Many are perplexed by Mack 10's stardom given his rather modest talent, yet fifteen years, ten albums, a label, numerous business ventures, a marriage to a TLC member, and more shitty acting roles than he's worth since his 1995 debut, it's clear that Mack 10 is a mainstay in the West Coast rap game. While his debut may have positioned him as just another of Ice Cube's protégés like The Lench Mob, K-Dee, and Kam before him, when it came time in 1996 for Cube to assemble the West Coast trio that would throw up the almighty "W" with one hand and a middle finger to the East with the other, it wasn't Snoop, Kurupt, or any of the aforementioned he selected to join him and WC as the Westside Connection super-triad—it was Mack 10. The rest, as they say, is history.
Cube pulled out all the stops for "Mack 10," producing four songs himself and leaving the other eight to his trusty comrades 88 X Unit, Dr. Jam, Crazy Toones, Madness 4 Real, and Mack 10 himself. The result is a 48-minute record of trunk-rattling West Coast funk, heavy on bass and samples. The straightforward, unapologetic arrangements are ideal for the Inglewood native, who is in many respects a caricature of a gangster: all Chucks, braids, bandanas, gats, and sneers without any misgivings or lamentations about the violent lifestyle. The hilariously clichéd skits portray stick-ups, dogfights, hostage situations, and women swooning under his charm as he goes about his daily business.
The opener and first single "Foe Life" remains arguably Mack 10's most well-known song and is a true anthem for the rapper and the lifestyle he portrays. It begins with a corny call and response that sounds decidedly East Coast, to which Mack declares, "Wait a minute! That ain't how the West Coast rock, nigga!," cuing Ice Cube's pounding bassline and ascending funk licks. The lean, industrial thump of the song is the sound Mack would develop for years to come, with shrill synths, vocal bytes, horn kicks, and tinny percussion, and his lyrics introduce a new generation of West Coast gangsta:
"Khaki suit and ski mask is my attire
With my luck, cut my Chucks on the barbed wire
Fool, where ya keep the rims and tires?
'Fo' ya life expires, I'm as nutty as Michael Myers
Didn't think about the Rottweiler
A lot of stitches in the ass, blood in the Impala
Sittin' in the county with a gold record
Ice Cube send me pictures of bitches naked
Caught with a contraband in my hand
Mack 10 take the stand, your honor I'm a changed man
So please let me go so I can flow
Got a show, had to ask my P.O. 'Can I go?'
And if he say no I'ma have to say 'Bitch get out the car slow
And leave ya fuckin' dough'
'Cause a nigga gotta eat, fuck the world
Let the bullets hurl and feed my baby girl"
A glorified version of a life of crime for sure, but can you blame him? After all, he's got a family to feed! The hard-hitting, fast-paced crime narrative "Wanted Dead" is great fun, and the irresistible second single "On Them Thangs" finds 88 X Unit cleverly flipping a rich sample from Rick James' "Mary Jane" for an ode to lowriders:
"Old Chevys to Cadillacs on twisters and Dubs
Everybody got a plaque given pub to their car club
Mafia For Life individuals and Damus ride
Majestic and them niggas from the southside
New school to old school get they ride on
Bendin' corners caravaning like fifty strong
In a ragtop that and a hardtop this
Bustin' hoes cause you can't miss if you let 'em twist
So get you a set of them what we call Danas
And see for yo' self all the bitches they bring us
Cut the wheel right to left and make the ass end slide
Now all the riders ride and skate from side to side, on them thangs"
Dr. Jam laces "Chicken Hawk" with another moody, funky banger, and Mack takes the time to discuss his night job and introduce his alter ego. The smooth Crazy Toones-laced "Here Comes the G" is followed by "Westside Slaughterhouse" with Ice Cube and WC, the first glimpse at the WSCG on a furious Madness 4 Real production. "Mozi-Wozi" is the late standout, where Ice Cube humorously samples Earth Wind & Fire's "Devotion" for a hilarious celebration of sexcapades in cheap hotels:
"Ain't no frontin' on the pussy that I'm gettin'
Name is Mack 10, but fuck it I'm still sweatin'
You won't believe all the wreck I'm catchin'
I'm hard as a brick and my rubber is stretchin'
See a motel bed can take a pounce
When you give it more bounce to the ounce
And I'm feeling it from, the way I'm hung
And I'm killing it, I might puncture a lung
Now the Mozi-Wozi is a place for chillin'
But the bathroom towels ain't worth stealin'
The TV's broke and the carpet is dirty
And you got 'til about twelve-thirty
To have that ass out
But don't fuck around and get drunk and pass out
'Cause before I can finish this rhyme
You hear a buzzer and a bitch yellin' 'Check-out time'"
The second half is not quite as strong as the first, with some filler material including "Armed and Dangerous," the K-Dee duet "H-O-E-K," "10 Million Ways," and closer "Mack 10's the Name," which are all decent if not completely memorable tracks but are fairly redundant given their subject matter and musical approaches.
Was Mack 10 a better rapper than K-Dee, Kam, Short Khop, or any of Ice Cube's other up-and-coming understudies over the years? This writer would say no, not by a long shot, but the rap game is rarely renowned for being fair. He did fit seamlessly into the Westside Connection lineup, getting top billing a year later on "Bow Down," but to attribute his success solely to Ice Cube's selection and not his own merit would be wrong. "Mack 10" is a focused debut that displays a consistently entertaining rapper sporting his own recognizable Inglewood g-funk variant for the first time. To call Mack 10 one-dimensional would be an understatement, but although his style would eventually grow stale, his 1995 self-titled debut is an appealing, cleverly-produced LP of anthems, West Coast bangers, and pure gangsta rap.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: September 7, 2010