Ice Cube reissues

"Amerikkka's Most Wanted" "Death Certificate" "The Predator" and Lethal Injection"

Nathan Hall

In my opinion, Ice Cube is a total jerk. His lyrics celebrate a worldview that is prejudiced, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic and just about any other “ic” you can think of. The eternal catch-22 of deplorable characters who drape themselves in the comforting cloak of the First Amendment is that well-meaning civil libertarians often find themselves defending a sniveling scumbag with whom they have nothing in common save a mutual hatred of censorship.

Cube’s politics might be forever suspect, but to silence his unpopular speech would be a grave disservice to the critical contributions he has made to the advancement of hip-hop music. The artist holds a college degree from Phoenix and was raised in a middle-class suburb by UCLA faculty. Yet he made his mark with the seminal Niggaz With Attitude, who invented gangsta rap, which curiously became a visceral voice of the inner city poor.

Ice Cube’s break with the group over royalty disputes was less than ideal. He slammed manager Jerry Heller on “Death Certificate’s” “No Vaseline,” which contains the line, “Letting a Jew break up my crew. Bend over for the goddamn cracker.” While Niggaz With Attitude’s anti-authoritarian lyrics raised the eyebrows of the FBI, incendiary solo tracks like “Black Korea,” with Da Lench Mob and The Bomb Squad, were identified by “Billboard” as partly to blame for the Rodney King riots.

Cube’s spotty acting career runs from the atrocious (“Anaconda”) to the thoughtful (“Three Kings”). Soon after his conversion to Islam, his output began to tank, ending with embarrassing duets with mook-rockers Korn on “War and Peace.” For all of his macho posturing, it is worth noting that his production company, Cubevision, is still run by a woman and has produced female rap artists such as Yo-Yo.

The latest re-release of Ice Cube’s early works, aside from new liner notes and expanded artwork, does not offer much we haven’t seen before – unless you’ve got a vinyl fetish. Despite that Cube’s talented yet profane thuggery sadly snubbed the positivism praised by his real-life cousin, Del Tha Funkee Homosapian, his unvarnished vision of black ghetto life remains a vital document that deserves to be heard.

Nathan Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]