Artist: Westside Connection
Title: "King Of The Hill"
Album: Bow Down (1996)
The Westside Connection, a hip hop supergroup made up of Ice Cube, his young apprentice Mack 10, and rap veteran WC (formerly of ...and the Maad Circle fame), forged their alliance on their shared belief that the West Coast wasn't receiving nearly as much respect in the hip hop game as they felt they deserved. They happened to join forces during the height of the 1990s East Coast scene, when it seemed that a new classic was being birthed every fucking week, so it isn't like they were wrong: the media was so laser-focused on New York artists (rightfully so, mind you) that they forgot that California had their own thing going, even with the slow death of the gangsta rap movement that is still in hospice to this day. Unless a big name like Dr. Dre or Snoop Doggy Dogg or 2Pac was making moves, the media simply didn't give a shit, which must have pissed off Ice Cube royally, since he started off as one of the preeminent gangsta rappers of our time.
The trio's debut album (one of only two they'll ever release, unless Cube and Mack 10 somehow kiss and make up), Bow Down, is filled with both thinly-veiled barbs and outright direct attacks, all set to mostly interesting beats. "King Of The Hill" is the group's retaliation to Cypress Hill (and, specifically, their song "No Rest For The Wicked"), who accused Cube of stealing song ideas for the soundtrack to his movie Friday, specifically for its title track. (Cypress Hill appears on that very same soundtrack, a fact nobody ever seems to remember whenever anyone else recounts this story.) WC sits the entire track out (the only time during Bow Down that he does so), since he was still friends with B-Real, Sen Dog, and DJ Muggs, but Mack 10 jumps into the fray like the loyal lackey he was at the time. However, the majority of the song is handled by Cube himself, and while his specific examples that are supposed to be damning to the Cypress Hill cause may not hit as hard as "No Vaseline" did N.W.A. waaaay back in 1991, he has a fire in his voice, as though Mack 10 were playfully goading him into remembering that he had a problem with the Hill and then locked him in the booth. In short, he sounds pissed, and realistically so, as some of his thoughts seem malformed and nearly incoherent, resorting to basic threats out of mere frustration. Most likely he recorded this shit in one take.
After Cube announces that he's going after Cypress Hill in both the song's intro and the first couple of bars, he delivers what I believe to be one of his finest couplets, regardless of the era it was written in: "I got a voice you should fear / I drink a beer, bust a rap, and end your fucking career" (italics mine). The way he recites this line has always struck me: there's menace involved, almost like he's slowly remembering the persona he had adopted during his AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate years, but it's also just a true statement in his eyes. Forget about the fact that most everyone else he had attacked up to that point (Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Common) not only didn't see their careers fade, but enjoyed their best years after the disses hit airwaves: when Cube speaks those words, you're prone to believe them.
The QDIII instrumental helps tremendously. It's overly simplistic, but it has to be in order for Cube's words to find their destination. However, it's a banger, and it helps even Mack 10 sound like a professional in the booth, even though he's essentially doing what The Game would later blindly do for 50 Cent's G-Unit before being dropped from the squad himself, a fact that he never fucking shuts up about, right? I give WC credit for being his own man and not jumping into the fray: coincidentally, WC is the only member of the Westside Connection that Cube still maintains a professional relationship with. Hmm.
"King Of The Hill" sounds great in your car or in your earbuds, and there's very little investment here. Most likely, you two don't give a shit about any beef that Cypress fucking Hill is involved with, especially a beef that was squashed later on when both Cube and B-Real were featured on a song for the soundtrack to a goddamn Shaquille O'Neal movie. And given the existence of another, much-more-highly-praised dis track in Ice Cube's back history, you two may be surprised to see "King Of The Hill" listed on my playlist. Hell, even I admit that this song dropped well outside of Cube's prime years. And yes, the artists on the receiving end of the verbal assault most certainly don't hold the same level of importance in this here rap game as his former N.W.A bandmates did (although let's not count them out entirely: Cypress Hill still made history in their own right). Butt one of my most important criteria regarding the songs I choose for this playlist thing I'm curating (fuck, that sounds pretentious, right?) is that I must be entertained, and "King Of The Hill" does that, even if you two may have glossed over it at first.
As an added bonus, I decided to also bring to you Cypress Hill's response, the cleverly-titled "Ice Cube Killa", which recycles the same beat (shit, I would have done that, too, it sounds good) for B-Real's shaming of O'Shea Jackson. I don't agree with B-Real's assertion that "Muggs made the best songs on [Cube's] third album [The Predator]", but you have to admit that he sounds much more focused with his barbs, leaving little wonder as to why Cube squashed the beef later on. I also dug how B-Real made sure to single out WC as being "cool", since he wanted no part of the fight, but then laid out Mack 10. Ah, rap beef. It's funny to me, unless we're talking Biggie and 2Pac. (Although "Hit 'Em Up" is hilarious, mind you.) And you have to admit, you miss the days where people would just say "fuck it" and name names, right? *stares in the direction of Drake and Meek Mill*
Do you agree or disagree with this selection? Discuss below.
Westside Connection - Bow Down (review)