controversial, and smart with his lyrics and delivery. The Bomb Squad supplied him with some of the most hard hitting production you'll ever hear, and this "East-West" match was made in heaven. You'll also notice that Cube threw not one subliminal shot at N.W.A. and he was SO good here that it was easy to forget that he was part of that group. This would change a bit when I get to the "Kill At Will" EP. Overall, this is 5 star album all the way, timeless material in every sense of the word. One hell of a debut.

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