Review : Ice Cube - I Am the West
PitchforkHere's where I'm supposed to make a bunch of jokes about Are We There Yet? and Barbershop decimating whatever street cred Ice Cube carried into the 21st century, but I can assure you that I Am the West might have the purest artistic motivations of any hip-hop record this year. Cube is clearly not in it for the money; an independently released rap album is about the least financially beneficial project he could dedicate himself to at this point. Which makes I Am the West exciting in a way Ice Cube albums haven't been for years. It turns out to be a hip-hop version of Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, with Cube telling young gangbangers to get off his lawn.
It doesn't work; the problem isn't the anger itself but rather the manner in which it's being directed. Too often, Cube's either making specific threats against vague targets or vague threats at specific targets, ultimately offering a viewpoint more confused than conflicted. Cube rants, "Why can't I talk about the shit I see?/ Without Alicia Keys, without going R&B?" and combined with a track called "No Country for Young Men", it's obvious Cube is trying to instill some kind of restorative old-school values into hip-hop. Throughout, there are off-handed but telling asides like, "this ain't Tha Carter," "not like Kanye," and what I can presume to be a dig at Drake for having a white mother.
Now, if Cube wanted to just go off at other rappers over defiantly retro G-funk beats, well, that basically describes a Westside Connection record, not coincidentally the last good music project he was involved with. But he shows his hand by half-bragging, "I'm a hall of famer/ Treated like a stranger," operating from the vantage point that radio airplay is still the lingua franca of respect in the rap game. Cube gets in what seems like a pretty obvious dig at Dr. Dre on "Drink the Kool-Aid", and while he's denied any sort of beef, an apology is wholly unnecessary since I Am the West pays full tribute to Aftermath's assembly-line mid-decade production-- it's nothing but plodding piano vamps, sterile handclap snares, and the occasional rave synth preset. Cube stridently reps L.A. throughout ("I Rep That West", "Too West Coast", "Life in California"), but despite the outro of "Your Money or Your Life" doing an "I'm Still #1"-style namedrop of all of the West Coast legends he's down with, the only one that shows up is WC, who promptly blows away anyone else here. Then there are the hooks, and they're all totally embarrassing, set to stilted cadences and going downhill from there. Fun fact: out of the 17 tracks on Ice Cube's Greatest Hits, only five feature him rapping on the chorus. He's above this sort of thing....full text
JetsetjunctionOne of Hip-Hop’s first unforgiving and untamed renegade drops his ninth album. If you’re in your twenty’s like me then you’re old enough to remember growing up listening to “Dough-boy“, he was virtually unavoidable like “Gucci Mane” is today. He definitely was a West-Coast representative and the “face” for the era over-shadowing his peers and once group members N.W.A. So much so the “face” of the West-coast, he was attacked by conscious rapper “Common“ similar to the way “Soulja-Boy“ was for the iGeneration. With that being said lets get into it.
The album starts with “A Boy Was Conceived“, an epic movie preview type voice narrating is interrupted by surprise guest “Mike Epps“. It was a cool gesture but doesn’t set the “mood” for the revolutionary renegade rap we’re expecting to hear.
“Soul on Ice” produced by low key hit makers “Tha Bizness” ( Young Money’s Every Girl). The West-Coast has a sound that tends to be laid back and chill but aggressive at the same time. Which doesn’t really have a “mood” and that affects the listeners reception of the song. Soul on Ice doesn’t really have a purpose and neither does Mike Epps commentary about Ice-Cube’s music inspiring guys in the 80′s to get locked up selling dope....full text
BlogcriticsI Am The West seems an awfully cocky... hell, outright arrogant title from the same guy that starred in Are We There Yet. It would be effortless to think that Cube went soft since his NWA (and first few solo album) days. War and Peace damn near put the nail in that coffin, and Laugh Now, Cry Later and Raw Footage didn’t do a whole lot to disparage that.
Quietly, however, Cube has stood by and stuck to the business savvy that caused him to realize that something was rotten in the NWA camp to begin with. Laugh at all the kiddie movies you want, but Cube (along with a handful of other OGs like Ice-T) have used their talent and street smarts to escape the abyss of the ghetto - and its stereotypical mentality - and built his own small empire.
In a musical sense, Cube has done it without modern Urban FM Radio, which has passed by all but the newest acts. I Am The West shows that Cube may be a dinosaur to some, but he still has a lot of roar left in him....full text
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