Tracklist Ice Cube -AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
- Better Off Dead
- The N**** Ya Love To Hate
- AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
- What They Hittin Foe
- You Can’t Fade Me/ JD’s Gafflin
- Once Upon A Time In the Projects
- Turn Off The Radio
- Endangered Species (Tales From The Darkside)
- A Gangsta’s Fairytale
- I’m Only Out For One Thang
- Get Off My D*** And Tell Yo B**** To Come Here
- The Drive By
- Rollin Wit The Lench Mob
- Who’s The Mack
- It’s A Man’s World
- The Bom
There is a lot of talent in Hip Hop, that’s undeniable. Typically, when we dig deep we notice the majority of that talent is from New York, and rightfully so since it’s the birthplace of Hip Hop, but often times we fail to realize that Hip Hop permeated the entire country of the United States before becoming a global culture. Now let’s take focus away from New York and the East, go all the way across the country and talk about California for a second.
Compton, 1986. A group of guys would come together to form a group that would change rap music as they pioneered and introduced gangster rap to the culture. The group was N.W.A and of the members, one of them would be Ice Cube. He was the only member who wasn’t actually from Compton but would be an integral piece of the group. It was here that we were introduced to the talents of Ice Cube. N.W.A debuted in 1988 and with their album “Straight Outta Compton”, it was this release that cemented these guys as controversial, aggressive, raw, politically driven and the embodiment of the “don’t give a f*** attitude” that others only mimicked. Fans would attribute N.W.A’s debut success largely to Ice Cube. His run with the group would only last 3 years due to the issues he had with the group’s manager and label.
1989 kept Cube busy, as he was undertaking his first solo project, and after having left NWA with a bad taste in his mouth he was “hungry”, he knew what fans wanted to hear. He knew how to write incredible rhymes, he was a talented storyteller and above all, he didn’t hold anything back. Believe it or not, Ice Cube actually went to New York and recorded the entire album on the East Coast… and I know, the irony is amazing!
He partners with Public Enemy’s production team The Bomb Squad (as well as Sir Jinx) to create an album version of his thoughts, emotions, insight and experiences and he called it “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted”. This is one of the best albums to ever come out of the West Coast and is the reason Ice Cube gained notoriety as a legend and a true wordsmith. As sample-heavy as this album is on the production side, the focus on Cube and the lyrics stays intact, but what else would you expect from an MC of this caliber and one of the best production teams of the era? Let’s take a look at the tracks that made this album so great.
Cube starts off this album with a seemingly simple intro “Better Off Dead” now this just over a minute long but it’s metaphoric in every way. Cube is in a jail cell and is led down a hallway (the footsteps are clearly heard as well as the cell doors closing) to an electric chair in front of people, where he says his last words. The words “f*** all y’all” follow, and as morbid and dark as this is, there was no better way for someone like Cube to start off his album, and it’s that “don’t give a f***” mentality that is such a signature of his. He did something right since this has been sampled by some of our favorite MC’s.
The first real track is “The N**** Ya Love To Hate”, now this is where the crazy amount of samples start, seven of them to be exact, and one of them being from the song “Gangsta Gangsta” by NWA, so it’s nice to see Cube paying homage to his past and keeping the upbeat tempo he raps so well against. As much as I love and appreciate the production on this, it’s the lyrics that have a whole ton of meaning. Ice Cube wastes no time in dropping gem after gem. Here take a look at a few:
“You wanna sweep a n**** like me up under the rug
Kicking s*** called street knowledge
Why more n***** in the pen than in college?
Now cause of that line I might be your cellmate
That’s from the n**** ya love to hate”
“Cause laws are made to be broken up
What n***** need to do is start loc-ing up
And build mold and fold theyself into shape”
These lyrics are of particular importance, the line “why more n***** in the pen than in college?” was the most brash statement, as this created an awareness that in the ‘90’s most people didn’t have. It’s lines like this that gained Cube recognition for being a controversial forward thinker. Another noteworthy point is, in addition to using an NWA sample, he also drops “kicking s*** called street knowledge”, which any fan of the group knows is a play off what Dre says before the beat drops in “Straight Outta Compton”. I love that he ties in like-minded concepts from the group as well. This track is definitely a favorite and is largely credited for the success of this album.
Next up we have the title track “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” and as I mentioned, he wastes no time in getting to the intended point of the album. I can already tell that this will be aggressive and extremely raw. Before I get into the lyrics, let’s take a look at production: The Bomb Squad is on this of course, but we also get Da Lench Mob. If we thought seven samples was a lot in the previous track, this one almost doubles it. There’s a lot going on in the background, but they manage to tone it down while Cube raps so it doesn’t overpower the lyrics, which is very dope. What I like most about this track is the subtle jab he takes at NWA since they dissed him for leaving the group. What we didn’t know and what we would learn after the release of this album was that this created a bit of a domino effect, NWA does a clap back and then “No Vaseline” drops (but we’ll save that for another article), here’s what I mean:
“Will the Boyz ‘N’ the hood have to beat down Ice Cube?
Hell no, I’ll static son, you’ll see it’s okay
I keep my 9 anyway
For the day one of my homies wanna squab”
So far this carefree attitude that Ice Cube has is understood and supported by the lyrics. Let’s see what he’s got next.
“What They Hittin Foe?” is next and I have to appreciate this track because BIG samples it in “Gimme The Loot”, and there’s not much to say about this except that production is very consistent. It is following the same tempo, rhythm and the beats are cohesive…perfect for Cube to drop a couple verses.
The next two tracks are “You Can’t Fade Me” and “Once Upon A Time In The Projects”. Although “You Can’t Fade Me” is the first real exposure we have to Cube’s storytelling, I won’t spend too much time on it. He tells the story of how a girl has claimed to be pregnant with his kid, and as heavy as the content is, I appreciate how well he conveys emotion. You can feel the shock, the defeat all through his delivery. Here’s what I mean:
“Oh by the way congratulations
Who’s the lucky man? I don’t have a clue
Then she said the lucky man is you
I dropped my brew
And everything looked fuzzy
Not a baby by you, the neighborhood hussy”
You get the point. With an album with so much social awareness as the central theme, this was a a necessary track and a relatable component to many people I’m sure.
Track seven we have “Turn Off The Radio” and this is the most “Public Enemy Sounding” cluster of samples yet and it’s much appreciated. There’s a whole lot going on with all the breaks and interludes but we hear “Straight Outta Compton” samples weaved in there which is nice for the fans (of course). IMO the production and medley of samples were perfectly executed for the intended point of the song. Essentially, Ice Cube is talking about how his music gets no radio airplay meanwhile “fake” artists with no substance do (this reminds me of the current state of Hip Hop). Here, take a look at the first interlude and a snippet of the second verse:
“Think about it, f*****’ sellout
Here we go one stacy 103.787 and we’re listening to…
We won’t be listening to, uh. Ice Cube, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted Because that’s bullshit get that s*** outta here
Straight R&B, straight R&B, straight R&B
Where the m************ plug at? I’m about to disconnect his a**
Turn off that m************ radio”
“Throwing and flowing and showing new styles
That’s where I’m coming from
Reality that’s what they’re running from
So if you’re down with Ice Cube let me know that you know
Yo turn off the radio”
I’m starting to think Ice Cube was a bit prophetic in his lyricisms since it was relatable back in 1990 and still 26 years later. So far he’s displayed that he has every bit of what it takes to be a well rounded MC with a ton of solo artist presence. He says it how it is, his delivery and flow are dope and his concepts are on point. Incredible!
Track eight and definitely one of my favorites, “Endangered Species (Tales From The Darkside)”. Let’s start with production which I love for being so consistent and such a mirror to the content from track to track. Somehow, The Bomb Squad, Sir Jinx and Ice Cube himself manage to have the beats emulate the feeling and emotion they want to elicit. Chuck D is the featured MC on this track and with this collaboration, they’ve drawn you in and kept you there because this is talking about the injustice of police brutality and killings of young black men in South Central. The imagery is vivid, the lyrics are raw and they don’t hold back. This is one of those tracks I wish I could quote in its entirety, but to give you a glimpse…
“How the f*** do you figure
that I can say peace
And the gunshots will cease?!
Every cop killer goes ignored
They just send another n**** to the morgue
A point scored
They could give a f*** about us”
Something to keep in mind is that this album (and obviously this track) was released 10 months BEFORE the incident with Rodney King in LA which kicked off the historic “Watts Riots” and many people believe this was also prophetic in essence although some may disagree.
The next track is also one of my favorites, “A Gangsta’s Fairytale” and the reason is simple: Ice Cube uses children’s story characters and applies it to content that is the opposite of the original. I find this incredibly clever and such a difficult concept to pull off. The wordplay is fantastic (of course) and the entire flow of the song truly is done in a “children’s gangster story” kind of way. Here take a look:
“And let me tell ya a story or two/
About a punk-a** n**** I knew/
Named Jack, he wasn’t that nimble, wasn’t that quick/
Jumped over the candlestick and burnt his d***/
Ran up the street cause he was piping hot/
Met a b**** named Jill on the bus stop/”
“Hickory dickory dock, it was twelve o’clock/
Cinderella ain’t home must be givin up the c***/
I don’t doubt it, she is kind of freaky of course/
Had a fight with Snow White, she was f****** her dwarfs/”
You get the point. The way Cube twists and retells these fairytales is dope. The closest thing we had to a dark twist on a children’s story like this was from Slick Rick, so it’s nice to see Cube’s take on it. This is such a fantastic example of Ice Cube’s versatility.
Next we have “I’m Only Out For One Thang” featuring Flava Flav and a couple interludes which we will skip over.
Track thirteen we have “Rollin’ With The Lench Mob” and it is exactly what it sounds like. An ode to Cube’s crew. This is in line with the gangster rap aspect of the album because it’s just hyping them up as streetwise hardcore gangsters. Every album has this token track so of course it appears on this as well. It’s not my favorite but it’s definitely necessary. As odd as this sounds, this track lightens the themes we have already seen. Even though it talks about gats, streets, gangsters and all that, it doesn’t hold as much weight as the other tracks we have heard.
We are just about at the end of the album when we get to “Who’s The Mack?”, which is yet another necessary and very relatable track. What I like about this is, you don’t have to be from the “streets” to understand the majority of this. Anyone who has ever met a manipulative and grimy person can relate. Here take a look:
“It is that fool that wanna pump the gas
Give you a sad story and you give him cash?
He starts macking and macking
Is it that n**** in that club asking
Have you ever been in a hot tub?
I know the game so I watch it unfold”
And the last two tracks on the album are “It’s A Man’s World” feat. Yo Yo and “The Bomb”. The track featuring Yo Yo is notable because it’s the first female MC we hear on the album AND she can keep up with Cube and his delivery and flow. It’s impressive. They go back and forth talking about a woman’s place in Hip Hop. Once again, a very necessary track because at the time of this album, female MC’s were few and far between. It’s refreshing to hear and I appreciate her style variation against Cube’s. This is definitely one of the highlights.
There you have it, one of the best albums to come from the West (even though it was recorded in NY). Ice Cube maintained his momentum and fanbase from NWA and channeled the hunger and drive into his own solo projects. This was just the start of many lyrical masterpieces he created over the years. I know I only focused on Ice Cube as a rapper, but there is no shortage of talent with him. He’s written screenplays, directed films, produced films and acted in many, many roles. He is truly someone who has stayed relevant throughout the years and created a profound and respectable legacy. Yet again, we thank California for giving the Hip Hop world such a gem.