Ice Cube, or Mr. O’Shea Jackson if you’re nasty, turns the ripe old age of 46 today, and the man’s legendary career is coming into focus as the hype and controversy surrounding Straight Outta Compton comes to a head. But Cube’s used to all the hoopla. During his illustrious career, he’s had a great many hits, and, well, a few misses.

But, his classics will always reign supreme, and what he’s meant to the game is as cemented as his writing credits on the black comedy of our generation, Friday. The man is a multi-talented behemoth, and his songs have sparked rage, outrage, unity and everything in between.

Here, we give you what we believe are the 15 best songs of Cube’s career thus far.

“Bonnie & Clyde Theme”

Album: You Better Ask Somebody (1993)

For some odd reason, West Coast Hip Hop never really had dominant female emcees like its East Coast and Southern cousins. Making her debut on Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted track “It’s A Man’s World” Yo-Yo found herself one of the most notable women during the era alongside Lady Of Rage. Cube would lend several guest verses throughout her career but, one that stands out the most is “Bonnie & Clyde Theme.” Sure everyone looks to Jay Z and Beyonce’s take on the criminal couple as the standard. However, nearly ten years earlier, Ice Cube and Yo-Yo delivered something funkier and more gangsta.

“It Was A Good Day”

Album: The Predator (1992)

The best rap records tell stories. It’s obvious Cube delivered one of Hip Hop’s quintessential West Coast narratives through “It Was A Good Day.” A look into a normal L.A. day in South Central, everything from a game of pickup basketball to sexual escapades was stuffed into a 4:20 hood epic. Like any great story, everything was about the details. Cube ensuring everyone understood his Muslim religion by making sure breakfast came with “no-hog” or even dodging the cops. While most gangsta rap relished in the gangster tropes, “It Was A Good Day” was more concerned with survival in an area where death was around every corner while find enjoyment.

“Check Yo Self”

Album: The Predator (1992)

Though Hip Hop still tries to find the layers in the infamous West Coast vs. East Coast, one who managed to dodge the controversy was Ice Cube. His debut Amerikkka’s Most Wanted which featured production primarily from Public Enemy’s team The Bomb Squad and his Das EFX featured “Check Yo Self” wasn’t any different. While New York at the time lifted their nose at R&B flavored G-Funk focused sound, there was something slick about the track sampling Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message.” Staying true to the narrative structure started on “It Was A Good Day,” the video has Cube in jail plotting an escape.

“Bop Gun (One Nation)”

Album: Lethal Injection (1993)

There was a lot of controversy around Cube selling on Lethal Injection. His signature socio-political commentary and hood subject matter essentially leaned more toward standard gangsta rap. Something most won’t admit is how light the album is at times. Case in point: “Bop Gun (One Nation).” George Clinton was essentially the base for West Coast G-Funk sound that Dr. Dre spearheaded during The Chronic. Cube getting Dr. Funkenstein on a track mostly made up for how corny the track sounds in comparison to his catalog of hit singles.

“No Vaseline”

Album: Death Certificate (1991)

It’s quite interesting how Cube’s solo debut Amerikkka’s Most Wanted managed to really look ahead of his issues with N.W.A. Then 100 Miles and Runnin’ hit shelves. The first project from N.W.A. since O’Shea departed, it was filled with jabs, right hooks and uppercuts to their former member. And like a one man army, Cube responded with the scathing “No Vaseline.” Was it the individual disrespect or him pointing out their financially fucked up relationship with manager  Jerry Heller? Doesn’t matter since not only did N.W.A. fail to respond afterward, they ended up disbanding for the same reason that Cube left.


Album: War & Peace Vol. 2 (The Peace Disc) (2000)

A decade after Ice Cube left N.W.A., the group disbanded, founder Eazy-E died of AIDS and Dr. Dre was building his Aftermath Records empire. Meanwhile, Ice Cube was essentially a rap veteran with several platinum albums and an established acting career. Then the rumors of a possible N.W.A. reunion started. Sure, one never really kicked off officially but “Hello” was the closest. Alongside Dr. Dre’s production, MC Ren delivered a guest verse as well. Then there’s Dr. Dre’s hook that reminded everyone of that era who were the originators. “I started this gangsta shit, and this the muthafuckin thanks, I get? Hello.”

“Once Upon A Time In The Projects”

Album: Amerikkka’s Most Wanted  (1990)

Storytelling Cube was in full effect on his Priority records debut Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, and “Once Upon A Time In The Projects” was, perhaps, the height of that lyrical dexterity. Over a smooth Betty Davis sample, Cube presented you with a day in the life in the projects when he get’s caught up with a woman who, let’s just say, doesn’t have his best interests in mind.

“Bow Down”

Album: Bow Down (1996)

Past N.W.A., Westside Connection may be the most West Coast thing Ice Cube has done throughout his career. It’s rare for an established emcee to create a group with two relative unknowns and selfishness. Even rarer is one that manages to create a West Coast standard including “Bow Down.” While, WC and Mac 10 held their own, Cube’s “everybody freeze on yo knees, butt naked please” line still stands as his top five rhyme. While some consider “Gangsta Nation” featuring Nate Dogg to be their best, “Bow Down” was one helluva first impression.

“Natural Born Killaz”

Album: Murder Was The Case Soundtrack (1994)

Combining with Dre for this choice cut off the Murder Was The Case soundtrack, the menacing combo laid waste to one of the best beats of the 90s. The story, at that point, was familiar: couple walks leisurely in a dangerous neighborhood before they are assaulted. And, at least for the video, a wily detective on the case eventually corners the two killers. This horrorcore epic also had the distinction of being released just before Oliver Stone’s film of the same name, though it was not associated with the album.

“Jackin’ For Beatz”

Album: Amerikkka’s Most Wanted (1990)

“Gimme that beat fool / It’s a full time jack move,” opens the greezy track off Ice Cube’s EP Kill At Will. The  song was so good they slid it onto his debut, and since it wasn’t 2015 no one was bored with it by the time the album came out. Instead, it was raucous, classic addition to the Ice Cube oeuvre,

“We Be Clubbin”

Album: The Players Club (1998)

Ice Cube’s directorial debut The Players Club is seen as one of the best strip club movies of all time. The accompanying soundtrack wasn’t any different. “We Be Clubbin” wasn’t a major hit but there isn’t a strip club in America that doesn’t have this in their rotation. Who can forget the hilarious intro done by a then pre-Oscar winning and pre-Grammy winning Jamie Foxxx? There wasn’t a track that managed to perfectly get the vibe of the film and the overall soundtrack.

“Who’s The Mack”

Album: Amerikkka’s Most Wanted (1990)

A story of pimpin’ with a member of the team that would go on to star in Friday over a saxophone and flute? Cube had a penchant for telling stories in a way that would complicate things for his listeners. His multi-layered stories would weave into and out of a song, bringing to life the host of characters that he was rhyming about instead of simply folding them into a message he’s already got pre-planned.. In this one, it’s all about the local hustlers we meet on a daily basis whether it be a pimp, a local dude or smooth-talker. So when you find yourself about to be talked into something silly, ask yourself: Who’s the mack?

“You Can Do It”

Album: War & Peace Vol. 2 (The Peace Disc) (2000)

This party anthem appeared on the Next Friday soundtrack, and shot to the top 40 of the Billboard 100 chart. Now, it’s a bbq staple, and a West Coast classic that proved Cube’s versatility wasn’t dwindling as he became a veteran. Featuring Toi and Mack 10, it featured an amazing guest verse from the Westside Connection emcee that still gets the party hype 15 years later.

“Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”

Album: Amerikkka’s Most Wanted (1990)

This song was the epitome of the scary black invading a sundry white neighborhood with the line, “Yo Cube they on your ass / Word, but who the fuck has heard? / It’s time to take a trip to the suburbs / Let em’ see a nigga invasion / Point blank for the Caucasian.” And it was that kind of angry, raw power that catapulted the album into the realm of classic where it remains.

Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.

Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.