Groundbreaking, controversial and legendarily lyrical, few artists have shaped hip-hop and rap as remarkably as Ice Cube. First gaining notoriety with infamous West Coast gansta rap group N.W.A., the MC left the revolutionary outfit only to further impact the genre’s innovation, as a prominent solo artist.
While he went on to star in and produce a number of films, Ice Cube’s rhythmic, writing and rhyming skills have taken center stage throughout his career. With 10 studio albums and a number of compilations and soundtracks under his belt—and N.W.A.’s 2016 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame—AXS decided to take a look back at some of Ice Cube’s best lyrics.
Off Cube's sophomore solo effort Death Certificate (1991) – which went platinum - "No Vaseline" was a diss song aimed at his former N.W.A. bandmates. Ice Cube left the notorious crew in 1989 following a contract dispute. After Cube went solo, N.W.A. disrespected him on subsequent tracks - and “No Vaseline” was the lyricist's knock-down comeback. Since then, it's water under the bridge - Cube and the guys - MC Ren, Dr Dre and DJ Yella (Eazy-E died in 1995) - worked together on 2015’s Straight Outta Compton biopic and hung tight at N.W.A.'s Rock & Roll Hall fame induction.
Yella Boy's on your team, so you're losin'
Ay yo Dre, stick to producin'
Callin' me Arnold, but you Been-a-d*ck,
Eazy E saw your ass and went in it quick
Good vibes reign on this rolling fan favorite. Off the MC's third studio album The Predator (1992) – the first album to debut at number one on both the R&B and pop charts – it features a catchy flow, courtesy of a sample of the Isley Brothers' "Footsteps in the Dark." What’s more, the song’s largely devoid of the famed rapper's signature at-the-time profanity (click on the title above to listen to the clean version). The track itself recounts a wealth of positive experiences that add up to one stellar day for Ice Cube, in South Central L.A.
Drunk as hell but no throwing up
Half way home and my pager still blowing up
Today I didn't even have to use my A.K.
I got to say it was a good day
Released in 1993, “Check Yo Self” is another track off acclaimed album The Predator, and topped Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Featuring Das EFX on the refrain - "chickity-check yo self before you wriggedy-wreck yo self" – the song title became a 90s lexicon staple that’s still prevalent today.
You better check yo self before you wreck yo self
Cos I'm bad for your health, I come real stealth
Droppin bombs on ya moms, f**k car alarms
Doin foul crime, I'm that nigga wit'cha Alpine
Influential and unapologetic, this one’s the title track from Ice Cube’s debut solo masterpiece AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990). The spelling signified a political lean, with this chart topping single – along with the majority of the album’s tracks – painting a picture of the type of America that was being experienced at that time.
I'm not a rebel or a renegade on a quest
I'm a n***a with a 'S' on his chest
So get the Kryptonite 'cause I'm a rip tonight
'cause I'm scarin' ya, wanted by America
Showcasing Cube’s rhythmic and lyrical prowess, “The N***a You Love to Hate” is another hard hitting track off solo debut AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. The album itself was largely produced by Public Enemy's production team The Bomb Squad and solidified Cube’s supremacy as a solo artist, after splitting from N.W.A.
They try to keep me from running up
I never tell you to get down it's all about coming up
So what they do go and ban the AK?
My sh*t wasn't registered any f**king way