“A lunatic, y’all know what I represent/ the only rapper who wanna fist fight the president”
– “It Takes a Nation of Millions”
Rapper turned actor O’Shea Jackson b.k.a Ice Cube has taken some time out of his busy movie schedule to deliver his latest album “Raw Footage” which is definitely classic Ice Cube material. He’s just as raw, uncompromising, and unapologetic as ever in delivering this album that should make longtime Ice Cube fans very pleased and (hopefully) gain him a new fan or two.
It’s easy to be cynical about Cube making an album where he is waving the ‘gangsta rap’ flag so proudly; at this point in his life he’s surely moved out of the ‘hood, and with his success as a rapper, as well as in Hollywood what’s he got to be so angry about? Quite honestly: PLENTY ranging from rap critics, politicians, wack rappers, and black on black crime. These are just some of his many targets throughout the album.
“I don’t give a F-ck what you saw on TV/ but a 1-8-7 don’t make a OG”
– “Why Me” feat Musiq Soulchild
Part of the beauty about Cube being a vet of gangsta rap is that he brings a seasoned perspective to his songwriting about topics, that might make some cringe, as opposed to some of these BET rappers who as Cube describes on “Get Money, Spend Money, No Money” are parrots who just “say what they told to say to get a neck full of karats”. In the piano backed (and radio friendly) cut “Why Me” Cube plays the part of the shooting victim rather than the shooter in one of the most brilliant, and certainly heartfelt, moments on the album. Musiq Soulchild comes along for the ride in singing the hook, “Why you wanna murder me? You never ever heard of me. You don’t know who I am, I could be part of your family tree”. This song is definitely single material, and he could really outdo himself with a video for this.
“Everybody wanna call Michael a psycho/ but he ain’t never came thru the hood with a rifle/ gunnin’ n-ggas down cuz they don’t got the right clothes/ hit the wrong person cuz we shoot just like hoes”
– “Hood Mentality”
Although it might be too soon to call this album a classic, without a doubt “Hood Mentality” is worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as other classic Ice Cube records like “I Ain’t Tha 1”, “The N-gga You Love To Hate”, and “You Can’t Fade Me”. The irony of this is that this latest record attacks the mentalities of some of the types of brothers that Cube rapped from the perspective of earlier in his career. From a casual listen it may not seem that this is Cube’s pro-education record when you hear him say from the opening, “F-ck school n-gga I’ma be a dope dealer/ I’ma be a killer, yup a urban gorilla” but as he goes deeper into the song it becomes clear that he is actually holding the mirror up to show some of us how ridiculous we look. He could not have ended the song any better than by saying, “If you don’t know sh-t, then you can’t work for me/ cuz you read your first book in the penitentiary”. The funky guitar piece and heavy drums come together to make this one of the epic moments on the album.
“Take that money that was allocated to us/ put us in some f-cked up trailers, then sue us”
– “Cold Places”
At 16 tracks deep “Raw Footage” clocks in at exactly an hour, but very rarely does it feel like it drags or has any filler material. The album is narrated by actor Keith David (Kirby from “Dead Presidents”) who does a tremendous job setting the tempo for a number of songs throughout the disc. Standout tracks include “I Got My Locs On” featuring Young Jeezy which is destined to become a street anthem, as well as the previously released “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” where Cube goes after the critics of his style of hip-hop. “Jack N The Box” bumps very heavy with Cube spittin’ with a lot of bravado, while “Stand Tall” is a smooth cut very reminiscent of “It Was A Good Day” and has him pleading for black people to come together for a positive change. Other guests include his homie WC on the track “Get Use To It” which also features The Game and should bump heavily in the streets of South Central, LA.
While this is not a spiritual album per se, Ice Cube does invoke the Lord’s name throughout the album yet it never sounds forced or corny. Besides his “Death Certificate” album when Cube was practicing Islam, one would be hard pressed to find another album from him where he mentions God on a multiple number of tracks. Whatever the case may be it sounds all good.
“Raw Footage” is Ice Cube’s eighth (or ninth) album and will hit stores on August 19th, 2008. While he may not gain any new fans, or go on to sell one million copies in his first week, his longtime fans should be extremely pleased by this latest effort. Although his flow at times might not be as crisp as it was in his early days, he still get his point across as the Grand Wizard of gangsta rap and does so with a lot of intelligence and maturity under his belt. Who knew gangsta rap could grow up and sound this refreshing?
(for the record I hate the term ‘gangsta rap’ but for purposes of this review I felt it was a neccessary evil in supporting Ice Cube’s cause. Go buy this album!)