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ICE CUBE, Laugh Now, Cry Later, Lench Mob
The key to enjoying Laugh Now, Cry Later is putting the Hollywood version of Ice Cube out of your mind and believing in the Ice Cube of old. The guy mainstream America first noticed mouthing the words he wrote as Eazy-E recited them as he and N.W.A strolled through the "Easy-er Said Than Dunn" video. But we're not in Compton anymore. Far from it. Take the first single, "Why We Thugs." We know Cube is not a thug. If he was, he wouldn't be playing the babysitting boyfriend role in "Are We There Yet?" Putting Mike Epps in the video just adds to the doubt. We know Cube and Epps aren't rolling from city to city seeking out the roughest hoods to hang out in and prove how 'thug' they are. No, as evidenced by the phone call from Epps highlighted in the "Dimes & Nicks" skit, this music thing is only delaying the duo's next big-screen payday. So why does Cube put out "Why We Thugs"? Because it's the natural progression of his split personality. Had hip-hop never gone mainstream, and had Cube never become a household name with family friendly movies and Sports Illustrated covers, this is what Cube thinks he'd be putting out right now. He's trying to separate the movie star from the MC. And like it says off the top, your enjoyment of his latest CD depends on your ability to buy into that. For whatever reason, it worked from my vantage point. This album is classic Ice Cube plucked from the golden era of West Coast hip-hop. Some might find it dated, but try to instead think of it as a throwback album. "Smoke Some Weed" is a concept that has run its course in hip-hop, but the eastern influence of the beats and Cube's recognition of the topic make it worthwhile as he calls out smokers from Robert Downey Jr. and Ricky Williams to Cheech & Chong and Snoop Dogg. Speaking of Snoop, he shows up on two tracks -- first, with Lil' Jon doing what he does best on "Go to Church" and then on "You Gotta Lotta That" letting the ladies know exactly that. "Stop Snitchin'" finds Cube paying tribute to Biggie, Public Enemy and even some of his own lyrics, while "A History of Violence" is a biographical trip down memory lane, tracking his path from block MC to "XXX" sequels. But Cube is at his best on "Child Support," getting angry as he dismantles the current state of hip-hop and its arsenal of MCs. He reminds everyone who popularized 'gangsta rap,' calling himself the king and everyone else siblings while ripping into Interscope for making money off dead MCs. But then comes the part that's troubling. On the same album as the aforementioned "Why We Thugs," he tears into MCs who are living the life, chastising "million-dollar rappers killing million-dollar rappers" and calling for an industry shakeup that rejects Jacob's jewelry, Bentleys and chinchilla fur and finds all MCs "kissing and making up." Is that "thug"? No, but he has a point, and provides a glimpse of what Cube could be to the next generation of MCs if he really wanted to. If Cube got back to making strong political statements and serving as a veteran guide for those that will follow in his footsteps, knocking them down a notch or two when they step out of line, it would be a better path than one that tries to keep a foot in his "Gangsta, Gangsta" past while raking in cash from comedies. Even so, Laugh Now, Cry Later is a good listen that should help hold you over until Dr. Dre's Detox.
Click here to find out how to buy this album.

-- Mason Storm

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