Ice Cube is a fascinating figure in hip-hop. The modern day Cube is surrounded by a lot of younger cats and he often comes off looking more like an actor than a legendary rapper. At 39-years-old, his focus on acting may be the thing most people relate with his career but his gangsta rap bloodline will always be the foundation on which Cube built his fortune.
In many ways, no matter how many Are We There Yet? moments Cube has, he’ll always be The Predator.
With Raw Footage, he proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that the West Coast Icon can still throw down with the best of the best. His eighth studio album surprised the hell out of me, blasting out of my speakers with taut production, a light and cool guest line-up, and Cube’s trademark delivery as the lawful showpiece.
This is pure Ice Cube for pure Ice Cube fans.
There’s nothing trivial about his approach here, as he is succinct and shrewd when he rips through the “I do gangster rap” speech at the beginning of “Thank God” that pins the origin of rap music on a system that failed the poor. “I’m blamin’ them motherfuckers for gangsta rap because if they didn’t create these kinda conditions, I wouldn’t have shit to rap about,” he spits.
And he doesn’t hold back on the corporate tip either, shouting “Fuck Viacom!” on the Public Enemy-inspired “It Takes a Nation.”
At 70 minutes, this is a stripped-down and clear-cut hip-hop record. Like The Game’s record, this is light on skits and sketches and focuses on the album’s star as the hinge by which everything else swings. Following the pattern set by Laugh Now, Cry Later, this album is slim on guest footage and heavy on Raw Footage.
Young Jeezy joins Cube for the vivacious “I Got My Locs On,” a track which showcases his ability to outshine young rappers with his enchanting flow and poetic command. And Musiq Soulchild provides a silky backcloth for poignant “Why Me?”
“Get Use to It” adds The Game and long-time collaborator WC to the mix for a strident game of upping the lyrical ante backed by a killer thump.
The lead single, “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It,” is a classic track in the making accented by Cube’s lyrics gliding effortlessly over the throwback synth environment. Shady and antagonistic, he spits some of his best lines in years over the Maestro production.
All in all, Raw Footage surprised me like a bolt from the blue. Ice Cube’s voice remains as one of my favourites in hip-hop and his flow is flawless here. There are very few misses, if any, and the production is polished and never domineering.
Ice Cube’s Raw Footage may be one of his best records in years and marks another must-have in the career of a true hip-hop legend.