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I Am the West

Ice Cube

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Album Review

While his 2008 effort Raw Footage brought aggression and bitterness, I Am the West leans back a bit, assured in its status and wisdom, showing hip-hop how to grow old both gracefully and gangsta. Ice Cube’s first album since turning 40 masterfully lays it all out on key track “No Country for Young Men.” This witty, rapid-fire damnation of the ringtone rapper generation and their foolishness declares them “bitches” with “Rappers go to jail like Oprah go to Gayle/Stedman’s policy: Don’t ask don’t tell," along with a laugh-out-loud Redd Foxx line that shouldn’t be spoiled. Making the case that his generation fought the power while the 2010 crew was just fighting itself happens elsewhere, and when you combine this with the “we’ve got a bigger problem now” attitude of “Hood Robbin’” — high-tech and high-finance corporations are widening the gap between the classes — and the sage advice of “Your Money or Your Life” — “This world, so trife/Your money or your life/Keep your kids, keep your wife/Your money or your life” — you’ve got a layered argument against misdirected priorities and their devastating consequences. Cube suggests there are more choices than burning out and fading away when he dedicates a song to his wife of 21 years and explains how she’s enriched his life on “Nothing Like L.A.,” but the real proof is in all the vital yet lighter cuts that keep the message-filled album from being ponderous. Flashy production drives the infectious "She Couldn't Make It on Her Own," featuring fine contributions from Cube’s sons Doughboy and OMG, while big daddy himself has put an entertaining, Kool Keith-like spin on his punch lines this time out, dropping odd stingers like “Internationally known/You about to smell my cologne” (“Soul on Ice”) and “You about as lethal as a mojito/Be my amigo, eat my burrito” (“Too West Coast”). Add the usual Keith David narrations and the hard-hitting, full-bodied production the West Coast favors and the album is anchored by tradition, becoming an unassailable cocktail of talent, experience, and growth. Most won’t have the skills to follow his playbook, either on or off the field, but Cube’s utterly unique I Am the West shows the younger generation how to cross 40 while retaining their freedom and baller status. Middle age hip-hop is born here, and if the game follows his lead, it will be one monster of a genre.


Born: 15 June 1969 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Ice Cube was the first member of the seminal California rap group N.W.A. to leave, and he quickly established himself as one of hip-hop's best and most controversial artists. From the outset of his career, he courted controversy, since his rhymes were profane and political. As a solo artist, his politics and social commentary sharpened substantially, and his first two records, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate, were equally praised and reviled for their lyrical stance, which happened...
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