Album Reviews


Ice Cube

The Predator  Hear it Now

RS: 2.5of 5 Stars Average User Rating: 5of 5 Stars


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With his new album, The Predator, Ice Cube has proven, once and for all, that he is the essence of pimpiness. He's got a dick, and he uses it; he's got big guns. He makes it clear that he is a mack daddy, that he is the shit-talkingest boy in the hood. He takes nothing lying down except sex, and as far as the Rodney King verdict, well, he's violently angry. Now what?

The thing is, while Cube vividly illustrates his coolness and his "predatory" cold blood, his soul, the vulnerability that took him out of the myth of "South Central" and placed him smack in the middle of real South Central Los Angeles – that sad, mad soul has become more and more obscure.

Ice Cube has shut us out. In no song on The Predator can we see into his mind (let alone his heart), and it was this opportunity to feel what broils the insides of young, urban African American men that made Cube so intense. It's what made his albums such a disturbing ride. You used to be able to reach around and find Ice Cube in there, underneath all that heavy bitch-ho-dick regalia. But this wham-bam album reads like a gangsta's manifesto – common and tinny.

Cube's bitch-ho-dick stuff is as thick as on his previous outings – Kill at Will, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate – and it grates. His revenge soliloquies, as in "We Had to Tear This Mothafucka Up," sound contrived. Cube has chosen to recycle instead of reassess, to shoot up outside rather than look inside. He rants, not like the cornered, wrathful man-child of his previous records, but like a second-rate actor playing angry because that's the rule of the mythical South Central.

The twelve-song album (with four dramatic "inserts") is muddy musically. Cube and his compatriots D.J. Muggs (of Cypress Hill) and Torcha Chamba leave Cube's pseudofrantic lyrics fighting to be heard. Aside from an ice-cold snatch from X-Clan's first album on "When Will They Shoot?" the found sounds are uninspired. The caustic cynicism and searing imagery of such classic Cube songs as "Once Upon a Time in the Projects," "A Gangsta's Fairytale" (a sequel on The Predator falls flat) and "Dead Homiez," as well as the fire of a song like "Endangered Species," are all but gone.

But more glaring than the lack of mind-blowing songs is the absolute absence of introspection. Throughout The Predator, Ice Cube's persona – his gangsta lean – is so ancient it's creaky, so stagy you half expect someone to yell "cut" at the end of each song. Ice Cube zooms in only on the Others (women, white people, Simi Valley jurors), never once turning his lenslike eye on himself or those he represents by implication. Not a single vulnerability has Ice Cube – what he does mainly is give advice and invite us along on fantasy revenge killings – à la "Now I Gotta Wet 'Cha." They are voyeuristically empowering for a moment, but Ice Cube seems flattened by last year's verdict in Simi Valley – unwilling to respond to it except in the most superficial, bombastic way. In song after song, Ice Cube closes off the tiny bit of the real South Central that he was showing us, the minuscule bit of himself he let peek out from the shadow of his brim. He has plugged that up and, as he did with N.W.A, gone back to chronicling South Central the fable instead of South Central, a community composed of real men, women and families.

Cube knows how to touch souls even if it means scaring them with violence, shocking them with hate, surprising them with candor: You touch other souls by delving into your own. On The Predator, Cube doesn't do that. He keeps his soul safely inside himself – and that makes for hollow, unfulfilling music.


(Posted: Jan 7, 1993)


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carmel writes:

5of 5 Stars

I liked the unmasted verson better it is the true Ice Cube.

Aug 30, 2006 11:16:02

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