Monday, August 18, 2014

The Ice Cube Effect: Death Certificate

Release date: October 29, 1991

All songs produced by Ice Cube, Sir Jinx, and The Boogiemen

"A mirror image of where we are today" (circa 1991)

1. The Funeral (Intro)
Quite the unique intro, but look out for what appears next.....

2. The Wrong Nigga To Fuck Wit

"Caps gotta get peeled/Cause the nigga you love to hate still can kill at will/It ain't no pop cause that sucks/And you can new jack swing on my nutts/Down wit the niggas that I bailed out/I'm platinum bitch and I didn't have to sell out/Fuck you Ice Cube, that's what the people say/Fuck America, still wit the triple K/Cause you know when my 9 goes buck/It'll buss ya head like a watermelon droppin 12 stories up/Now let's see who drop/Punk muthafuckas tryin to ban hip hop/Fuck R&B and the Running Man/I'm the one that's there, wit the gun in hand/Make sure before you buck wit, duck quick, punk/Cause I'm the wrong nigga to fuck wit!"

The lines above from the first verse pretty much says it all about this high powered, amped, appropriately titled opener; notice how he throws out the jabs to R&B and Pop music, silly dances  and still remaining gangsta in one fell swoop. Awesome stuff.
*5 out of 5*

3. My Summer Vacation

Cube heads from L.A. to St. Louis for a summer vacation. Although the story has a few humorous moments, there's a message here, in that no matter where you went in this country, the gangbanging/hustling mentality was present, much to the detriment of the surrounding communities. In a couple of lines that I've always felt was notable, Cube says "my homie got shot, he's a goner black/St. Louis niggas want they corner back/Shootin' in snowy weather/It's illegal business, niggas still can't stick together" (much emphasis on that last line). I'm sure he couldn't wait to get back home.
*5 out of 5*

4. Steady Mobbin'

Related image
"..... And when dealin wit Da Lench Mob you gots to know steady mobbin is not just the name of this jam, but a way of life" 

Yes indeed, well said Cube! Oh man, I went crazy when I first heard this. I remember back in the day, my mom's then boyfriend Wade had this single on cassette, and I played it constantly, actually more than he did. The "B-Side" to this was "Us," and trust me, coverage of that one is coming up as well. Classic right here.
*5 out of 5*

5. Robin Lench
Funny skit featuring a "gangstafied" impersonation of Robin Leach.

6. Givin' Up The Nappy Dug Out

You know Cube has a funny story for us when a woman is involved. He's about to take this woman out, but her father is having none of it. He thinks his daughter is "wholesome and innocent," but in true Cube fashion, he has another side of the story, even if it is a little graphic to some. Cube set the record straight that behind closed doors, daddy's little girl is not so little.
*5 out of 5*

7. Look Who's Burnin'

Cube talks about the dangers of unprotected sex and stresses the importance of using condoms ("you shoulda put a sock on the pickle"). I challenge you to find a song by any hip hop artist over the last 10-15 years that has talked about this still serious topic.
*5 out of 5*

8. A Bird In The Hand

Cube comes from the perspective of a teenage father, fresh out of high school, not satisfied with just a regular job ("Always knew that I would clock G's/But welcome to McDonalds may I take your order please/Gotta serve you food that might give you cancer/Cause my son doesn't take no for an answer"); so instead he turns to a life of drug dealing, almost unsure as to whether he should do it or not, as well as calling out the Federal Government for their lack of assistance when it came to the Black community ("Do I have to sell me a whole lotta crack/For decent shelter and clothes on my back/Or should I just wait for help from Bush/Or Jesse Jackson and Operation Push). Informative song here.
*5 out of 5*

9. Man's Best Friend

"Cause if you run up and try to play mine/I'd rather have a AK than a fuckin canine/Cause if you shot ya gun and my dog tried to fetch ya/Me and the dog's goin out on a stretcher"

"Here's the reason why Ice Cube pack/Just in case the little punks try to jack/I can't put a muthafuckin' pitbull under a coat, in the small of my back"

"So this goes to all y'all intruders/Beware of the owner cause the owner is a shooter"

Cube makes the case that when it comes to protecting yourself and everything you own, a (registered) gun will come in handy quicker than any kind of dog you may have. I advocate defending yourself, so in this case I see his points. The song didn't overstay its welcome at all, it was fast paced and straight to the point.
*5 out of 5*

10. Alive On Arrival

More tight storytelling from Cube here. While hangin' with J.D., they "get served by a blue car," with Cube getting shot (and falling down) in the ensuing chaos. He arrives at the hospital, and while in clear pain, he's questioned by the police about the incident (imagine that); but in the end, with the bullet just a hair from his heart, all he's given is a band aid and an IV and he eventually checks himself out 10:00pm (or in Cube's words, he was audi 5000). This was a great lead in to the "Life Side," but first.....
*5 out of 5*

11. Death
Spoken words by Khalid Abdul Muhammad.

"A vision of where we need to go"

12. The Birth
As mentioned by Mr. Muhammad, this would be "the rebirth" heading into the second half of the album. He also delivers more words on this one.

13. I Wanna Kill Sam

Oh man, my words can't quite do this incredible song justice. I will say that Cube lets out his frustrations with one of the cornerstones, if you will, of American might: Uncle Sam. From religion to targeting Black men for help with the military to taxing, Cube essentially covers 200-400 years of oppression in 3:22. Remarkable.
*5 out of 5*

14. Horny Lil' Devil

Cube pulled no punches when calling out "the white man" on this one. Whether it was having their eyes on women of color (or men of color for that matter), Cube makes it clear that the Black community was not having it. Even in the most simplest form, this was about Black pride and awareness.
*5 out of 5*

15. Black Korea

This has to be the most powerful, 47 second song in hip hop history. In true Cube fashion, he called out Korean store owners at that time for the needless racial profiling of African Americans, not just in California, but across the country. This was seen as controversial at the time (even with some accusing Cube of racism), but when you listen closely, depending on your point of view, this man predicted the infamous 1992 L.A. riots one year before it happened, not necessarily saying what would happen, but what could happen. This song was relevant in 1991 and it remains relevant in 2014.
*5 out of 5*

16. True To The Game

I did a little research on this song and the following accurately describes this song:

*it laments the trend of hip hop artists crossing over into the mainstream (this remains present today for all the wrong reasons)

Cube also calls out those who not only switch/change their style and sound for a much bigger audience (still remains present today), but those who commit such acts while turning their noses up at their own people (namely Blacks). Cube makes a GOOD point in that said artist(s) shouldn't be surprised when the "black folks don't want you back." Overall, the message is clear: be the person you are and stay true to yourself and what you do. A LOT of artists to emerge in hip hop in recent years, even some veterans, could learn from a song like this.
*5 out of 5*

17. Color Blind
Featuring Deadly Threat, Kam, the Maad Circle, King Tee, and J-Dee

Although this song focuses on the peace between gangs, I feel this was more or less a showcase for artists appearing alongside Cube. All involved did a very good job.
*4 out of 5*

18. Doing Dumb S***

From the beginnings of school life to the teenage years of 13 to approaching adulthood at 17, Cube is reflective here, doing dumb shit as he said. I'm sure most of us can testify to doing things in our youth/teenage years that were fun at the time, but when you look back as an adult, it was mostly dumb (I can testify to that myself). I'm quite sure all of this is legit and Cube is not rapping from the perspective of someone else. Very good song.
*5 out of 5*

19. Us

"We can't enjoy ourselves, too busy jealous at each other's wealth/But comin ups just in me, but the Black community is full of envy"

"And all y'all dope dealers/You was bad as the police, cause you kill us/You got rich when you started slangin' dope, but you ain't built us a supermarket/So we can spend the money with the Blacks/Too busy buyin' gold and cadillacs"

"..... Died last year from gang related crimes/That's why I got gang related rhymes/But when I do a show to kick some facts/Us Blacks, don't know how to act/Sometimes I believe the hype man/We mess it up for ourselves and blame the White man/But don't point the finger you jiggaboo/Take a look at yourself you dumb nigga you....... And you'll sit and scream and cuss/But it's no one to blame, but US"

"Us, will always sing the blues/Cause all we care about is hairstyles and tennis shoes"

Loyal reader, I would LOVE to post this song word for word, but in the interest of time, I won't do that. This right here is one of my top 5 favorite Cube songs ever (possibly #1). This was the B-Side to the aforementioned "Steady Mobbin" single and I bumped it constantly. While Cube paints this verbal picture as only he can, the emphasis here is that when it come to most things that directly affect the Black community, especially in a clear negative light, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Talk about a song that makes its points very well and is still relevant today like it was in 1991. Awesome.
*5 out of 5*

20. No Vaseline

Oh wow, this one has quite the backstory. Most of the following has been documented by Dr. Dre, and it's his version of the events that I've largely stuck with. So, after the release of 1988's "Straight Outta Compton," one day all 5 members of N.W.A. were having some type of meeting/gathering. Ruthless Records president Jerry Heller gives all involved $75,000 checks (basically an advance on the next album) plus an accompanying contract. Up until that point, everything was done on a "hand shake agreement," confirming that N.W.A. was not a group officially. Heller then says that "you guys are not a group until these contracts are signed, you can't have these checks until these contracts are signed." Dre, Ren, Eazy-E, and Yella all signed, Cube didn't ("Cube was the smart one at the time, he didn't sign the contract", Dre continued). Cube's refusal to sign sparked tension with N.W.A., which also intensified a bit when Cube departed to embark on a solo career. Continuing on, when you listen closely to Cube's "Amerikkka's Most Wanted" album, he didn't take any shots at any of his former crew (confirmed as such in an interview by Cube a few years after the fact), but that didn't stop the remaining members of N.W.A:

"Started wit' five and yo one couldn't take it/So now there's four cause the fifth couldn't make it/The numbers even, now I'm leavin" -Dr. Dre (100 Miles And Runnin)

Cube shot back with:

"And if I jack you and you keep comin'/I'll have you marks 100 miles and runnin' (Jackin' For Beats)

N.W.A. released "Niggaz4Life" in 1991, and they stepped up their shots at Cube, most notably on a skit titled "Message To B.A.", in which they liken Cube to a Benedict Arnold (aka a traitor) and have alleged fans essentially throwing verbal dirt all over his name, and it doesnt' end there. They continued on the song "Real Niggaz" from there:

"Yo, be original, your shit is sloppy/Get off the dick you muthafuckin' carbon copy" -Dr. Dre

"They got the nerve to cuss/Only reason niggas pick up your record is cause they thought it was us" -MC Ren

"Tryin to be like us, sound like us, dress like us....." -Eazy-E

You didn't think a high caliber MC like Ice Cube would take this laying down did you? Not only did he not ignore this onslaught from N.W.A., but he shot back in the most vicious way possible with three aggressive verses aimed at them on "No Vaseline." Delivering said verses over a slightly reworked version of the classic "Dazz" by Brick, Cube pulled NO punches at all with his words, even ruffling a few feathers with some for referring to Jerry Heller as a "jew/white jew" in a controversial move. Honestly, when I'm asked what is the best diss song of all time, this classic usually is the first one that comes to mind. As Mack 10 later said, "after 'No Vaseline' that was it," and he was right, as N.W.A. justifiably did not respond and I don't think they would've had anything that could counter the hot Cube. Like you have to ask what this gets.
*5 out of 5*

My God, this is one incredible album, one of my personal favorites, in my opinion Cube's best. He completely fired on all cylinders;  DOPE lyrics and production, quite possibly the best album of 1991. He touched on all of the important events of the day with such charisma, aggression, and conviction that it would've been hard to ignore. I mentioned the word "relevant" more than once during this review, and with good reason, because overall this album is as relevant today as it was in 1991. Outstanding job.

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