September 16, 2009

Westside Connection - Terrorist Threats (December 9, 2003)

In 1995, disgruntled West Coast gangsta rapper-ternt-actor O'Shea "Ice Cube" Jackson recruited two of his fellow California-based artists to help him do battle against every single rapper that wasn't based in their home state, in an effort to prove to nobody in particular that hip hop was best served under the hot Cali sun. Igniting a feud that seemingly came out of nowhere (but in reality was both created by and instigated by the hip hop media), these three amigos launched their first volley, "Westside Slaughterhouse", on Mack 10's debut solo album Foe Life, and used Chicago rapper Common as a punching bag. However, Lonnie Lynn is, apparently, nobody's bitch, and he quickly ripped Cube a new asshole on "The Bitch In Yoo", causing O'Shea to suffer an odd loss, considering that he was the same guy that dismantled N.W.A. with nothing but his words.

Undeterred, Cube, Mack 10, and WC (of The Maad Circle) formed the Westside Connection, a hip hop supergroup whose sole purpose was to bring the West Coast back into prominence, a feat that was damn near impossible at the time, as New York and the rest of the East Coast was exercising its dominance over the genre. Their debut, Bow Down, which was released in 1996, attacked rap music stereotypes, other rappers (Cypress Hill got it the worst), and anybody else that dared stand in their way, all while being almost defiantly West Coast in its sound. Bow Down ended up being Ice Cube's last actual good album, and it helped elevate both Mack 10 and WC into the realm of successful artists. Bow Down ended up moving over one million copies, earned four-and-a-half (out of five) mics in The Source (a questionable rating, considering that The Source was one of Westside Connection's targets), and generally rocked. Go ahead, listen to the album again. Trust me, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

While Bow Down was a call to arms for the West Coast to step their game up, both lyrically and musically, 2003's Terrorist Threats, the eventual follow-up, was an indifferent publicity stunt, a one-act play performed by three older artists who were appalled at what these youngsters were up to. At this point, the careers of all three men had hit a roadblock, so much so that Cube was seen more as an actor than as a rapper, and they figured that, since Bow Down was so fucking successful, why the hell shouldn't they try to capture lightning in a bottle twice? Hey, anything to try to make some extra cash, right?

Terrorist Threats featured a typically antagonistic title, but Ice Cube, Mack 10, and WC were all oblivious to the reason that the crew banded together to begin with, choosing instead to record an album full of rap music that was wholly indistinguishable from their peers on the radio. Sparks of their past concerns with hip hop cropped up on two tracks (which will be mentioned below), but for the most part, Cube's mind took the day off, Mack 10 opted to rhyme about nonsensical shit, WC tried his best to save face, and the numerous guest stars all showed up to the studio to collect their paychecks, leaving the original concept of the WSCG, or the West Side Connect Gang, to die a slow death on the shelves of fucking Sam Goody.

Terrorist Threats spawned no real hit songs (although its first single, "Gangsta Nation", got a lot of airplay on MTV), and somehow still sold over half a million copies, although if you look around, you'll find that absolutely nobody has one of them. This album effectively ended Mack 10's relationship with the crew: after a falling out with his mentor O'Shea, he was kicked out of the group, and although Interweb rumors persist that he was replaced with The Game, another West Coast jackass who loves to start beef for no reason, no third album has ever materialized.


Keith David is one of those character actors who works his fucking ass off. He's worked with Ice Cube before (on Barbershop), hence his appearance here. His narration makes this rap album intro much more dramatic than absolutely necessary, but I'll always like the guy, if only because he's in John Carpenter's They Live. That scene in the alley between him and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, where the latter is trying to get the former to put on glasses? Motherfucking classic.

2. CALL 9-1-1
Young Tre's beat already confirms the worst: the organic West Coast sounds of Bow Down have been replaced in favor of what the trio thought was popular in 2003. As such, this reintroduction to the WSCG is a major disappointment.

Did Cube just dedicate this song "to all my white n----s"? The fuck? WC blows his two rhyme partners out of the fucking park (at least that guy still has the hunger behind the mic), but the most memorable aspect of this crap was Keith David's hilariously deadpan threats running throughout the song.

The first and, as far as I know, the only single off of Terrorist Threats. I've always wondered why nobody has ever pointed out that Fredwreck's beat is essentially a sped-up version of Kanye West's instrumental for Beanie Sigel's "The Truth". Then it occurred to me that I'm probably the only guy who would ever try to compare those two songs together. Anyway, Nate Dogg's hook is a winner, as usual, while Cube and Dub-C both manage to sound good even though this song was a fairly obvious radio effort. Mack 10, on the other hand, showcases a flow that proves that he is the weakest link in the WSCG chain. And yet, the song wouldn't really work without him. Strange, eh?

This song is frustrating. The Westside Connection were originally conceived as an attempt to draw attention away from the East with the aid of tight beats and thoughtful (and thoughtless) lyrics. However, shit like this only helps inform listeners why the mainstream audience stopped giving a fuck about the West Coast in the first place. Pass.

I thought this metaphor was a bit too easy to draw upon, but Cube, Mack 10, and WC's correlation between prostitution and the music industry is still pretty decent. Mack 10's assertion that "pussy don't pay you like EMI" is just funny to me. Butch Cassidy's hook offsets the harder edge that the crew was chasing after on the instrumental, but this still wasn't that bad.

O'Shea's gibberish at the beginning of the track sets the bar pretty low already, but the back-and-forth between the four rappers somehow makes this track worse than you were expecting. How in the hell does that happen?

8. IZM
The beat (credited to Bruce Waynne, who is clearly not Batman, and some guy named Dirty Swift) is pretty good, but it sounds like it would be a better fit for Tha Alkaholiks. Ice Cube obliterates any memory of Death Certificate's lyrical potency with an inane verse that he probably penned in between setups while filming Barbershop. What a waste.

Attacking sellout rappers who write love songs solely to get radio play and to garner a female audience is inspired: Bow Down was chock full of lyrical bile being spewed toward the conventions of hip hop at the time (the East Coast, magazine critics, Cypress Hill, Q-Tip). However, this concept deserved a much better execution, or at least a completely different chorus, which sounds almost as bad as those on a lot of Kool Keith's self-produced work.

This is the best that O'Shea Jackson has sounded since "Gangsta Nation", and he utilizes this slight resurgence to attack two guys that share his surname, Samuel L. and Jesse Jackson. (No relation.) Damizza's beat is the very essence of the West, and even though Knoc-Turn'al's hook is fairly fucking awful, the song itself is pretty good otherwise.

This one song is a prime example as to why Ice Cube and the rest of the Westside Connection are no longer relevant to hip hop: this was recorded with every intention of rocking the clubs. Wow. This was eight different varieties of useless. And yes, they just rhymed "tardy" with "party", shades of Real Housewives of Atlanta. I never thought I'd reference that on this blog, but I feel that the mention above of They Live will help offset it.

I don't purchase Westside Connection albums to hear positive messages directed toward the youth. If I wanted that shit, I would have bought The Carter III, thanks.

Yet another beat that would have been better suited for Tha Liks. I'm convinced that Mack 10 swiped Tash's beat CD and brought it to the WSCG studio sessions as a lark. Well, at least this abomination was motherfucking short.

Cube's first verse is some of the best satire I've heard in hip hop in a long while. Mack 10 and Dub-C stick with the theme, with varying degrees of subtlety, but O'Shea's words carry the track. More commentary such as this (and less blatant commercial attempts) would have been appreciated on Terrorist Threats. Oh well.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Terrorist Threats is all over the place, and most of the project sounds so poor that you'll be forced to double-check the Westside Connection's debut album to prove that these are the same three guys that channelled their anger so well on Bow Down. Ice Cube, Mack 10, and WC opt to travel with the grain this time, instead of going against it, resulting in an album interchangeable with most other no-name Left Coast artists, only managing to come up for air sporadically with something that sounds remotely decent. The beats sometimes knock, but they're wasted so often on these three that you'll be tempted to complain to your city councilman. Terrorist Threats only manages to suicide-bomb about an hour of your valuable time, which is one hour more than what you should devote to this bullshit.

BUY OR BURN? There is no reason for anybody to purchase this, which sucks, as Bow Down was so fucking good. This is the anti-Bow Down: instead of bucking trends, the WSCG follow them like that little scrawny pup running after the bulldog in those old Warner Brothers cartoons. For fans of Ice Cube (those of you who still exist at this point), spinning the tracks listed below will be sufficient, and if you're not an Ice Cube fan, why the hell are you still reading this write-up? We'll see you next time.

BEST TRACKS: "Gangsta Nation"; "Lights Out"; "Superstar (Double Murder = Double Platinum)"


Westside Connection - Bow Down


  1. your crazy my man this album is a classic.. im joking.. it's awful

  2. If you're looking for lesser-known/eclectic stuff to fill this month, you can try Ghetto Pop Life by Danger Mouse &'ll probably be pleasantly surprised

  3. Actually, scratch that...I'll do a write-up of it for you for next month

  4. you won't do any krs-one review?

  5. Good found! Never heard of them though.

    Check this new group called We On It Entertainment.

    Check their songs here -

  6. They look like clowns on that album cover! I hate to say it, but they are washed up. Whenever I think of Ice Cube, I think "b-movie actor". Mack 10, I think of "T-Boz Beater". W.C., I think of a guy that has an ugly pubic hair looking beard. They were already washed up by the year 2000. What made them think that this album was going to sell? Was it really released? I never saw it in music stores. They should take the masters of this album and put them in a shredder. Peace!

  7. They should have named the group, "Wackside Crapnection". I like that title!