Speaking of Ice Cube...

Ice Cube used to dominate my tape deck (I was late changing to ceedees...), and I rode with him hard from the NWA days all the way through his fourth solo album Lethal Injection, after which I pretty much lost interest. His albums became increasingly about regional beefing and celebrating other rappers I was totally uninterested in. I didn't really care for the G-funk sound of post-Chronic gangsta rap, either (which in my late-eighties-obsessed mind all sounded like inferior reiterations of classic EPMD), but of course Cube loved it.

But I thought for the most part, Cube's first four solo records were brilliant and represented a rapper at the top of his powers. I was still buying into Cube's testosterone swollen verbal assaults when I bought Lethal Injection, and I found songs like Make It Rough, Make It Smooth exemplified his tendency to contradict himself and look good doing it.
Speaking of which, I recently found myself in the middle of a spirited but friendly virtual round table about Cube's transformation from gangster rap boogieman to cuddly family movie favorite, with all the requisite questions about keeping it real and how the mighty have fallen. While I can honestly say I stopped paying attention to Cube's movies a long time ago (no, I have no intention of watching Lottery Ticket), I must also admit I'm not the least bit bothered by his transition into a hip hop father figure. Besides, we know why he's doing it.  The same reason Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence and every other person does it: there's more money in entertaining parents and kids. If we can say Cube's appeal with hardcore heads was waning (it was), then it makes sense he would look to see where his bread was buttered elsewhere.

The thing I can say about Cube is that he continues to have it both ways, recording some hardcore rappity rap music (albeit records I had no interest in buying) while also building his brand as a film mogul and star. Only Will "the biggest box office draw on Earth" Smith has flipped this "Hip hop to Hollywood" shit better, fiscally speaking. Besides, anyone who saw the brilliant ESPN: 30 for 30 episode Cube directed about the Raiders-NWA-hip hop connection would gladly give him a pass on the wack stuff (I do, at least!)...

Anyways, getting back to the Cube I actually care about, I still think my favorite record of his is his EP Kill At Will, because it features the best Ice Cube song ever made: Jackin' For Beats. This is the kind of prototypical hip hop song that Cube didn't do enough of, in my opinion. Before you start frontin', I know his full-length solo debut Amerikkka's Most Wanted is his best record, littered with as many timeless joints as anyone has a right to make in a whole career, but I'll take Jackin' For Beats over any of those individual songs. But that's just me. Seriously though, Cube was the man back then...

He managed to put gangster commentary next to militant commentary (again, contradicting himself with style) much more effectively on his solo albums than he did with NWA. Classic hip hop for me is often characterized by this combination of aggressive, street/"gangster" shit and conscious/militant shit. Ah, it's funny to listen to cube rhyming alongside Big Daddy Kane on the Public Enemy classic Burn Hollywood Burn -which probably got Ice Cube some listeners from the militant set- now that Cube is such an entrenched part of the Hollywood establishment.  But I honestly don't care about the contradiction, if there is one. Can you just make some DOPE movies, Cube... Please?


Robert Trujillo/Tres said...

Wow! Couldnt agree more on the contradications. As a teacher I used "summer vacation" helllla times to explain CIA-Drug trafficking connections to my students in their hood! "Kill at Will' will always hold a special place in my heart because that was the first Cube tape I bought after NWA. "Death Certificate" is still my favorite LP.
Im down w/ him "growing up" too, many refuse to grow up and expand. He has his contradictions fasho, but I could watch "Barbershop" over and over again. "Are we there yet"?NOPE!!!!
And dude, I remember buying a LA Raiders hat arnd that time, Im finna check that flick out!! Ima repost!

Samax said...

thanks, Tres! "Death Certificate" is a heater... I remember bumping that joint endlessly!

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