Ice Cube‘s Raw Footage is cinematically orchestrated, moody and insightful. Scored by John Murphy [All About The Benjamins] and neatly trimmed to a solid hour [16 shots], Cube‘s eighth wonder is a more polished collective in comparison to 2006’s Laugh Now, Cry Later [click to read]. In alignment with the menacing album cover is the politically charged street single “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It.” Cube refutes the notion that “prior to gangsta rap music, the world was a peaceful place.” Compton was dangerous before gangsta rap! With over three million views on youtube, the controversial leadoff video from Ice Cube just might be his edgiest one to date. So accurate in its portrayal of American hypocrisy and global crisis, the video shows spliced news footage of countries at war, government scandal and racism in the media [Don Imus and Michael Richards]. Cube approaches the subject with twisted irony, and fights back by bearing the burden wholeheartedly for all of the world’s ills at present time and prior to his birth. He cynically snarls “blame me.”
The question “What is the definition of a pyroclastic flow?” is the underlying theme [intro] of this album asked by narrator and film thespian Keith David [First Sunday]. Cube answers with intense heat from tracks like “Tomorrow,” “Cold Places” and “It Takes a Nation.” The latter, produced by New York’s own Emile, is an aggressively unifying track, reminiscent of the days of the Bomb Squad [click to read] and Amerikkka’s Most Wanted. “Where the fuck is Afrika Bambaataa at…” Cube angrily spits. It’s pure King Kong over that familiar West Coast synth and trunk-heavy 808.
Raw Footage ciphers a bevy of special guests. Most notably, heir to the West Coast rap throne The Game. “Get Used To It” is a sonic bubbler backed by a continuous chant that can only be described as West Coast crunk. The simple hook makes it too weak for radio spins and it wouldn’t inspire club anarchy. But with Ice Cube, WC and The Game [click to read] all on one record…this is as G’d up as it gets! Being the youngest amongst two of his rap gods, Mr. Taylor attacks the track with a point to prove and pours gasoline on the rumor mil, ablaze of him possibly being inducted as the newest member of the super-group, Westside Connection. “I’m ’bout to join the Lench Mob, that’s me squirtin’ the mac, motherfuckers!”
Fortunate enough, Raw Footage is low on filler; “Get Money, Spend Money, No Money” and “Here He Come” being the exception that falls short of average. The unique addition of R&B keeps pace with Cube‘s maturity as he collaborates with soul singers Angie Stone and Musiq Soulchild on songs like “Hood Mentality” and “Why Me?” This unexpected turn from Cube proves fruitful, as these two gems shine brilliantly on an otherwise dark, penetrating album. With more God references than usual on a Cube disc, stop the violence messages like “A 187 don’t make an O.G.” can be appreciated in the hood. Especially when it’s coming from an O.G. Choruses that advocate responsibility, “If you don’t wanna shake that hood mentality/How the fuck we ‘sposed to change our reality…” leave a powerful, lasting impression.
Only Ice Cube can tight rope this kind of subject matter in today’s rap game without coming off as soft or preachy. He has always been the artist you love and “nigga you love to hate.” Anyone feeling stubborn at the gate of acceptance, just better get used to it.
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