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ICE CUBE, Raw Footage, Lench Mob
The first track asks the question, "What is Pyroclastic Flow?" and then answers with an extended variation of "red hot lava mixed with saliva." Oops. Did I give it away? Sorry. Solving that mystery isn't a good reason to pick up the album anyway. But don't worry, we can find you some. "It Takes a Nation" puts a bit of a profane twist on the anthem one-time Cube collaborators Public Enemy created 20 years ago. And once again he takes the younger generation to task, calling their music "fluffy" while he stays "gutter." "This sh-- don't sell, you know I'm still paid... I'm doing it for the love / You're doing it because / You need that advancement to spend on them dubs ... You m------------ worry about flossing so much / You don't know the fundamentals / You forgot how to brush." Oddly, the track before it, "I Got My Locs On," sounds like it's trying so hard to be current that it almost comes off like a Black Sheep parody. But it isn't. It might come as a surprise, but there's a worthwhile message in "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It." Namely, the things that it gets blamed for have been around much longer than the birth of the genre. Ice Cube knows. He was there. Does that make him old now? Well... no but he goes where some others won't. "Hood Mentality" tears into a hip-hop culture staple and declares that "the hood is where I'm from, but it's not who I am." It seems in Ice Cube's definition, "gangsta rap" has a higher calling, as do the next two inspirational tracks, "Why Me" and "Cold Places," with their G-O-D references and "keep ya head up" messages. You might think "Thank God" follows suit, but the phrase ends alternately with "for gangsta rap" and "the gangsta's back" as Cube continues his theme of steering the perception of the genre from banging to something more political. At times it seems like he's at odds with himself, a common theme on previous post-Hollywood-success albums. But in reality Cube has come to terms with who he is, who he was and who he forever shall be. It's not a smooth transition from persona to persona -- for the fan or Cube -- but that's to be expected, especially over 19 tracks. The truth is all of it defines the man, O'Shea Jackson. Back on "Nation," Cube rhymes, "I never changed my style in 22 summers"... and there's something to be said for that. No amount of "Are We There Yet?" sequels can take it away from him. Actors will act, but somehow Cube has found a way to deliver albums that stay true to himself despite his mainstream success.
Click here to find out how to buy this album.

-- Mason Storm

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