Album Reviews


Ice Cube

AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted  Hear it Now

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On paper, it's the rap summit of the year: Ice Cube, former chief lyricist for N.W.A., joins forces with the Bomb Squad, Public Enemy's production team. The potential for this bicoastal all-star session was tremendous: N.W.A.'s furious gang-scapes given direction and sophistication by Public Enemy's ambitious street politics and whirling, dizzying funk.

So why is AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted such a disappointment? It starts off promisingly enough, with Cube making no apologies for his uncensored language or his bleak, violent vision in "The Nigga Ya Love to Hate." The title track is the tale of an inner-city thief who gets caught after plying his trade in the suburbs. No moralizing here; Cube leaves it to the listener to figure out why nobody cared about this punk until he started messing with white neighborhoods. As one title tells it, these are true "Tales From the Darkside." And these opening tracks kick hard; Public Enemy's elaborate sampling is nowhere to be found, replaced by old-school funk grooves, lots of wah-wah guitars and street-vérité sound effects.

But the relentless profanity grows wearisome, the Bomb Squad beats lose steam, and Cube's attitudes toward women are simply despicable. Chuck D recently bragged that Cube says the word bitch eighty-three times on AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, and that may be a low estimate. It takes a strong stomach to get through a cut like "You Can't Fade Me," in which Cube imagines wreaking violence on a neighborhood girl with a "pit bull face" after being mistakenly identified as the father of her baby. For all of their revolutionary rhetoric. Chuck and Flavor Flav gleefully join in on this album's misogynous fun in their guest spots; they sound like kids talking dirty after having to be serious in school all day.

"It's a Man's World," a duet with the sassy young female rapper Yo-Yo, attempts to remedy these horrors and adds a needed shot of humor to the disturbing proceedings. But the damage has already been done. By the time Cube gets to "A Gangsta's Fairytale," in which he whips off some street versions of Mother Goose thymes, it's clear that his real peers aren't Public Enemy or Ice-T or even N.W.A. Though his rage sometimes results in harrowing depictions of ghetto reality, Ice Cube ultimately sounds like the Andrew Dice Clay of rap.


(Posted: Jul 12, 1990)


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