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In 1990 Ice Cube turned in one the of the greatest rap albums of all time.
Previously, Cube had been the chief songwriter in N.W.A., but after the band's Manager, Jerry Heller, had tried to cut him out of money that he was rightly owed for his contribution to the group's debut LP, Straight Outta Compton, he simply up and left. In my opinion it was the greatest move Ice Cube ever made as his song writing was allowed to flourish.
Almost entirely produced by Public Enemy's production team, The Bomb Squad, each track is an absolute pleasure to listen to. This was back in the day when rap music meant something and the artist in question had more freedom over which songs they could sample. Just some of the musicians sampled here include Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Parliament. This only confirms the regrettable truth that rap music has gone down the pan since record labels and musicians have put tighter restrictions on the work that they own.
The opening The Nigga Ya Love to Hate is as fierce a recording as Ice Cube ever made. A testament to the thoroughly diverse list of musicians that he sampled, it proves to be the perfect album opener. Sampling George Clinton and Steve Arrington, Cube's lyrics glide effortlessly over the 3 minute running time. The chorus of, "F*ck you Ice Cube!" is genius and has Cube placing his tongue firmly in his cheek.
In my opinion the highlight of the LP is Once Upon a Time in the Projects. A funky sample from songstress Betty Davis is the essential element of the song and the story that Cube relays is hilarious. Again, the relationship forged between the beats and thoughtful lyrics is something that modern pioneers of this genre should be in awe of.
It is made evident that throughout the album Cube takes an almost freestyle approach to his rapping, which in turn allows a great degree of spontaneity to occur. Nothing sounds excessively rehearsed, and almost twenty years later it still sounds incredibly fresh.
Who's The Mack? is arguably the most refined moment on AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, and it points toward the more polished and glossy songs that Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg would popularise a couple of years later on The Chronic.
Things end with The Bomb. A news anchor reports on a riot that has broken out as Cube delivers one final irate rant. His lyrics reach a peak on this closing tirade and undoubtedly cement his place as the definitive rapper of the early 1990's gangster movement.
If I have any complaint it is about the skits and spoken interludes which appear throughout the album's running time. One must confess that while this recording would lose nothing by their omission, they are far less obtrusive than on other releases from this golden era of rap.
Hopefully I haven't given too much away about this album. I really want everybody who is into this genre to take a leap of faith and purchase some real rap music for a change. By doing so you will see just how fake and commercialised the genre has become.
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"AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" was released in 1990, and came as the debut solo album from Ice Cube. The West Coast rapper had just split from his group, N.W.A , and had chosen to record this one off the hype of this situation. Clearly, based on the mis-spelled title, this one indicates that he is getting rather political with this recording, whilst still retaining his Gangsta Rap side.
1. "Better Of Dead" (Intro)
2. "The N***a You Love To Hate"
To start the thing off you have the rapper getting straight into some hardcore material as he just rips through everything to show that he simply doesn't care what people think of him, and he will do even more to be hated to a greater degree by even more people.
3. "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted"
The eponymous track off the album has him on top of some breakbeat (which was the direction that N.W.A went with their later material), and so at the time it would have been well-received as right in-tune with what was going on out West. Through this he uses it to be political and take on the racist society he claims to live in.
4. "What They Hittin' Foe" (Lude)
5. "You Can't Fade Me"
You having him slowing it all down for this one as he chooses to switch the direction of it all and describe a real-life situation which he went through with a girl that he impregnanted. it is well-done, and shows off his storytelling skills in a new way as he keeps you engaged with shocking lyrics.
6. "Once Upon A Time In The Projects"
The tempo is lowered even more for this one to a screwed pace, and it forces you to really take notice as he changes things again and goes for more themed work to tell another tale about hat tends to go down when he's out in South Central LA. He describes what family life is like in the area, and its content is bound to take amny by surprise.
7. "Turn Off The Radio"
You have this one starting with the rapper going straight in on racial traitors (referred to as "Orio cookies") before you hear some wors from Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing", in which a list of stereotypical black things are listed. From this, Cube uses it to go at these "sell outs" and them gets hardcore on us with more rhymes to add to the hate which he gains.
8. "Endangered Species"
I could feel what Cube was saying on this one, but I didn't think that it really got carried through too well, as it begins strongly with he typical news report-styled interludes (which dominated late eighties/early nineites Hip Hop albums), as the black youth are being named as "Endangered Species", but throughout the tune, littel is said in reference to this situation.
9. "A Gangsta's Fairytale"
Cube does a little something for the kids on this one, at first he begins if as if he's about to drop some MC Ricky D on us, but lays off the "Children's Story" in order to do something much more original as he adapts nursety rhymes and fairytales to a modern urban child. It is well-written, and executed successfully.
10. "Only Out For One Thang" (Lude)
11. "Get Off My Dick And Tell Yo B***h To Come Here" (Lude)
12. "The Drive-By" (Lude)
13. "Rollin Wit The Lench Mob"
You have a little Funk being used for this one as you have him riding on top of some work from the Parliament. From this, you have him able to go to some G-Funk and raps about his crew, the Lench Mob. It is a banger of a track, and a shame that he doesn't get the rest of the gang performing with him as he does it all.
14. "Who's The Mack"
Named after the legendary Iceberg Slim himself, Cube, does a track to display that he has what is needed to get with all of the girls. There is clear use of some Digital Underground in it all, and so it ensures that it is clear that we have moved on from the serious material and gone on to a lot more light-hearted work.
15. "It's A Man's World"
This one is set up as a battel of the sexes as you have Cube arguing his case on how the world is ruled solely by men, but Yo-Yo opposes this, and represents the females. Today, this type of thing may seem a little strange, but it works for the time in the way it is constructed and done.
16. "The Bomb"
To end the album off you have him doing one that I would consider to be a little less engaging than the rest, but with a couple more listens it improves as you have him bringing you in with the use of the classic West Coast joint, "More Bounce To The Ounce".
This is a strong album from the artist, and althouhg there aren't any weak tunes on the thing, there isn't one that stands out as particularly special for it. I believe that this album lacks the energy required because Cube had obviously not been backed by DJ Yella or Dr. Dre on the beats, and instead Public Enemy's Bomb Squad are given a chance to do it. The fact that they aren't true West Coasters holds them back, as they can't capture the true sound of cali, but they did a good enough job.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Better Off Dead
2 Nigga Ya Love To Hate
3 Amerikkka's Most Wanted
4 What They Hittin Foe
5 You Can't Fade Me/JD's Gaffilin
6 Once Upon A Time In The Projects
7 Turn Off The Radio
8 Endangered Species (Tales From The Darkside) - Ice Cube & Chuck D
9 Gangsta's Fairytale
10 I'm Only Out For One Thang - Ice Cube & Flavor Flav
11 Get Off My Dick And Tell Yo Bitch To Come Here
12 Drive By
13 Rollin' Wit' Tha Lench Mob
14 Who's The Mack
15 It's A Man's Man's Man's World - Ice Cube & Yo Yo
17 Endangered Species
18 Jackin' For Beasts
19 Get Off My Dick And Tell Yo Bitch To Come Here
21 Dead Homiez
22 JD's Gafflin's
23 I Gotta Say What Up