Top 8 of 08 #2: Ice Cube – Raw Footage

January 6th, 2009 by | Tags: , ,

Who knew Ice Cube was still dope?

I thought he had disappeared to Hollywood, coming back only to make joints like We Be Clubbin. That’s not fair, actually. He’s done some shockingly good work with Lil Jon, notably Roll Call, which blends early ’90s Cube and Lil Jon’s high impact production into something that’s like a throwback from the future. (The bit in the video where Cube goes into his house and masks up is one of those things only rap and superhero books can get away with. Of course Cube kept his black gear, baseball bat, and black Impala in his garage, despite his family life. He’s the realest, Disney movies aside. Never mind the fact that this video is Beat It 200X.)

Raw Footage is that album that reminds you where Ice Cube got his start and the days when he was untouchable. If you go just by years, Cube is almost on elder statesmen status, despite not looking any older than he did years ago. He isn’t the best rapper, and doesn’t really bother with the wordplay acrobatics that a lot of other rappers employ. What he is, however, is a rap juggernaut.

His flow is steady and undeniable. Its pacing and subject matter are going to keep hitting you while you listen. He’s relentless. This isn’t an album that I could sit back and just idly listen to until recently. I had to be an active listener and figure out what he’s talking about, digest it, and come back.

Cube’s the archetypal angry negro, but that was 15 years ago. Now he’s something else. I don’t want to say that he’s mellowed with age. I think it’s more that he’s just matured. He deals with religion on Raw Footage, and his personal beliefs, which is something that doesn’t happen often enough. He shows a certain amount of contempt for the people who grew up on his music, but didn’t learn anything from it, on Hood Mentality. He sprinkles bits of wisdom throughout the album, and even stereotypical braggadoccio rap like Do Ya Thang is about building self-esteem and being true to yourself.

Ice Cube’s about to hit 40, man. That blows my mind. Straight outta Compton was twenty years ago.

The standout on the album, and off the album, is easily Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It. It’s that Ice Cube I love to hear- the one who is smart, has been in the business for years, and knows what he’s talking about. He puts everyone who ever used rap as a scapegoat on blast, and does it with a deftness that I feel like only he can bring to the table. He went through his share of rap-related drama in the ’90s, and was the poster boy for gangsta rap for years. If you look at any of the recent outbursts in the past year, the finger always came back around to rap. “If gangster rappers didn’t say nigger, would Michael Richards have done it? What about Don Imus, what if rap wasn’t so offensive?” The remix to the song features Nas and Scarface and is even better than the original.

When you put three of the most respected emcees from each coast on a record, you’re going to hit gold. I kind of hope they actually make that album together. The only problem is that if you get Scarface on a guest appearance, he’s going to wreck you and end up with the best verse on the song. It’s true here, it was true with both Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel songs, and it’s true on his Nas guest spots, too. Uncle Face is a monster.

I Got My Locs On with Young Jeezy is pretty tight, too, and Get Used To It is Westside Connection 2008. Cube’s Why Me with Musiq Soulchild is pretty dang chilling, too. I have to give special mention to when Ice Cube starts kicking fast food chicken metaphors toward the end of Thank God, too. It’s a weird detour, but hilarious, and instantly understandable if you’ve ever hit a Popeye’s chicken. Get Money, Spend Money, No Money is the anti-swag anthem, too, which is sorely needed in rap these days. That’s your money, man, I don’t care how you spend it when I don’t have money of my own.

Raw Footage is the most westside album to come out in a while, and one of the smartest rap albums to hit in 2008 in general. It’s a far cry from the Cube of ten or fifteen years ago, but there’s a definite through-line from then to now. I love how angry he is on this album, as if he looked back at what he’s done and the message his fans took from his work and started kicking over tables and throwing a fit.

Official videos:
Do Ya Thang
Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It
Why Me?

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6 comments to “Top 8 of 08 #2: Ice Cube – Raw Footage”

  1. I missed the West. Cube came back strong.

    You think Detox will trickle out this year? And will be anything other than a pale shadow?

  2. I figure Only Built for Cuban Linx II will drop before Detox, and be twice as hot, to be honest.

    Dre would be better off focusing on Eminem.

  3. I just really miss that G-Funk sound, you know? Re-listening to Doggystyle recently has made me nostalgic for those horror movie keyboard sounds.

    Speaking of Em, you think he’s still… angry enough to produce his best lyrical workouts?

  4. cube fell off for a while but his latest 2 albums were top notch. bravo

  5. Honestly, I haven’t bothered with Cube since War & Peace – which, I now realize, was a full decade ago. But I spent a few hours recently going back to Amerikka’s Most Wanted and realized how much I missed it. Maybe I’ll check this out.

  6. I’m kind of surprised at how many artists on this list released classic albums ten years ago. I don’t often feel old, but then I think about how awesome 1998 and 1999 was for rap and go “oh i was 15 years old back then.”

    My #1 is another ten year vet for me.