When Ice Cube split from N.W.A after the group's seminal Straight Outta Compton album changed the world forever, expectations were high, too high to ever be met by anyone but the most talented of artists, and at his most inspired. At the time Cube was just that. With AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted the rapper expanded upon Compton, making a more full-bodied album that helped boost the role of the individual in hip-hop. Save the dramatic intro where a mythical Ice Cube is fried in the electric chair, his debut is filled with eye-level views of the inner city that are always vivid, generally frightening, generally personal, and sometimes humorous in the gallows style. Ripping it quickly over a loop from George Clinton's "Atomic Dog," Cube asks the question that would be central to his early career, "Why there more niggas in the pen than in college?," while sticking with the mutual distrust and scare tactics N.W.A used to wipe away any hopes of reconciliation ("They all scared of the Ice Cube/And what I say what I portray and all that/And ain't even seen the gat"). "What I'm kicking to you won't get rotation/Nowhere in the nation" he spits on the classic "Turn Off the Radio," which when coupled with the intoxicating Bomb Squad production and Cube's cocksure delivery that's just below a shout, makes one think he's the only radio the inner city needs. The Bomb Squad's amazing work on the album proves they've been overly associated with Public Enemy, since their ability to adapt to AmeriKKKa's more violent and quick revolution is underappreciated. Their high point is the intense "Endangered Species," a "live by the trigger" song that offers "It's a shame, that niggas die young/But to the light side it don't matter none." This street knowledge venom with ultra fast funk works splendidly throughout the album, with every track hitting home, although the joyless "You Can't Fade Me" has alienated many a listener since kicking a possibly pregnant woman in the stomach is a very hard one to take. Just to be as confusing as the world he lives in, the supposedly misogynistic Cube introduces female protégé Yo-Yo with "It's a Man's World" before exiting with "The Bomb," a perfectly unforgiving and visceral closer. Save a couple Arsenio Hall disses, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted is a timeless, riveting exercise in anger, honesty, and the sociopolitical possibilities of hip-hop.
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