Priority / Da Lench Mob, 1993
Ice Cube has suffered the criticism of his fans of the first hour to the release of his fourth album Lethal Injection. Indeed, after leaving N.W.A. in 1990 following the release of Straight Outta Compton, the South Central rapper went on a monumental run, three albums one year apart, each one highly acclaimed by the critics, almost all of them considered classics, Amerikkkaz Most Wanted, Death Certificate and The Predator. On all three of these albums, Ice Cube had a highly engaged content with a political/social message that was both provocative and radical.
With Lethal Injection, O’Shea Jackson melts a little more into the funky mold with a G-Funk album. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg have been there with two internationally successful albums, The Chronic and Doggystyle. The festive and gangsta G-Funk takes over the conscious rap. Ice Cube changes his recipe and attenuates his engaged message for more gangsta and more futile lyrics at times. However, Ice Cube is still a claimant, but his message is less aggressive and less belligerent than before. Fans take it as Ice Cube’s submission to the success of gangsta G-Funk.
In my opinion, the critics was not necessarily justified. After several years of attacking the American political system and institutions, which he described as racist, Ice Cube had become public enemy number one for the media and politicians. Parents forbade their children to listen to his music, which paradoxically contributed to reinforce his success and his aura among young people, the forbidden attracts, excites and arouses interest. Yet, one can understand that Ice Cube was perhaps tired of relentlessly bashing the political system and of this image of a protestor. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in his fight anymore since he still has a committed message in Lethal Injection, but maybe he just wanted to free himself from this image and show that he could also do something else, or that he just wanted to do something slightly more watered down, more festive. The committed and conscious side is revised downwards, much less bellicose, addressing more futile subjects. Ice Cube gives up some of the veracity of his lyrics for a softer side, which is also felt in the chosen rhythms and in the interpretation of Ice Cube which is more calm.
Now that we said that, Lethal Injection will present a mix between festive songs, Bop Gun, more gangsta songs, Really Doe, or more futile and watered down songs like You Know How We Do It. Even if it is globally smoother, funkier, less aggressive, less fierce than before, Ice Cube doesn’t totally abandon his political side with more subtle allusions than before. If we take the track Bop Gun, which is a cover of the hit One Nation Under A Groove by Funkadelic, under its joyful airs, there can be a hidden social message, a will to gather a nation, or a community, all together. Finally, the message can be better passed with softer tunes that allows to speak to a larger number and especially to avoid censorship. Of course, the message is not as aggressive and direct, but not less effective. Ghetto Birds, which follows the path of gangsta G-Funk both in the sounds and in the lyrics, is also a denunciation of the police, the “ghetto birds” are nothing more than helicopters that turn over the ghetto. On When I Get To Heaven, Cube could trigger the anger of Christians with his cynical look.
In the end, Ice Cube is still claiming, but with a softer message and under a much more Funk airs. Then certainly Ice Cube abandons himself in the current G-Funk vibe, what was not in his habit, however the work of production remains irreproachable. The Funky vibes are terribly effective, the little high-pitched synths of Ghetto Birds are incredible, the laid-back beats of You Know How We Do It and Down For Whatever work wonderfully, and even when he comes back to sounds closer to his beginnings with Enemy, it’s still of good quality. His longtime producer Sir Jinx makes a nice beat on Lil Ass Gee, Cube takes a cynical look at young people who want to get into rap.
It’s not Ice Cube’s most popular album when it was released, it’s not what fans expected. However, with hindsight, the public has come to appreciate it to its true value. The musical result is clearly present with a pair of tracks that will remain iconic, even classic, for many years.
The South Central rapper knew how to do something new. An album that clearly marks a shift with the three previous ones. We can criticize him for blending into the mold of the time, but it gives freshness to his discography after three first albums rather similar. It’s not the most representative album of Ice Cube but it’s extremely well mastered. Excellent G-Funk with a Cube sauce. Get ready for the lethal injection of funk.