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Classic Album: Ice Cube’s “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” (Review & Video)Posted by Matt Juss on 10/19/10 | Filed under Top Stories, Features, Classic Album, Ice Cube
Soon after the split he jumped right into the recoding studio and got to work on what would become his solo debut. While Ice Cube originally wanted Dr. Dre to produce the album, the label powers didn’t allow it, so he employed Dre's cousin Sir Jinx and Public Enemy's production team The Bomb Squad to help craft it instead.
Using notebooks full of songs he had planned to use for N.W.A, Ice Cube brought on a fierce, determined attitude to his solo debut, crafting an album that is considered to be one of the most defining hip-hop records of the '90s.
Released in May 1990, the album was filled with social and cultural commentary. The title itself was an intelligent statement by Ice Cube, alluding to the controversial television show "America's Most Wanted" in which real life crimes are reenacted.
Many, including Ice Cube felt that the show perpetuated stereotypes of African Americans and other minorities, which led him to misspell the title the of the show, making a pointed and cultural statement, equating the show to the racist group.
The album is filled with commentary like the title, including conscious and political commentary and dealing with issues such as life in the ghetto, drug addiction, racism, and poverty. He delves even deeper throughout the album, calling Arsenio Hall a sell-out, and tackling mainstream hip-hop radio for its broadcasting practices. Ice Cube gives an eye level view of life in the inner city, filled with vivid and at times frightening details and style.
The album is filled with great tracks, but in my mind "Endangered Species (Tales from the Darkside)", the title track, "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted", "Turn off the Radio", "Once Upon a Time in the Projects" and "It's a Man's World" stand out above the rest.
The title track, "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" is easily one of the best on the album. The beat is great and you can hear Ice Cube's intensity on the track as he spits "Ice Cube has got the 4-1-1/All the ol' school house fellows are crooks/So I get jealous looks / They keep thinkin did my hair grow?/Will the boys 'n' the hood have to beat down Ice Cube?/Hell no, I'll static son, you'll see it's okay/I keep my 9 anyway."
"Once Upon a Time in the Projects" might be the most illustrative track on the album. The beat has a funky, guitar string vibe which fits perfectly with the idea that the track is sort of a 'fairy tale' story about the inner city.
Ice Cube sets things perfectly as he raps: "Lookin at a fucked up black and white / her mom's bitchin cause the county check wasn't right/She had another brother that was three years old/and had a bad case of the runny nose/He asked me who I was then I had to pause/It smelled like he took a shit in his little drawers/I saw her sister that needs get her ass kicked/only thirteen and already pregnant/I grabbed the forty out the bag and took a swig."
"Turn off the Radio" is another excellent track and showcases Ice Cube's thoughts on the radio industry and how they operate. He doesn't pull any punches, calling out Arsenio Hall and proving he wasn't afraid to take on anybody, anywhere in the industry.
Coupled with the fantastic Bomb Squad production, which included tons of samples from TV and the radio, Ice Cube proves that the only important radio is the one that's playing his tracks. Ice Cube brings attention to the radio and is blunt and ironic as he raps: "Turn on the radio take a listen/What you're missing/Personally I'm sick of the ass-kissing/What I'm kicking to you won't get rotation/Nowhere in the nation/Program directors and DJ's ignored me/Cause I simply said fuck Top Forty."
"Endangered Species (Tales from the Darkside)" is my favorite track on the album and just might be the best of the bunch. The title of the track comes from the opening excerpt of the track, in which a reporter in a mock newscast talks about African American males becoming endangered.
From its content and style is may be the most politically and socially charged track on the album, which makes it also one of the most important. Throughout the track he showcases the plight of many in the country as well as the awful racial tendencies of institutions throughout the nation.
Ice Cube even plays Nostradamus a bit as he predicts that his neighborhood would eventually become a point for violence even years before the Rodney King scandal and L.A. Riots later on. You can hear how personal all this is to him as he raps the points he's trying to make: "Every cop killer goes ignored/They just send another nigga to the morgue/A point scored- they could give a fuck about us/They rather catch us with guns and white powder/If I was old, they'd probably be a friend of me/Since I'm young, they consider me the enemy/They kill ten of me to get the job correct."
Ice Cube proved on "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" that he was one of the most talented rappers in the industry at the time and also that he didn't need N.W.A. to be a success. The album is easily one of the best of the era, and the production by The Bomb Squad proved that they shouldn’t always be linked to Public Enemy, because their work on this record was phenomenal and underappreciated.
Ice Cube showed he wasn't afraid of anybody, leveling institutions and the government for their overly obvious racial biases and tendencies, as well as exposing the social issues that allowed the oppression of those living in LA to exist.
Apart from the references to Arsenio Hall (which just wreaks of early 90's) the album is timeless, angry and has more social commentary in it than I can begin to discuss. As a debut, it may be one of the best ever, and is most definitely a classic.