Ice-Cube Was Prolific As Ever On His Monumental AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted | Review
How Classic? 5 out of 6
Produced by: The Bomb Squad & The Lench Mob
Ice-Cube's legendary debut record was released on May 16, 1990, but amazingly enough, less than a year prior Ice-Cube was still a member of The World's Most Dangerous Group: N.W.A. When Ice-Cube left N.W.A. late in 1989 over contractual and money issues, he thought that Dr. Dre would produce his solo album. Even though Dr. Dre wanted to do it, he still didn't want to go against Eazy-E and Jerry Heller i.e. Ruthless Records who had vetoed that proposition.
So Cube had to travel to New York City for a meeting at Def Jam to meet Sam Sever (of 3rd Bass) to see if he could produce the album. For some reason, Sever never made it to the meeting and Cube left, however on the way out Cube bumped into his friend Chuck D. He told Chuck about his situation with N.W.A. and Chuck suggested that his Public Enemy production team the Bomb Squad help Cube out.
However, the trials Cube had to go through before the Bomb Squad would agree to produce make for an amazing story which is akin to the story of the Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi. But once Ice-Cube had proved his worth to the highly disciplined Nation Of Islam influenced Bomb Squad, the recording process could begin.
The recording process of AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted was a very collaborative affair with everybody putting in their two cents on almost everything from lyrics to the mixes and the production itself which was split between Cube, Jinx and the Bomb Squad. The lyrics interestingly enough were also a mixed bag with some of the lyrics being originally intended for Eazy-E, being that Cube had written Eazy's lyrics in N.W.A. "Once Upon The Time In The Projects", "Get Off My Dick & Tell Yo Bitch To Come Here" and "Gangsta's Fairytale" are a few of the Eazy-E songs that ended up AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted.
When it came to production Cube quickly found out that the Bomb Squad were mad scientists when it came to using samples with a total of thirteen samples being used on the title track alone! The samples included several funk bands such as Sly & The Family Stone and James Brown, current rap artists at the time such as Boogie Down Productions and Run-DMC, and even a bit of N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton, on top of that there are samples from The Last Poets and stand-up comedian Richard Pryor.
One special aspect to the album is how it flows from song to song with no pauses between songs, ala an old-school mixtape where the DJ would keep the whole thing continuous, and with skits segueing into the next track. The skits, in particular, were very good, creating a visual aspect to the album with classic skits such as "Better Off Dead" (the electric chair skit), and "Drive-By" amongst others.
But what really makes the album special is Cube's lyrics, and on the mic, Cube was prolific as ever with lyrics spanning such diverse topics such as racism, police brutality, poverty, and gender relations. The tracks on AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted show Ice-Cube's broad and diverse lyrical abilities which encompass both social-commentary and story-telling with very little focus on the battle lyrics that a lot of other rappers tend to do, this quality makes Ice-Cube very refreshing to listen to and set him apart from many other rappers at the time.
Upon release, the marketing strategy was the same as with N.W.A. and that was to have no strategy at all, the record would sell itself based on word of mouth, controversial lyrics and imagery. And the strategy worked, with AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted charting without the support of a lead single or a video. Eventually, they would release a pressing of the title track (which peaked at number one on the rap chart) and they also produced a rare video for "Who's the Mack?" - Marketing or no marketing, AMW was a monumental hip-hop release which received The Source's (at the time) extremely coveted five-mic rating and is still today considered one of the best hip-hop records ever.