Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TBG Beats: Ice Cube – "I Rep That West"

During a family vacation through the Pacific Northwest in 2006, I bumped into Ice Cube at a market in Vancouver. Cube looked lost as he pushed his shopping cart up the narrow aisle – which was made even more miniscule by the presence of two abominable bodyguards on either side of the rapper/actor. I scored about five seconds of conversation with the diminutive (no more than 5'7") MC before we went our separate ways.

In truth, Cube and I had been on divergent paths long before we kibitzed near the market's bakery.

He peaked as the music industry's embodiment of early 1990s African-American rage with the release of AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted in 1990 and Death Certificate a year later. Cube drifted away from focused fury while making a concerted shift to radio airplay and the pop charts.

I liked his commercial stuff (
Bop Gun, It Was a Good Day, You Know How We Do It) just fine. But, with a blossoming film career and a bit of retail resurgence with the release of his Westside Connection album in 1996, Cube overplayed his hand. His War & Peace, Vol. 1 CD – a pretentious, quasi-concept effort – is on the short list of worst releases by a previously competent artist. That there was actually a "Volume 2" released in 2000 is only surpassed in shock value by the fact that it managed to be worse than the first volume.

Since then, Cube's dropped albums on his own independent label. He even found some iTunes success with singles such as
Go to Church and Why We Thugs.

Cube's latest single – off his forthcoming I Am the West album – is "I Rep That West". Produced by Jiggolo (who's also on the hook) this has quickly become one of my guiltiest sonic pleasures. Like every "west coast" cut released since the demise of Death Row Records, it's self-conscious and desperate in its attempts to keep California relevant in an increasingly meaningless sub-genre.

But, Ice Cube has juuust enough bravado left in the tank to make it work – even with paint-by-numbers references to gangbanging and South Central LA, which Cube hasn't thought about since his last royalty check from John Singleton's Boyz In The Hood flick.

Besides, I'm pretty much on board any track that includes the following lyrics:

I'm too 'west coast' for the west coast…
Too Fresno, Too Cerritos…
Too soul food and burritos…

(OK, the video is horrible, though. Hasn't the rap industry learned that
Old West-themed videos never work?)


SHough610 said...

Like Sampson, Ice Cube lost his power when he cut his jheri curl.

I do respect that Cube didn't embarrass himself by trying to be someone who he isn't anymore. He's a good actor and a decent filmmaker (admittedly, I'm only going on his LA Raiders documentary, but I was impressed by it), it's not his fault that the choice of roles for Black actors aren't abundant.

Aaron C. said...

I'm not sure I've seen Cube in anything since "All About the Benjamins" and "Barbershop". So, I don't think I can sign up to the notion that he's a good actor.

Give him a watchable ensemble cast and he won't embarass himself. Otherwise, his sole means of expressing emotions is either raised eyebrows or slightly less scowl.

I give him credit for "playing" the music game, though. There was a fascinating interview with him on Sirius XM and it's clear he understand the business like few others who've been in the game as long as he has.

nicka said...

consider me cosigning...

mathan said...

The West Coast is to West Coast rappers as Terri Schiavo is to right wing conservatives; it's a spectacle for no reason and it's very uncomfortable to witness.

Aaron, remove that feeding tube. Let it go.

Aaron C. said...

"The West Coast is to West Coast rappers..."?