Ice Cube fans have been waiting for this one a long time. O’Shea Jackson hasn’t released a new album of his own material since 2000’s “War & Peace Vol. 2,” and his last album as part of a group was Westside Connection’s “Terrorist Threats.” Reactions to both were mixed – the latter being something of a pleasant surprise but doing little to re-establish Westside given their seven year layoff, while the former was panned by many rap writers who said Ice Cube had “gone Hollywood.” This writer didn’t have that much of a problem with either one, although I think we’re all in agreement that the days when Cube made albums like “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” are LONG gone. Nevertheless Cube linked up with Scott Storch for the first single off “Laugh Now, Cry Later” and the result was a an eeriely familiar track called “Why We Thugs.” Storch’s production has become ubiquitous of late, so if you feel like you’re hearing a 50 Cent track when this song comes on you’re not far off. The track fits Cube like a glove though and he comes hard with the rhymes:

“Bush run shit like Sadaam Hussien
I cock and aim, clinically insane
To deal with this bullshit day to day
If I sell some yay, or smoke some hay
You bitches wanna throw me up in Pelican’s Bay
Call me an animal up in the system
But who’s the animal that built this prison?
Who’s the animal invented lower livin?
The projects – thank God for Russell Simmons
Thank god for Sugarhill
I’m putting a different kind of steel up to my grill
Y’all know what it is, scared for your own kids
How these ghetto niggaz takin over showbiz”

Production is definitely a heavy factor in how the 2006 version of Ice Cube is going to get over, since these days a lot of rap’s younger audience may be solely familiar with him from his movies and not know about or have heard his classic raps from the 80’s and 90’s. That’s not a problem with pounding tracks like “Child Support.” I’ve never heard of Teak Teak Tha Beatsmith, but as far as I’m concerned he needs to keep on wrecking beats this hard for the rest of 2006 and beyond. Sean C comes through with smooth pianoes for the title track, Swizz Beatz is energetic and bass heavy on “Stop Snitchin,” Lil Jon crunks it out for “Go to Church” featuring himself and Snoop Dogg, and Laylaw & D-Maq come with the tight Minnie Riperton samples for the reminiscent back-n-the-day track “Growin Up”:

“I hear a beat like this, and think about growin up
House parties, with gangbangers showin up
Represent your hood, everybody throw it up
They say Cube get on the mic, nigga blow it up
I used to lyrical, political
But now you want it sugarcoated like cereal
First I met Dre, then I met Yella
Dr. Dre made me rap acapella
Then Dre introduced me to E
Cruisin down the street in his red Jeep
He said, yo niggaz we should flip it like this
Cause them _Boyz N the Hood_ like the gangsta shit
I put the pen to the pad, young nigga was raw
And told the world how we felt about the law”

Say what you will about the long time between solo albums, or the fact that Cube has seemed more interested in silly comedy films like “Are We There Yet?” than being the man who once dubbed himself “The Nigga Ya Love to Hate,” but in 2006 Ice Cube has nothing to apologize for. By his own admission he doesn’t come with the kind of fiery rhetorhic he did in his youth, but he still makes hard tracks like “The Game Lord” and “Chrome & Paint” featuring W.C. where he boasts “I got a hair trigger, I am the dome splitter/the deep sea sniper, you got the wrong nigga” if you doubt his intensity. There’s no reason to not “Laugh Now, Cry Later” along with Ice Cube – in fact by bringing his beats up to date he may not only win back some old fans but convert a few new ones in the process by showing them he’s more than just a Hollywood actor. Could Cube come even tighter than this? Of course, but as long as there isn’t another six year layoff between solo albums I’m not worried about him slippin’.

Ice Cube :: Laugh Now, Cry Later
7.5Overall Score