Fresh off of his Hollywood Walk Of Fame induction and the continued success of the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, emcee, producer, actor, director and one fourth of “the world’s most dangerous group” Ice Cube never forgot who and what got him where he is today. With a career spanning almost three decades, Mr. O’Shea Jackson has yet to stop breaking new ground in the entertainment world. Cube has announced the launch of his new, professional “BIG3” 3-on-3 professional basketball league, which is premiering this weekend in New York. He’s also re-released his epic sophomore LP Death Certificate, as this year the album turns a quarter century.
As the lead of his entourage through the lobby of the Conrad Hotel in lower Manhattan, Cube’s moves are evidently calculated and even since he “saw it comin, that’s why he went solo”, the impact of his movements are increasing by the year. When discussing his surroundings a little over 25 years ago after he decided to leave N.W.A., he was adamant about how important it was to educate his listeners. “Working with Public Enemy on my first album ‘Amerikkka’s Most Wanted’…they introduced us to a lot of the teachings. We would listen to the tapes and study and to me, what I was learning needed to be injected into the music some way some how.”
The multi-platinum selling artist from South Central also spoke about how much the Nation of Islam influenced Death Certificate’s content. “What’s different about the Nation Of Islam…their main purpose to me was to try to tailor make a religion to help us get through the situation we were in. I felt like it was a good thing for my fans to decipher some of these things that you didn’t learn in school. Some of the things that America shies away from.”
During that same era, with this message of Black empowerment via Hip Hop crossing racial and economic boundaries, it was suspected that the messages conveyed in the music were sought out to be neutralized. One of the guest appearance on the album, former NOI Minister Khalid Muhammad, was silenced by Congress in 1993 because of incendiary statements made at NJ’s Kean College in 1993. Cube was unknowingly under a government microscope and when he came to that realization, he toned down the music’s content. When asked why he disassociated himself from the Nation after Death Certificate, he says,“I’m a natural person. I’m not going to get caught up in this religion or that religion. I want to have a one-on-one relationship with God that is unfiltered by anybody else’s philosophy.”
Philando Castile, Mike Brown, Eric Garner are just a few of the names of Black people who died in the hands of those sworn to peotect and serve, an epidemic that hasn’t slowed in the past century, much less the past 25 years. Ice Cube says that the re-release of Death Certificate is a mere reminder that these problems that exist within our community in 2017 aren’t new to us at all. When asked why about the album’s re-issue, Cube says, “With so much I think that a lot of things that have been brought up have still not been dealt with and I think we still need to refresh our memories on what we’re going up against.” He goes on to say, “It was a perfect time to throw three new songs on there to let people know that this ain’t just a nostalgic, old record. It’s actually a new record and if you’ve never heard it before, it’s gonna be brand new. Especially after Straight Outta Compton and people are up on my history a little more, so this was a perfect time to release it.”
Check out The Source Magazines 1992 reciew of Death Certificate below:
The Source January 1992
Production: artist, Sir Jinx, The Boogie Men [DJ Pooh, Bobcat, Rashad]
Ice Cube has unleashed his second solo album and it ain’t no gangsta’s Fairytale. Death Certificate begins with “The Death Side, a mirrored image of where we are today” and continues with “The Life Side, a vision of where we need to go.” The catalyst in this vision is the Nation of Islam (Cube is now a member). Cube’s lyrics draw on the Nation’s messages of knowledge of self, economic self sufficiency, and self-determination.
The “Death Side” begins with “The Wrong N*gga To F*ck With,” an all out attack similar to “The N*gga You Love To Hate.” “My Summer Vacation” tells the tale of gang banging, LA drug dealers who start scramblin’ in East St. Louis over a funky “Atomic Dog” loop. “Givin’ Up The Nappy Dug Out” exposes a father’s supposedly immaculate Catholic school daughter as the tramp of the neighborhood over a fat “Hip Hugger” loop. “A Bird In The Hand” is the story of a young Black male who must sell drugs to support his family. The track uses the slamming loop from the recent Cube/EPMD St. Ide’s commercial. “Alive On Arrival” is an incredible account of being shot and going to the county hospital jack, “Where N*ggas die over a little scratch.”
On the “Life Side” Cube assaults white supremacy on “I Wanna Kill Son” and “Horny Little Devil,” while “Black Korea” takes aim at Korean merchants with businesses in Black communities who Cube sees as being insensitive to Black people. “Be True To The Game,” loops the Gap Band’s “Outstanding” while Cube blasts the “sellouts” for forgetting their roots are making some money. “Us,” is the Ice Cube’s call for the Black community to stop destroying itself and write in order to become self-sufficient. Using the old “Dazz” sample, Cube saves the final deathblow for a blistering rebuttal to NWA entitled “No Vaseline.” After Boyz N The Hood, people may have been expecting to hear a “politically correct” Ice Cube record. The sometimes harsh rhetoric is part of his mission to help the Black community and that may be hard for some to swallow.
Death Certificate’s production is good and will keep your ear, but it doesn’t really break any new ground like Amerikkka’s Most Wanted. Many of the samples are recognizable and the overall sound has a funk vibe. Sir Jinx’s tracks are denser and busier while the Boogie Men keep things sparser and more beat oriented, but the record is all Cube. Ice Cube’s lyrical styles and concepts carry the album and make it something hip-hop fans must have. Reef