(Today's Reader Review comes from Taylor, who took it upon himself to look into one of Ice Cube's later albums, 2008's Raw Footage. Given that my current schedule has me avoiding all of his newer stuff at all costs, I figured this would be the best way to open up a discussion about O'Shea Jackson. Leave Taylor some comments below.)
My first taste of Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson) came after listening to two of his songs in the virtual streets of San Andreas, “It Was a Good Day” and “Check Yo Self (Remix)”. Quickly afterward, I acted on instinct, purchasing The Predator (which, conveniently, contained both tracks...well, the original version of “Check Yo' Self”, anyway). Which I thought to be the shit.
Years later, I've come to realized that most everything released today is glossed-up, polished, and comes mostly from the South. I don't treat The Predator with the same level of reverence as I did (after listening to AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate, I put The Predator aside), but I still like the album as a whole. So when I heard that Ice Cube was going to release Raw Footage, “his most political album since The Predator” (Wikipedia's words, not mine), I had my doubts that it would live up to my expectations.
Many people hoped that Raw Footage would be Ice Cube's return to the raw, unfiltered political lyrics that defined his early career. As the release date grew closer, reviews poured in declaring the album to be the best thing since sliced bread, and that Ice Cube was at the top of his game. I wanted to believe the critics so badly that I went out, copped a copy of the album, popped it into my CD player, listened to it all the way through, and then it quickly ended up on the shelf collecting dust.
Years later, I find myself writing a review of Raw Footage. I haven't listened to this in a while: in fact, I sold my original copy of the album on eBay for the low price of three dollars (hardly enough to recoup the fourteen bucks I spent on the thing). You may be asking yourself, can Ice Cube bring back his raw, unfiltered style and make Raw Footage his most political album yet?
The obvious answer to these questions and a lot more is: no.
1. WHAT IS A PYROCLASTIC FLOW? (FEAT. KEITH DAVID)
Man, Ice Cube really likes to treat his albums like films, huh? This useless rap album intro (performed by actor Keith David, who is no way underground or gangsta) is overly dramatic, overly distracting, and seems to set up a movie that you would not spend your money to see. And this is supposed to be Ice Cube's “most political album since The Predator”, mind you.
2. I GOT MY LOCS ON (FEAT. YOUNG JEEZY)
Did Ice Cube really think this Southern abomination pretending to be a West Coast bomb would work on Raw Footage? I can see that being with Ice Cube has really inspired Young Jeezy lyrically, as he adds nothing of value to the track and sucks donkey dick. Ice Cube fares no better; hell, at this point he's probably on the same level as Young Jeezy lyrically. This entire song can be best described in one word: ass.
3. IT TAKES A NATION
Ice Cube mentions in the beginning of the song that he is the eighth wonder of the world, but nothing on this track warrants that self-applied moniker. Cube declares that he won't concede to the mainstream and tells Viacom, Clear Channel and Radio One to fuck off, but I don't really buy that bullshit, especially since his previous album had songs that appealed to a mainstream audience that aired on both Clear Channel and Radio One stations, and he's made movies that appeal specifically to family audiences, which is far from the gangsta persona he believes he still embodies. Hey O'Shea, how's that movie deal with Disney coming along?
4. GANGSTA RAP MADE ME DO IT
I have to admit, this a good song to bang to when you're cruising down the streets of your hood (or the streets of Midnight Club: Los Angeles), but when you're forced to sit down and listen to the lyrics, you'll find the lyrical holes becoming more evident, bringing the entire song down. There was a video made for this song that but I barely remember anything from. Well, except for the fact that it proved Cube has not gotten with the times (in 2008); what, no Hurricane Katrina reference?
5. HOOD MENTALITY (FEAT. KEITH DAVID)
Ice Cube needs to learn that albums that think of themselves as movies are supposed to have a consistent storyline. The Predator didn't have any of this Keith David movie bullshit. Anyway, the bouncy beat does not fit well with Cube's lyrics about living with a hood mentality (or was he talking about other people who want to live with hood mentality? I couldn't tell). I was surprised when he mentioned he wanted to make everybody around him suffer: I guess this is why he created the Are We There Yet? movie series (and that sitcom of the same name on TBS).
6. WHY ME? (FEAT. MUSIQ SOULCHILD)
I really like the beat on this one, even though it might be a bit too peppy, and Musiq Soulchild sounds alright on the chorus. However, I'm pretty sure that Cube rapped about the exact same topic just one track ago. Or was it on a previous album? It's all starting to blend together for me. Regardless, this was just okay.
7. COLD PLACES
8. JACK N THE BOX (FEAT. KEITH DAVID)
With that title, I assumed that Cube would rhyme about the popular fast food chain that seems to be prominent in California, but instead, he uses the allotted time to talk about how great he is and how he's stacking much more money then you, thereby undermining and compromising his own political views. What, you thought he bragged about money on Death Certificate? Nope! 50 Cent's production team Tha Bizness provides a banging beat, but it's marred by the fact that they literally copied it from a song called “Ghetto Commandments”, which was featured on the soundtrack for an Adult Swim special called Freaknik: The Musical, which kind of obscures this song's very existence since there are two songs with the same identical beat, one featuring Ice Cube and the other starring both Mac Maine and Snoop Dogg. Still, it would have been hilarious if he had literally rapped about Jack In The Box and their delicious food.
9. DO YA THING
Yawn. The only notable thing about this track is that it somehow reached number fifteen on the Billboard “Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles” chart, but this fact is rendered meaningless by the fact that “Weird Al” Yankovic reached number one on the very same chart, and he's a comedian who parodies pop songs! (Not to say he can't rap, though.) Moving on...
10. THANK GOD
Another shitty cinematic intro which leads into a shitty song. The best thing about this is the instrumental, which Cube wastes as though it were just another Coors Light paycheck. I thought this song would be about how the police, various corporations, and political figures have made everybody's life hard and what he would do to combat this, but I guess I was wrong. Damn you, O'Shea, for lying to me during the intro!
11. HERE HE COME (FEAT. DOUGHBOY)
I don't think anybody would really enjoy listening to Ice Cube and his weed-carrying son Doughboy rhyme over an ironically godawful shitstorm of a beat (ironic because the producer's name is Symphony, as in “a harmonious combination of elements”). Pass!
12. GET MONEY, SPEND MONEY, NO MONEY
This track is supposed to be about poor people who get money, and then foolishly spend all of their money very quickly, only finding themselves to be poor again. I thought this song was going to resonate with me, but then I realized that Ice Cube has lots of money: why hasn't he given any of that money to the poor? Emile's beat is alright, but that's where it stops.
13. GET USE TO IT (FEAT. WC & THE GAME)
No fucking way O'Shea! I don't have to “Get Use To It” (“it” being improper grammar?), I can do something about it! Maybe I can concoct a plan to get rid of Ice Cube and The Game while somehow leaving WC intact. Hmmmm.....
I like this song, but I fucking love this beat. Now this is what I'm talking about:for the first time on Raw Footage, Ice Cube sounds somewhat revitalized (I say “somewhat” because he still hasn't fully kicked the bullshit), rapping his ass off. I guess he was waiting for the proper musical backing, but with only two tracks left, this comes in too late. Still, I liked this shit.
15. STAND TALL
Cube made a smart decision putting these last few tracks together. This beat is a bit more mellow, but it's still amazing nonetheless. O'Shea sounds reinvigorated (he's staying on topic, at least); now if only he had enlisted more producers among the likes of Warryn Campbell and DJ Crazy Toones, Raw Footage would have at least been decent rather than fucking horrible.
16. TAKE ME AWAY (FEAT. BUTCH CASSIDY)
Ice Cube attempts to be clever, mentioning that he had a good day. How in the hell can you have a good day when this album presents images of corrupt police, violence and poor living conditions amongst his people? Oh that's right, Ice Cube doesn't live in the ghetto anymore! On here, he contradicts everything that he allegedly believes over a beat that sounds like ass, changing his stance faster then a rapper jumping onto the latest trends. Not like any of that matters, since you'd barely remember anything long after the song fades out.
(There are also a number of bonus tracks that are available depending on where you but Raw Footage: for example, the remix to “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It”, featuring both Nas and Scarface, is only available on iTunes. Or if you search other rap blogs, of course.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Let's be honest: Raw Footage is polished horseshit that tries to disguise itself as an underground album. Ice Cube's first political effort since The Predator ends up sounding deceptive for those of you who actually stood in line to buy the album. When he's not talking about politics, he's talking about himself, and most of Raw Footage sounds like he was trying too hard to appeal to the West Coast. This album may have gotten good reviews, but don't believe the hype: there is nothing on this album that is worth hearing, except maybe the tracks listed below. Only hardcore collectors need apply.
BUY OR BURN? Avoid this shit at all costs.
BEST TRACKS: “Tomorrow”; “Stand Tall”
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below.)