It’s a great day for genocide (What’s that?)
That’s the day all the niggaz died
They killed JFK in ’63
So what the fuck you think they’ll do to me?
Ice Cube The Predator from 1992 is a real one-song LP for me, but what a song it is! Me and my friends had a real thing for gangsta rap at one point, at its very best it was funny, outrageous and heavy as ship – even better when it tied all the violence into wider political and social concerns, Ice-T’s O.G: Original Gangster was for a while my absolute favourite (non-Beasties) hip-hop LP ever, mostly because it kept the SAPAH quotient high and the SRQ relatively low – the only black mark against it was that in order to fit all the tracks onto a single vinyl LP they missed off most of the best ones, I sold my LP and went back to the cassette.
Sorry? you didn’t cover SAPAH and SRQ in school? Jeez, what do they teach you guys and gals over in foreigner-land? What – you never studied the R-E.A.D ?! Let me explain via the medium of a hastily-penned diagram:
R-E.A.D = Rap-Enjoyment Arc Diagram
S.R.Q = Sex Rhyme Quotient
S.A.P.A.H = Situational And Political Anger Huwugggh!
So does it all now become clear? Using R-E.A.D it is possible to plot the exact enjoymentalbilityness of any given hip-hop LP to a scientific precision of .0124. Easy!
The Predator was an eagerly awaited LP amongst us hip-hoppers (Hip-Hoppees?) as it came out wekks after the LA riots of 1992 and a number of the tracks here specifically address this, most notably ‘We Had to Tear this MF Up!’ and ‘Who Got The Camera?’ – the latter just making the point that there were plenty of Rodney Kings out there whose beatings were never recorded*. Both tracks are pretty heavy-handed and notable more for their subject matter rather than musical merit.
As I said this is a one-track LP for me and that track is the opening ‘First day of School / When Will They Shoot?’, okay so it’s sort of two tracks – an intro and the main tune. It begins, significantly, with the listener arriving in prison in the tender care of the wardens and explodes into simply one of the angriest, best hip-hop tracks ever minted. Lashing his anger onto the beat of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘When Will They Shoot?’ is a whiplash-smart rant at the state of the nation, Ice Cube’s position in it (pretty central, naturally!) and anything else that occurs. Most of it is pretty damn quotable but I have my favourite bits,
Doin us wrong from the first day
And don’t understand why a nigga got an AK
Callin me an African-American
like everything is fair again
Sorry to gush, but as far as I am concerned this is a perfect track. Full stop. Period.
The rest of it? Okay so I do really like the Grandmaster Flash sampling ‘Check Yo Self’, even though I had completely forgotten it ever existed until today, it has an urban badass attitude that I can really relate to given that I grew up rough too in rural Wales. In my hood, when I was coming up, the main gang was the Cowz, wearing their colours of strictly black and white, they were real big, bad muthaudders; they ran those fields!
Okay, so again I really like ‘It Was a Good Day’, which is a clever tune – Ice Cube just telling you about his perfect day, Spoiler Alert – this features basketball, blunts and some crazy-ass ho. I love the way it’s undercut with a simmering violence though, we know a day like that’s never going to really happen, ‘nobody I know got killed in South Central L.A. / Today was a good day’. So I take it all back The Predator is a three song LP for me.
Just before I get too sentimental and declare it a four song LP check out ‘Dirty Mack’ and, worst of all, ‘Gangsta’s Fairytale 2’. Christ they’re bad, just macho, sexist shite – without even a good tune, or a bit of wit to leaven the pain. At the time this was the problem with a lot of the gangsta rap, certainly in the music press and certainly amongst me and my friends, just far too much of that garbage – occasionally it’s so ott and tasteless it makes Steel Panther seem like K.D Lang. My friend used to maintain that basically that was what sold the LPs which, if true, is a bit of lowest common denominator sadness.
So there you have it, a three track LP, one of which is just monumentally great. But all good things must end, or as Ice Cube states memorably in ‘Gamgsta’s fairytale 2’,
Cause the pigs did the buck buck bang, ping
Now you hear the fat lady sing
The rest is silence.
P.S – For reasons of taste I narrowly decided against re-enacting the Rodney King beating in Lego. I want you to know it was close though.
*I vaguely remember Ice Cube wanting to re-record ‘Fuck Tha Police’ with Rodney King on vocals – or did I dream that?