Ice Cube – [Album]

Sunday, 05 October 2008

Of the emcees to spring from NWA around 1990, Ice Cube has been the steadfast upholder of the more theatrical side of that defunct group; releasing a series of albums that never stop issuing grand boasts and grand statements, wearing that imposing stature visibly and obviously on his sleeve and never deviating from a methodical fairly reeks of stately posturing. The trend continues on Raw Footage (check out the “For all you niggas that don’t do gangsta rap, don’t get on TV talkin’ about gangsta rap because, nine times out of ten, you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Talk about that bullshit rap you do and stay the fuck out of mine” warning in “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It”) but at this stage of the game eighteen years hence, while it still works for him, you find yourself wishing Cube would grow a set and try something a little different – or at least recognize that it has been almost two decades since he was running lean on the street and, now pushing forty, it isn’t his place anymore.

At the very least, Raw Footage glances in that direction even if it makes no move toward it. After running through the back alleys of his comfort zone (“It Takes A Nation” and “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It”) Ice Cube does concede that his life isn’t as hard or as desperate as it used to be on the more tastefully orchestrated “Why Me?” and pays respect to the fallen emcees from his former circle before deciding to turn the process of aging into his new melodrama for the duration of the album.

Tracks including “Cold Places,” “Get Money, Spend Money, No Money,” “Get Use To It” and “Stand Tall" look on a world marked by street-side grave sites full of former comrades in the gangsta ranks and realizes that Cube is one of a dying (literally) breed. In the same breath, he expresses the changes he’s made to keep out of the same fate; in order to keep going, the emcee knows that he can’t do what he’s done forever, so most of the record is spent either paying respect or trying to figure out what to do next.

Driven by heavy-as-lead beats (the same ones he’s always used), Ice Cube borrows synths that sound ripped out of the score for Clockwork Orange to accompany the emcee’s ruminations on what to do next combined with the realization that the ‘harder than fuck’ poses he’s sported for so long aren’t playing so well anymore. The boasting of “Do Ya Thing” and “Thank God” sound a little more desperate as Cube’s midlife crisis deepens and, by the time the attenuated horns and images of urban decay (as well as the decline of hip hop as a money-making entity) spill out of “Tomorrow,” Ice Cube has successfully painted a new self-portrait that is no softer than the old one, but it is a little grayer, a little more haggard and plainly abysmal. Where he goes next artistically is anyone’s guess but Ice Cube had better figure it out because while one release like this is understandable, even two would be painful and ring like a death knell.


Ice Cube Official Site
Ice Cube on Myspace

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