Two years after “Raw Footage” proved that Ice Cube’s rap career wasn’t done yet, the self-proclaimed Mega Don of hip-hop has come back to make a powerfully broad assertion: “I Am the West.” When tracking Ice Cube’s relationship to hip-hop, he has routinely thrown a shoutout to the “Westside” or been the rest of America’s Westside Connection to what’s going on in Cali-for-nigh-A, but never until now has he proclaimed himself to be theENTIRE West coast. Whether he means it figuratively (as in he inspired the majority of today’s popular rappers from out West – a fair assertion) or literally (as in the West coast rap scene or perhaps the entire Western seaboard wouldn’t exist without him) he’s definitely not lacking in ego on this go around. Perhaps the lead single “I Rep That West” can expound upon this further:
“Don’t you know that I rep that? Why you got to let that boy in the building?
Don’t you know that, he about to kill them?
Don’t you know that, he about to hurt y’all feelings
Cain’t fire him, might as well play the villain
I’ma get him (get him) why? Cause I cain’t babysit him
I’m a whip ’em (whip ’em) treat ’em like bad-ass children
Is it evil? Y’all better call them people
How I get down, just ain’t lethal
Money long, sorta like Louis Vuitton
I run this shit right here, call me marathon (BOOM)
I blow like a cherry bomb
You a small donation, bitch, I’m a telethon
West coast mill-ion, what is he really on?
Is it that shit, that niggaz go silly on?
Hell no, the pyroclastic flow is evident
(WESTSIDE!) And y’all know what I represent”
Okay Mr. Jackson, thanks for the clarification. The JIGG produced track makes it perfectly clear that Cube is not trying to claim the entire coast or Westside rap scene, he’s just making it clear he’s a big dog barking as loudly for his home as he possibly can. That’s not to say Cube is above intimidation tactics and cult hero worship wherever possible -for a 25 year rap veteran he’s got more swagger than a little bit. In fact he and producer Brandon Alexander might just be laying down enough funky game to get you to “Drink the Kool-Aid”:
“This ain’t Sinatra, this ain’t The Carter
I am the chaperone nigga, who brought ya
I am the author, this is holy water!
From the Holy Father, the rock of Gibraltar
Step up to the altar, step up to the slaughter
Get circumcised son and turn into a daughter
Niggaz know they oughta, drink the fuckin Kool-Aid
Industry laid out authorities, they too late”
One thing I always look for on every new Ice Cube album though is not just whether his cocksure persona is in tact – it’s whether or not he can still spit relevant fact about political truth to both the youth and his own generation. There were times in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when Cube had clearly lost that fire, softened by both his acting success and the riches of rap royalties. Of late though Cube seems back on point as an orator of the hard truth, and although he’s not as complex in wordplay or quick tongued as he was in his prime the steadier flow can be just as deadly (yo). There’s plenty of poison in Jackson’s pen on “No Country For Young Men”:
“I don’t like it when you call me big poppa
From South Central and I hate helicopters
If we at school I’ll break in your locker
See me with a water bottle it’s probably vodka
Drink responsibly or drink constantly
Be who you wanna be in this economy
Drunk as Sean Connery, at the Vonna V
Can’t throw me out motherfucker I’m the honoree
Trust me, I’ll never be the nominee
I dont kiss enough ass, I’m too ornery
Ice Cube, be where the piranha be
Swimmin upstream, eatin all kinda meat
West coast, treat it like hyenas
Take what you want from these lyin ass cheetahs
Eat the fuck out these fake-ass beavers
That’s how we act when you don’t wanna feed us
Crazy motherfucker ever since I was a fetus
Might as well join us, you ain’t gon’ beat us
Please believe us, you can ask Jesus
I’ma be about as long as Regis
Understand I never ‘Pledge of Allegiance’
to this ball of confusion might cause a contusion boy!
I see you crusin for a bruisin
Fuckin with a pricipal that don’t like students
Don’t you know? Dention is a lynchin
And if I failed to mention, I’m spendin up my pension”
Milli Martian pounds the keys and bangs the bass to make sure the track is as loud and in your face as Cube’s delivery. It’s safe to say he still lives up to the name on records – he’s cold and he’s hard. There are a few missteps here and there on “I Am the West” though. “She Couldn’t Make it On Her Own” tries too hard to fit into today’s Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka sound, but the Bangladesh beat doesn’t cut it. Furthermore it’s a little painful to hear Doughboy and OMG rap – they could still develop into promising rappers at some point but right now the fruit of Cube’s loins just don’t have the imposing delivery or sharp wit of their poppa. When backed by W.C. and a Willy Will beat they fare a little better on “Y’all Know How I Am” – not a LOT better but at least not a track that’s an automatic skip. In fact “Too West Coast” featuring Maylay and W.C. is a fine example of putting the RIGHT cameos on a track instead of the wrong ones, and Hallway Productionz comes through with a monster beat. That makes the overly simplistic “All Day Everyday” all the more painful – not only did HP miss on the track but Cube starts spitting some corny “rolling down the avenue, doin what I gotta do, sick as the swine flu” lyrics that he should have thrown out before recording them.
Let’s get right to the point though – you’re wondering whether or not to shell out $10 for Cube in 2010. Honestly the answer is yes, because on the tracks of “I Am the West” that work the best, he’s still got the vintage gruff demeanor, lyrical ferocity and hard hitting beats to claim some significant ownership of the Pacific shoreline. At other times he desperately desires to have a contemporary sound, and that’s where things fall apart, but those mistakes can be overlooked or easily skipped compared to the quality of the overall presentation. He’s not the dominant hip-hop force he once was or could still be again, but anyone who thinks he fell the fuck off in just two years needs a serious chin check.