February 23, 2009

Reader Review / My Gut Reaction: Ice Cube - Laugh Now, Cry Later (June 6, 2006)

(Okay, I know that I said yesterday’s Reader Review was the last one, but I have something different for you two to enjoy. I’ve been sitting on Kevin’s review of Ice Cube’s Laugh Now, Cry Later for a while now, because it didn’t fit the parameters of the assignment, in that I hadn’t written about the disc first. The thing is, I had never actually listened to this album in the first place. So, to make things interesting, I’m combining his write-up with a Gut Reaction post of my own, which is why there are more italicized words than usual. I’ll let Kevin start things off, and you’ll see me in a couple of paragraphs.)

Instead of starting with an introduction of my chosen rapper and album, I’m going to start with an introduction to myself (not that I’m expecting you to care). I admit to not having good taste in rap (not that I listen to Lil’ Wayne or Soulja Boy, and the like), so my views may be different than most of the readers. I do occasionally listen to the more commercial stuff, and I have a poor appreciation for lyrics (half of rap to me is about lyrics, a quarter about delivery and a quarter about beat, to be mathematic about it) (which would actually imply that you care more about the lyrics than anything else on the song, but I digress). But still, my four friends who enjoy anything to do with rap and hip-hop are all 50 Cent lovers, so at least I’m a cut above them! (Hold on, punchy, let’s actually finish the review first.)

I’m writing about Laugh Now, Cry Later, gangsta rapper and amateur actor Ice Cube’s long-awaited comeback album. (I’m not so sure about the “amateur” part of that last sentence – he was pretty fucking good as Doughboy.) After spending many years acting in boring movies of all sorts (Are We There Yet?, I’m looking at you!), he decided to (finally) return to the studio and make an album. I didn’t really know what to expect, to be honest. This could have been a return to his Death Certificate days, full of scathing lyrical assaults, or it could be as bad as Are We Done Yet?. I’ll leave you hanging there. Without further ado, here goes my review!

(Actually, there’s still a little bit of ado, since I’m mashing up two separate review styles. The basic concept of my Gut Reaction to Laugh Now, Cry Later, Ice Cube’s seventh solo album (and his first in six years, after making a bunch of movies – oh, wait, that’s what Kevin was referring to) is this: I fully admit that I stopped paying attention to Ice Cube the rapper after the first Westside Connection album was released. I think that most of my readers and fellow bloggers will agree with me when I say that O’Shea Jackson has lost quite a bit of his step in the hip hop game, and while he’s still a more proficient lyricist than, say, almost anybody from the South (note I used the word “almost”, and no, I don’t feel that Lil’ Wayne is a lyricist), that backhanded praise is akin to being the best fry cook at McDonald’s.

So when I received Kevin’s request to review this disc, I was reluctant at first, since I had never listened to it and, honestly, never really wanted to. But I’ve held on to this write-up for so long that I feel it’s only fair to share it with the rest of my two readers, and, on a lark, thought it would be fun if I also listened to the disc, just to see what all the fuss was about. (
Laugh Now, Cry Later was the first release on Ice Cube’s independent record label, and it went on to sell more than half a million copies, which is virtually unheard of for an indie hip hop release with little to no promotion.) I believe I did my best to not let Kevin’s opinions sway my vote in any way, as I only skimmed through his e-mail the first time around and am only really reading his thoughts after having already written out my notes.

Let’s see how this works out.)

Kevin: I get the idea that most people around here care little for boring rap introductions, and as such, will care little for an introduction that features one line from Cube himself.
(Max: Well, that was worthless.)

K: The album starts off with a real banger. Scott Storch provides a booming track that what could happen when a good rapper takes one of his beats (insert “Candy Shop” reference here). There really is no better way for Cube to say “I’m back, bitches!” than this.
(M: Scott Storch’s beat isn’t bad at all, but O’Shea’s attempt to spin social commentary comes off as even more elementary than if it had been written by various members of the Dino 5.)

K: Then there’s this shit: a typical, Snoopy-style song about the weed. (I assume he’s talking about Snoop Dogg, but I left his words in context because the idea of the Peanuts gang performing a ballad about marijuana makes me chuckle.) I’m a firm anti-drug man, so I have little interest in the song’s content, but the beat featured exotic rain sticks, flutes and women echoing “Some some weeeeeeeeeeeed” in the background. And it was produced by a guy named Bud’da. How fitting.
(M: While we’re obviously a long way past “Fuck Tha Police”, I actually found myself liking this song. Bud’da’s beat grew on me in the nearly-four-minutes it took for this song to unravel across my ears. The singing on the hook made me want to insert a knitting needle into my brain stem, though.)

K: I didn’t listen to this track properly, but I’m pretty sure it was another pointless excerpt about weed.
(M: I get the joke (Mike Epps begging Cube to make another movie so that he can hook him up with some work), but it’s not very funny, especially because Mike Epps is decent enough to make money without O’Shea’s help. He was one of the better things about The Fighting Temptations. Epps, the guy who played Bunk Moreland on The Wire, and, oddly, Montell Jordan, stole the movie right out from under Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyonce.)

K: This song is another banger. Cube speaks as the father of gangsta rap, looking down upon his children. How interesting. My favourite line has to be the simple “You want child support?/ Get it out ya ass, bitch!” which he shouts throughout the song. The beat is also quite good, although a bit to similar to “Why We Thugs” (it’s produced by Teak & Dee, whom I believe are producers on Cube’s label).
(M: I swear this shit just played out on my computer, but I cannot support my own theory.)

K: Identical to the first track in running time, layout, and appeal. Which is zilch.
(M: …)

K: Meh. Cube just goes on about how much better he is than you. If this were his first album, I’d think he’s another one of those southern rappers who started rapping about 10 minutes ago and mysteriously accumulated a large amount of money. Or so they claim.
(M: Cube almost seems embarrassed to be performing on this song about halfway through this sorry-ass song. Maybe even he realized that this type of track was beneath the man who made The Glass Shield.)

K: This is an excellent recovery from the slip-up in the track before. It makes you think that Diddy is worth something in the hip-hop world (since he “produced” this track alongside his Hitmen production team). His lyrics are tight in this one. I highly recommend it.
(M: Meh.)

K: The energy level dips a bit. It’s still a good track, but I just can’t get into the Swizz Beatz instrumental. That, and the fact that the title sounds like a 50 Cent track. He also refers to his movie career in this track (as well as on quite a few others presented on here).
(M: Tammy Faye Baker? Yeah, Cube, that reference is relavant to today’s hip hop audience. The Swizz beat, which is pretty fucking awful anyway, doesn’t mesh well with the intro to this song, in which Cube pretends that he’s writing-slash-performing this track from behind bars. Which I’m not buying, by the way: I’m pretty sure a quick search on TMZ.com will prove that O’Shea was standing in line to purchase a week’s worth of groceries during the time of this song’s recording.)

K: The bad thing is that this is as commercial as Cube could ever get. The good thing? This is actually a decent track. Despite a boring-ass Lil’ Jon beat (yep, I hate all his beats, though this one is better than most of his others) and a boring-ass chorus (just a whole load of shouting, really: it is Lil’ Jon, after all), both Cube and his guest, Snoop, do well in this song. The lyrics are so-so but everything seems to work. (Hold on: a “boring-ass” beat, a “boring-ass” chorus, and some “so-so” lyrics still manages to equal an entertaining song? Can somebody please explain this new math to me?) Cube even decides to take a poke at Mike Jones (“I ain’t Mike Jones/Keep my name out your mouth bitch”). That one made me laugh. (It wasn’t technically a jab at Mike Jones, but I’ll let that comment go, as it is his perspective.) Unfortunately, Ice Cube decided to let Lil’ Jon handle the third verse (and he can’t rap), so only the first half of the song is worth listening to.
(M: I remember hearing this song on the radio, right around the time that producer Lil’ Jon was realizing that, in order to extend the shelf life on his career, he would have to atop resting on his Chappelle’s Show laurels and actually create some good music, or, failing that, something that was at least catchy and female-friendly, which explains his current status as Pitbull’s glorified hypeman. Both Cube and Snoop Dogg sound as if they should have given up hip hop years ago, although I humbly admit that both men have since recorded some very entertaining tracks. So, this song is basically Lil’ Jon’s fault. Or possibly Dave Chappelle’s.)

K: This song is amazing. DJ Green Lantern creates an ominous, melancholy beat which Cube proceeds to devour. He compares the ghetto to a mousetrap, as the title suggests, and it is full of catchy lines, such as, “It's a hustle called capitalism/Got my n----s in prison, all stuck in the system (yeah) / Recognize who's a hustler/George Dubl-ya / He's the one that's sittin’ back, fuckin’ ya”. It is a true old-school song which you’d expect to find on a 1990’s album rather than something from the new millennium. Brilliant.
(M: DJ Green Lantern (him? Really? That’s kind of interesting) provides an awfully boring beat, but Cube doesn’t sound entirely terrible, even though he manages to rhyme about condoms and Flavor Flav within the span of three bars.)

K: The previous songs shot my hopes up, only to have them dashed by this boring insert.
(M: This is just an interlude (don’t be confused by the much classier term “insert”) which justifies the formation of gangs. It has a cool title, though: A History of Violence is a badass flick that you two should check out if you haven’t already.)

K: Laylaw & D-Mac (whoever they are) (for the record, they’ve been around for a while, and have created beats for Cube in the past: Laylaw also helped out Above The Law when they first dropped) make a slick beat, which is ambient and gentle (contrasting the raw, gritty beats found throughout the rest of the album). This is as close to an autobiography as Cube will probably get. “Oh shit, it's N.W.A. / Them niggas on tour and they comin’ our way / Lil' Eminem is still tucked away / In that trailer park, just bumpin’ our tape” is another line that made me laugh. There’s also a sample of Minnie something-or-other in the chorus, which works quite well. ("Minnie something-or-other"? Even if you’re not familiar with Minnie Ripperton’s work, you should at least lift the name from the album credits or something.)
(M: Cheesy as hell, but it is good to hear Ice Cube’s version of N.W.A.’s growth and his departure, especially from his more mature point of view, in which he acknowledges both his anger toward his estranged bandmates and the love he still has for them today. Offering to help mentor Eazy-E’s son was a little much, though.)

K: This song the polar opposite to the one before. However, the beat is a monster and Cube tears the track up. The lyrics are quite weak, but it’s still worth a spin.
(M: I’m going to take the three minutes it takes for the song to finish to ponder what N.W.A.’s Efil4Zaggin would have sounded like had Cube not left the crew. Now that could have been some potent, genre-changing shit. Unlike this hot tranny mess.)

K: What the hell? When he talks about being the “game lord” in the chorus, is he talking about the rap game or video games in general? I’m inclined to lean toward the former, but the fact that the beat sounds like something from an old-school Nintendo game doesn’t help me to distinguish.
(M: The title alone is ridiculous enough to negate this entire song.)

K: I didn’t really care for this one, either. Predictably, it’s about cars (or at least the chorus is). WC outshines Ice Cube on this one, so I guess that’s got to be noted.
(M: WC essentially proves why he still has possession of Ice Cube’s phone number in his Blackberry, while Mack 10, the third guy in the Westside Connection, has had to resort to delivering my flatscreen television last weekend.)

K: Just…no. This is basically about money, cars and hoes. Scott Storch creates a horrendous beat, and Cube seems to be completely unmotivated. Press “next” immediately.
(M: What the fuck is this shit?)

K: Another song which has Tha Doggfather as a guest and Lil’ Jon on the beat (and is, coincidentally, also one of the singles). Unlike “Go to Church”, however, this song sucks. The beat is pathetic and it’s a total mess. Skip again.
(M: “You gotta love that?” You can’t tell me what to do.)

K: Are the “pollaseeds” of the title actually sunflower seeds, or is it some gangsta ritual I’m not in on? I can see Cube in the music video proudly flaunting his sunflower seed packets in our faces. Getting back to the song, it’s not as bad as the two before it, but that’s not saying much.
(M: I kind of like the laid-back, late-summer-day-at-a-backyard-barbecue feel of the production. WC once again overrules Ice Cube’s contribution, which starts off with a weird and ineffective rant against fake rappers, backpackers, and critics of West Coast rap. Still, I really liked this song, goofy title notwithstanding.)

K: Another Lil’ Jon-produced track. This one sucks, too.
(M: Five producers I would rather see Ice Cube work with instead of Lil’ Jon: Black Milk, Butch Vig, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Mutt Lange, and Jerry Bruckheimer. I’m thinking that Cube was sitting on these beat tapes that he bought off of John Little while he was still a force within the industry, well before he became a fucking joke, and decided to use them anyway, since it wasn’t as if he was going to get his fucking money back. The fact that Cube references a character from Chappelle’s Show kind of derails my theory, though.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: After listening to Laugh Now, Cry Later again, I feel a bit disappointed. When I first bought it, I was hooked on it for hours. I even bumped the tracks I didn’t like. Now I like it much less, for some reason. Rappers never age gracefully and I am more-or-less certain that Cube will never be able to surpass his N.W.A. and AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted days. But don’t let my negative attitude mislead you: over half the songs are play-worthy and, despite a subpar finish, the album as a whole still stands.

BUY OR BURN?: Buy it. Around half the songs on the album are decent. Ice Cube has sold out a bit on this album but, nonetheless, both radio listeners and hardcore-rap heads will find something on here to enjoy.

BEST TRACKS: “Why We Thugs”; “Child Support”; “Laugh Now, Cry Later”; “The Nigga Trap”; “Growin’ Up”


(MAX’S FINAL WORD: Although I found a few of the tracks decent enough, it becomes blatantly obvious by…oh, let’s just say the first track, that the Ice Cube of yesteryear is but a faded memory, one which has been replaced by this guy, an O’Shea Jackson lookalike who doesn’t need to rap to make his money, and, as such, does a half-assed job at it. Laugh Now, Cry Later is commendable in that it was an independent success (I cannot recall ever seeing a video for any of these songs, although I’m sure somebody shot at least one) that managed to chart pretty high in Billboard, but other than Kevin, I’m not aware of anybody that actually has this album in their collection, and now I know why. I thought this was an interesting experiment, but I never would have gotten to this album otherwise (okay, maybe I shouldn’t say “never”, since I would have had to eventually), but at least now I know that I don’t ever need to listen to it again.)

(Well, I’m sure that was awkward to read. If this happens again, I’ll probably need to clean up the format a bit. If you found this experiment interesting enough, have suggestions as to how it should be layed out next time (if there is a next time), or just want to see more Reader Reviews and want me to shut the fuck up, leave me some comments below.)


  1. Completely unrelated to the review but i have always wondered...Anyone know if the three dots on Ice Cube's face are a birthmark or some sort of tattoo or what?

  2. raw footage is a far superior album and id recommend you look into that one

  3. There is a video for every song in this album. I guess it came out on a DVD version or something.

    Btw 'History of Violence' was indeed a kickass movie. The book, as a general rule, was better.

  4. from fuck amerikka still with the triple k and burn hollywood burn to "are we there yet"... is almost impossible to believe you now when you spit that gangster ish, the authenticity questionable now... and how true is it that rappers "never grow old gracefully"... how do you define "grace" in a field like hiphop/rap?

  5. AnonymousJuly 09, 2009

    Just an FYI ...

    Wendell Pierce portrayed Bunk Moreland on the Wire.

    I don't think you guys gave "You Gotta Lotta That" the credit it deserved ... it was hilarious. There are a couple points of lyrical creativity that were fantastic.

    1. You happy now bitch? ;)