Album Review by Mark Bayross
After November 1998’s WAR, here is the second part of rap superstar Ice Cube’s (b. O’ Shea Jackson) two-album release. What with appearing in numerous Hollywood films (he’s fast becoming the Afro-American Robert Carlyle), I’m glad he’s found the time.
Fans will be relieved to hear that, despite the record’s title, he has not mellowed one iota from his early days spitting venom with the legendary NWA – the godfather of gangsta is back to show charlatans like the appalling Puff Daddy what the sound of the street is like.
Eschewing the rap tradition of an intro skit, the opening track, HELL LOW is sledgehammer to the ears, with Mr Cube sounding like he’s got his anger meter stuck well into the red. It sits at odds with the summery De La Soul-isms of UNTIL WE RICH. Elsewhere, things get scary, such as the dark, brooding MENTAL WARFARE, and especially on the intro to SUPREME HUSTLE, which is basically a sample of someone having seven shades of crap beaten out of them.
The twenty-four carat swearing is all present and correct, of course: the opening of THE GUTTER SHIT comes on like a serious bout of tourette’s, and the f-count is off the scale on most tracks; while there’s plenty of misogynistic crap to keep purists happy: “You like dick, I know you do / I’m gonna bring out the ho in you” (“Roll All Day”).
At times, though, Ice Cube demonstrates that he is in possession of a certain biting wit. The self-explanatory RECORD COMPANY PIMPIN’ is a sleek, mellow piece that calmly illustrates the high esteem in which he holds the record company suits: “Do I take it up the rectum / Just to rock the spectrum?”.
The production throughout the record is pretty good, with the samples and arrangements keeping proceedings varied and interesting – check the staccato stabs of YOU CAN DO IT or the electro bass of CAN YOU BOUNCE?. But most of all, it’s supremely funky – there’s no reason why the buoyant, female-backed GOTTA BE INSANITY couldn’t make serious in-rounds into the charts.
An entertaining album, then, with something for everyone – at turns funky and funny, laid-back and in-your-face. Ice Cube: decent actor; still cuts the hip-hop mustard.