Well, it’s been a while since I last wrote in this blog. I’ve been on and off and busy with school work and so forth. I’ve hardly had time to maintain this blog, but I’ve definitely been thinking about it. I’ve also been following the events relating to Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others very closely, and monitoring shifts of events. I thought it’d be, for this holiday season, appropriate to review more political-charged hip hop content. I plan to also do 2Pac’s 2Pacalypse Now as well as other albums that aren’t political over the next few days. I definitely have a lot to discuss.
Ice Cube’s The Predator was Ice Cube’s third studio album as a solo artist. Although Ice Cube’s 2 works had dealt with political concepts and social issues before (including Death Certificate, an album that seemingly attempted to offend all its listeners regardless of age, sex or color), The Predator was something special. Released in the post-Rodney King riots atmosphere, Ice Cube is more angrier, determined, and ambitious in this album. It’s incredible the work that Ice Cube has accomplished. Both in music and acting.
The content, as you would expect, deals with the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and Ice Cube wastes no time in describing the aftermath of the events in full-detail. The opening track of the album “When Will They Shoot”, goes into the controversy that Ice Cube has garnered with his music, especially the infamous “No Vaseline” track on Death Certificate where he calls N.W.A. manager and Ruthless CEO (and close associate of Eazy-E) Jerry Heller a “Jew”. “Wicked” is a fast-moving track that talks more directly about the events that had struck L.A., and the struggles of the African-American community. Of course, most people will remember the album for the laidback “It Was a Good Day”, in which Ice Cube describes the perfect circumstances of a specific day in South Central Los Angeles. Immediately after the track ends, the album strikes back with its socio-political charged content on “We Had To Tear This Muthafucka Up”, which describes the LA riots from a rioters’ perspective, as well as Ice Cube’s threats towards officers involved in the beating of Rodney King, such as Stacey Koon. Overall, most of the tracks have some kind of socio-political message involved, which makes the album more enjoyable.
The Predator’s message, while may be incredibly provocative, nonetheless gets to the point. Ice Cube, with incredibly fiery anger and wrath, describes the struggles of the African American community post 1965, and details how police brutality, racial segregation, income, unemployment, poverty, political apathy, and a whole number of issues affected the African American (and also the Hispanic) community in 1992, and how they are still major problems today. Throughout the album, Ice Cube clearly cares about the community being affected, and really wants to prove his point. It may not be as shocking as AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted or (especially) Death Certificate, but nonetheless, it’s powerful. It also comes off a bit as if Ice Cube is stuck in between the guerrilla movements and MLK Jr, which is what made the political efforts of many rappers so special. In no way does Ice Cube try to tone down his efforts or be politically correct, and he’s not trying to be optimistic either. Simply put, The Predator kicks reality.
The production is absolutely sonic and a step up from Ice Cube’s 2 previous efforts. Take note that this was the pre-Chronic/Doggystyle G-Funk era. The producers employed in the album include traditional Ice Cube-cooperator DJ Pooh, Sir Jinx, and Cypress Hill member DJ Muggs. Ice Cube samples the usual funk heroes of the 70s and 80s (such as Parliament and Ohio Players), as well as older hip hop acts (such as Public Enemy, who played a huge role in AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted) and even classic rock (Queen) and films (The Predator and American Me). The production sounds very anxious, dark, and aggressive, which describes Los Angeles after the riots. Although not exactly as memorable as say, Doggystyle or The Chronic, the production nonetheless is amazing.
The Predator is one of the last few politically charged albums of the 90s, as mainstream artists began to stop rapping about real issues and instead move towards either stereotypical gangsta rap inspired by films like Boyz n the Hood, or to party pimps with G-funk instrumentals. Although the golden age of hip hop definitely continued past 1992, the political charged content it brought sadly didn’t for the most part. The Predator deserves a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Outside of “It Was a Good Day”, I’d say “We Had to Tear This Muthafucka Up” is perhaps the most memorable track, with it’s hard hitting beat, graphic yet vivid lyrics, and serious message.