Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Ice Cube "Amerikkka's Most Wanted" (1990)

American rapper Ice Cube may have a different reputation in this generation, but back in the 90s he was one of Hip Hops finest. He made an explosive debut with N.W.A. on "Straight Outta Compton", an all round classic that set the group on a course for world domination. Cube made a sudden departure from the group in 89 following disputes over his contributions the the lyrical contributions on N.W.A. and Eazy-E's albums. He was the groups most talented rapper and walking away from something as prolific as N.W.A. was a bold move. In retrospect it has served him well. "Amerikkka's Most Wanted" is Cubes solo debut and one of the first rap albums I got my hands on. As a kid I loved this record and having picked it up for the first time in years I was blown away by the lyrical and instrumental content of this record. Its still angry, violent and explosive, and more so feels relevant following the racial unrest in America in response to police brutality. "How the fuck do you figure, that I can say peace and the gunshots will cease? Every cop killer goes ignored, they just send another nigga to the morgue". Not only relevant, but a sad reminder this has been going on for decades.

Cube has it all, voice, flow, lyrics and inspiration. We find him here at his peak, delivering a record fueled by anger and frustration towards racism, police brutality and social injustice, as well as aiming some raps at radio stations and telling stories of life in the wrong neighborhoods. His flow is sublime, a fast yet sturdy pace delivering fueled raps with an audible grace, every word is crisp and easy to follow. The content is even stronger, Cubes story telling is engaging, passionate and structured. Every track keeps you locked in to the stories which unfold steadily. Theres a lack a filler, Cube keeps banging out the rhymes from start to end with many tracks ending with a sudden feeling as Cubes intensity fails to dwindle before the end of the verse. His engaging and charismatic style is genuine, one of the most talented to grace the mic.

Lyrically this record is extremely progressive in the context of a rappers freedom to express oneself. Its no surprise coming from the group who drew FBI's interest with the classic "Fuck The Police" that Cube would kick up the heat with violent and aggressive raps, flirting with sexist and racist themes that would make this record a focus for controversy and censorship, ultimately paving the way for more expressive freedom in the future of Hip Hop. For all thats ruthless or vulgar depending on your perspective, it comes in a relevant and necessary context as Cube raps stories about crack dens, drive byes and a girl from the projects who claims to bare his unborn child. Cubes dynamic story telling here is stark and unforgiving, telling everything how he sees it, not dressing it up for record sales or commercial success, which this record ironically became a huge success at the time. 

Cube's known as a west coast rapper, but on this record we have production from the legendary Bomb Squad who work with Public Enemy. Their contribution is monumental, providing the backing for Cube that makes this record a classic. Their beats are energetic and layered, bringing that unpredictable and dizzying sound, but packaging it up with a flavor that really differentiates the style from their work with Public Enemy. These beats have got bounce, groove, and best of all they are crafted and catered to Cubes input, following his lead and providing plenty of breaks and variants to keep these songs vibrant as Cubes mesmerizing raps suck you along the course of these instrumentals. Its a fantastic chemistry, one we will never hear again, and for all the positives I've talked about, it has to be said the second half of this album is a grade behind the opening 8 tracks, after the comedic track "A Gangsta's Fairytale" the albums sound and tempo varies as production from Sir Jinx doesn't follow the energy laid down by The Bomb Squad, the track "Who's The Mack" even sounds like a prelude to Ice Cubes later releases. Blinding album, the first half of which is pure classic.

Favorite Tracks: First half of album.
Rating: 9/10