Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
Books:
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
  Archive
Venues:
  Noisey
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:

Ice Cube

  • Amerikkka's Most Wanted [Priority, 1990] B-
  • Kill at Will [Priority EP, 1990] A-
  • Death Certificate [Priority, 1991] C+
  • The Predator [Priority, 1992] Choice Cuts
  • Check Yo Self [Priority EP, 1993] **
  • Lethal Injection [Priority, 1993] Dud
  • War and Peace [Priority, 1998] Dud
  • War and Peace, Vol. 2 [Priority, 2000] C+
  • Greatest Hits [Priority, 2001] A-
  • Raw Footage [Lench Mob, 2008] ***
  • In the Movies [Priority, 2008] Choice Cuts
  • The Essentials [Priority, 2008] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Amerikkka's Most Wanted [Priority, 1990]
Musically it's as original as A Tribe Called Quest, and probably doper: with Eric Sadler thickening the mix and the vocalist bluntly banging the tracks home, it delivers the hard beats N.W.A's claque clamors about, not just for a few sucker punches but from beginning to end. Lyrically it's as piggy as it wants to be: despite his gift for rhyme and narrative, Ice Cube's politics revert to victim-of-a-racist-society belligerence except maybe on the willfully perverse (and hateful) "The Nigga You Love To Hate." It was inevitable that some black misogynist would elevate his problem into an emblem of outlaw status. But I say fuck the muthafucka, stay on his dick, etc.--anybody who's thinks it's cute to dub himself "the bitch killer" is armed, extremely dangerous, and fair game for the pickle jar. B-

Kill at Will [Priority EP, 1990]
I don't want to claim the criticism is getting to him--still talking tough on this interim EP, he remixes "Get Off My Dick and Tell Your Bitch To Come Here." But he's keeping his woman problem to himself and putting the gangsta shit in perspective: "The Product" tells a young black con's story from his pops's nut, "Dead Homiez" cops to a sadness a lesser outlaw might consider unmanly. With Sir Jinx running the board, the beats never work up to carpet-bomb density. And if Ice Cube keeps rhyming like this, you won't care. A-

Death Certificate [Priority, 1991]
Between "Dead Homiez," which mourned murdered friends in a voice some called soft, and Boyz N the Hood, which required him to simulate thought, the St. Ides spokesperson was worried about his image. To use the only noun in the hard lexicon that suggests normal human sensitivities, he was acting like a "faggot." So here he reclaims his perpetually threatened manhood. Early on he mitigates the usual gangsta shit--gat as penis and pit bull, female body as pestilence and plague--with such touches as an antigang track and a nurse with attitude. But eventually he breaks new ground. In addition to many fascinated rhymes on the complex subject of who fucks who in the ass and how, he nuts out on white devils who crave "a taste of chocolate" because "white bitches have no butt and no chest." He inveighs against "Jap" and "Jew." And he proposes a "nationwide boycott" of Korean-owned inner-city businesses that escape the torch, poking gentle fun at the Korean accent along the way. Call him Ice KKKube--a straight-up bigot simple and plain. C+

The Predator [Priority, 1992]
"It Was a Good Day" Choice Cuts

Check Yo Self [Priority EP, 1993]
remixed two-song Predator best-of plus nigga-devil-bitch plaint ("It Was a Good Day," "Check Yo Self") **

Lethal Injection [Priority, 1993] Dud

War and Peace [Priority, 1998] Dud

War and Peace, Vol. 2 [Priority, 2000]
Good ol' Cube, taking time off from his busy schedule as Hollywood honcho and Backstreet Boys stablemate to produce an unimaginative if not notably hateful marker in the "Keep it gangsta, dog" game while preparing a complex rhyme for Eminem's ass: "I'm still comin' with that underground gangsta shit/No matter how many niggas say we ain't the shit." In a year when hards from Cam'ron to Trick Daddy illed with enough self-critical ambivalence and sly style to keep moralists off balance, Cube's boasts and threats are as utilitarian as Chucky Thompson's emailed-in beats. With faking the gat life no longer a realistic possibility, he's down to pretending his penis is a lethal weapon. And lest you hold his nonexistent sense of humor against him, the honcho orders up a Chris Rock cameo. C+

Greatest Hits [Priority, 2001]
He's always been intelligent, and talented. What he hasn't always been is honest. So though I miss "Dead Homiez" and the late anomaly where he plays an ex-G in a wheelchair, and note that this garbage scow lists alarmingly when it takes on his 1998 and 2000 albums (both named War and Peace, after how hard it is to get through them), I'm grateful to be able to access so many of his best beats and rhymes without once hearing him incite a race riot or force a Catholic schoolgirl to lick his testicles. A-

Raw Footage [Lench Mob, 2008]
Some of the smartest raps of his career--"Most rappers are parrots/They say what they told to say to get a neck full of carats"--and some of the easiest beats ("Hood Mentality," "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It"). ***

In the Movies [Priority, 2008]
"Ghetto Vet," "Higher," "Natural Born Killaz" Choice Cuts

The Essentials [Priority, 2008]
The card-carrying O.G. and ultimate fake gangsta dares you to distinguish among the very intelligent guy, the writer of talent, the committed role player, the cuddly comedy star, and the flat-out liar. Brazenly sharing just three 1992-1993 tracks with the same label's 2001 Greatest Hits--the swaggering "Check Yo Self," the peaceable "It Was a Good Day," and the doomed "What Can I Do?"--this downplays his hard act because hard is getting old, especially for him. It leads with two of hip-hop's great anti-moralizing sermons, the Snoop- and Lil Jon-powered "Go to Church" and the grinder's credo "A Bird in the Hand," then proceeds to his greatest song, the fact-filled paraplegic memoir "Ghetto Vet." It closes with "Dead Homiez" and "Cold Places," two distinct and convincing arguments for keeping ya head up and ya ass off the street. A-

See Also