The album is a full-throttle, incessantly engaging affair from first to last song, but there are a handful of tracks that stand out as particularly exceptional and reflect a more varied set of topics than some may have expected upon initial listen. The incendiary opening track The Nigga You Love to Hate finds Ice Cube unloading lyrical bullets toward familiar targets (the police, the media, and suckers that went pop), taking them to task for their hypocrisy and superficiality. Bolstered by a chorus peppered with chants of Fuck You, Ice Cube, he acknowledges how divisive of a figure he is and demonstrates that hes not immune to a little self-deprecation from time to time.
Cubes incisive tale-spinning skills shine through on the Sir Jinx produced Once Upon a Time in the Projects, as he documents a regrettable case of mistaken identity. Co-written by Cubes cousin, Del the Funky Homosapien, A Gangstas Fairytale is arguably the albums most twisted but imaginatively constructed tune. Cube offers up cautionary tales of contemporary inner city life, namechecking the likes of Humpty Dumpty, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and a handful of other iconic figures along the way. One of the albums more recognizable tracks, Whos the Mack?, eloquently laments those with a knack for manipulation in its many forms, atop a funky Fred & The New J.B.s sample. And toward the albums conclusion, the inventive battle rap of the sexes, Its a Mans World, pits Ice Cube against his female protégé Yo-Yo (in her recording debut), who convincingly challenges his unabashed chauvinism (This is a man’s world, thank you very much) and, in my opinion, emerges victorious in the end (But it wouldn’t be a damn thing without a woman’s touch).
Chronologically, 1990s AmeriKKKas Most Wanted is the middle masterpiece of a trio of groundbreaking West Coast hip-hop LPs, bookended by Straight Outta Compton (1988) and Dr. Dres The Chronic (1992). In addition to solidifying the West Coasts rightful place on the hip-hop map, Cubes charismatic debut forced people to take him seriously as a solo artist and earned him the widespread acclaim that propelled his career forward, both within and beyond the music world. In the 18-month period following AmeriKKKas Most Wanteds release, Cube unveiled not one, but two more classic works, 1990s Kill at Will EP and 1991s Death Certificate. And just a few months prior to the latters release, Cubes unexpectedly excellent performance as Darrin “Doughboy” Baker in John Singletons vivid portrait of South Central LA life and strife, Boyz n the Hood, launched what would prove to be a fruitful acting (and directing) career.
Today, Ice Cube is one of hip-hops most revered multimedia renaissance men, a member of the same elite club as other cross-industry luminaries such as Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, and Kanye West. Which makes it even more thrilling to revisit the breakthrough album that Cube unleashed when he was simply a boldly ambitious emcee with a chip on his shoulder, a helluva lot to prove, and a brighter than bright future ahead of him.
My Favorite Song: A Gangstas Fairytale
Whos the Mack? (1990)
Ice Cube Interview on Pump It Up! with Dee Barnes (1990)
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