Monday, March 03, 2014

My Top Ten Hip Hop Albums - #5

 Ice Cube - AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted


SONGSTIME
Better Off Dead1:04
The Nigga Ya Love to Hate3:13
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted4:06
What They Hittin' Foe?1:21
You Can't Fade Me / JD's Gaffilin'5:13
Once Upon a Time in the Projects3:41
Turn Off the Radio2:38
Endangered Species (Tales From the Darkside)3:22
A Gangsta's Fairytale3:16
I'm Only Out for One Thang2:11
Get Off My Dick and Tell Yo Bitch to Come Here0:55
The Drive-By1:02
Rollin' Wit The Lench Mob3:44
Who's the Mack?4:36
It's a Man's World4:47
The Bomb3:24

    What makes this album great from start to finish is that Ice Cube merged the West Coast and East Coast sound, and he pretty much did it before anyone else, and better than anyone else.  Ice Cube left NWA in a dispute over money, as Ice Cube felt he was unfairly paid for his contribution to the album - mainly writing the lyrics.  AMW is Cube's coming out party, as he is out to prove himself as a solo artist that was just more than just a member of a group. 
    The lyrics are on point.  The various subjects and the raw anger behind them prove that Ice Cube was more than a one-trick pony that could craft lyrics about dealing drugs and getting high.  The lyrics are so on point that I would argue that the album is Cube's greatest effort as a lyricist.  While he might have had stronger individual songs, the sustained quality of the lyrics show how hungry and talented Cube was to prove himself.  While Cube may be more remembered for tracks like "It Was A Good Day" or "Check Yourself", the total package within AMW is the lyrical apex of Cube's career. 
    The lyrics are perfectly complimented by the music.  Rather than looking to copy the NWA sound, or turning to many of the unknown West Coast producers attempting to copy the NWA sound, Cube turned to the Bomb Squad - which was essentially Public Enemy's Chuck D and producer Hank Shocklee. Also contributing to the production was Sir Jinx, a cousin of Dr. Dre, and a long time collaborater with Cube, AMW ended up with a sound unlike any album in the ganagsta rap genre before or since.  AMW ended up with a sample heavy and layers sound, similar to what the Bomb Squad had produced for Public Enemy.  The layers gave a more uptempo sound, which led to Cube rapping faster than what was really typical at that time.  At the same time, the bass was hitting hard, but was not too fast as to over shadow the rest of the music. 
    What sets this album apart from other "gangsta rap" contemporaries is that, rather than glorifying the gang lifestyle in Los Angeles at this time, Cube essentially critiqued the entirety of ghetto life from a political point of view.  Different songs would tackle different subjects, each providing a different "slice of life".  Tracks like "Once Upon A Time In The Projects" and "Gangsta's Fairytale" took a humorous look at gangs and drugs, while "Amerikkka's Most Wanted" and "Endangered Species" took a stern look at the effects of the gang lifestyle on this generation of Black men. 
    In all, this album hits harder than any solo album by an NWA member, and is by far the strongest lyrically. 

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