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Ice Cube
Raw Footage Adam Narkiewicz , September 4th, 2008 16:15

Ice Cube - Raw Footage

That the first rapper you hear on this, Ice Cube's ninth LP isn't Ice Cube is telling. That it's Southern trap-star Young Jeezy is even more so. 21 years deep into the game, 20 since his group NWA scared the living shit out of America, Cube chooses a man initially dismissed as just another coke rapper, now widely regarded as the most important hood-commentator of his generation to make the link between then and now. Lil Wayne would have been the populist choice. Jeezy is the right choice. Both men wield their worlds like swords, both men terrify wankers.

NWA were truly political, laying bare the segregation and genocide going on in Reagan's supposed pinnacle of civilisation like a wound. Easy E was the streets, Dre was the beats, and Cube was the brain, the raw, uncut intelligence. Menacing, direct, eloquent as Shakespeare. His '91 classic 'Death Certificate' opened my then 11-year-old eyes to a side of America that conventional history and news reports had been trying to hide since Lincoln "freed" the slaves.

Some say Cube's recorded output has suffered due to his 1990s move to movies, that he sold out... but Ice Cube has remained a revolutionary. Taking a tar brush to whitewashed Hollywood, whether it be sneakily illuminating hood comedy like the Friday series, or even kiddie flicks like Daddy Day Care, Cube took his independent hustle global, and put black faces on the screen, behind the cameras, and in the boardrooms. Now he's back on wax. And his message has been diluted not one iota. His rage burns brighter than ever. With age has come greater wisdom. This record is bananas.

The celebrated, furious, sample-heavy Bomb Squad production of his earlier work is gone, replaced with a thoroughly contemporary, but resolutely gangsta and deliciously musical beats. Ice walks the line between coasts like an ambassador, whether it's the southern, synth lead machine-gun-tom doom vibes of songs like the Jeezy-assisted opener 'I Got My Locks On' and the arpeggioed-up synth horn stomper 'Jack In The Box', or the West-Coast-classicallity of joints like the incendiary 'It Takes A Nation', the breezy 'Hood Mentality' or the brooding 'Get Money, Spend Money, No Money'. Shit sounds fresh throughout.

And lyrically, as I said, Cube cuts harder than ever.

"A lunatic, ya''l know what I represent - The only rapper wanna fist fight the president," he spits, gladiatorally on the PE-update 'It Takes A Nation', demanding his people ignore brainwashing elitist white propaganda and rise up. "You scared of the government, they scared of me," he declares. "It takes a nation of niggers to hold us back / it takes a nation of niggers and streets of crack."

The album's first single, the Maestro produced banger 'Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It' and 'Thank God' both step to the defence of Cube's demonised art-form - "I can act like a animal / ain't nothing to it, gangsta rap made me do it," he spits sarcastically on the former, elaborating further on the latter: "They wanna blame the world's problems on gangsta rap. It's our fault motherfuckers is dying in Iraq. It's our fault motheruckers is starvin' in Africa... they blame it all on us. I'm blaming them motherfuckers for gangsta rap. Cos if they didn't create these kid of conditions I wouldn't have shit to rap about."

Then comes three minutes of perfect, jubilant, mightily, thick revolutionary party music. Damn, this is a powerful slab of work. This record contains everything I love about hip-hop. Beats to bang out to, beats to fuck to, beats to eat a fuckin' corn on the cob to, beats to burn down cities to. Words of truth and passion. The life of a people laid out bare. "Thank God the gangsta's back," goes a hook, "we ain't gotta put up with this brainless rap." True stories.