Here’s one I quite liked bits of but no-one else did – Ice Cube Lethal Injection. After hitting the post-riot intensity of 1992’s The Predator, Ice seemed to need to kick back and swing a bit more on the following year’s LP, toning it down into a G-funk sound. The reviews were, I remember, universally awful, but I think there was some very good stuff here.
Lethal Injection begins, as per Hip Hop Law #7, subsections 6(a-d) and 7 (c (only)), with a skit called ‘The Shot’, hmm. In this one we have Mr White go to the doctors for his ‘shot’, in a frankly hilarious play on words we have Mr Cube, umm, shoot him. Oh, my aching sides. But then, we start to hit the good stuff, beginning with a cheeky sample from ‘The First Day At School’ (from The Predator), we hit ‘Really Doe’. Basically it’s about how damn great Ice Cube is (Spoiler Alert: this occurs more than once on this LP), but there’s some sly fun had here as well,
Thirty in a holdin tank, catch the vapors
Make me a pillow out of toilet paper
Concrete bench kickin off the hemorrhoids
Ese’s deep, don’t fuck with dem boys
Oh the glamour! Musically it’s great too, an ethereal Pointer Sisters sample is used over a very sparing beat and some off-kilter horns really cleverly throughout and producers Laylaw and Derrick McDowell deserve some applause here. This is definitely a good ‘un.
Best of all though is the next track ‘Ghetto Bird’, a real broadside aimed at police ‘copters. It’s excellent, the vitriol more concentrated and harder hitting because it’s delivered under cover of a really great tune; this is how Warren G should have sounded. I think of it as a bad-tempered version of his own mighty ‘It Was A Good day’, describing a chase through between Mr Cube and the ‘ghetto eagle’ (Spoiler Alert 2: it ends with Ice getting it on with his ‘homegirl’).
Why, oh why must you swoop through the hood
like everybody from the hood is up to no good.
You think all the girls around here are trickin’
up there lookin’ like Superchicken
At night I see your light through my bedroom window
But I ain’t got shit but the pad and pencil
The others worth bothering with here are the Funkadelic sampling ‘Bop Gun (One Nation Under A Groove’ which features George Clinton himself, which is a great 11-minute party tune and the angry ‘What Can I Do?’, which ends by reeling off the crimes Ice Cube thinks white America is guilty of*. There’s also the bitter, sad ‘Heaven’ which rails at the status quo and Christianity, with the pay off line ‘And they won’t call me a nigga when I get to heaven’. But that’s your lot really.
Ice Cube always troubled my liberal chums and me for the sexism/misogyny far more than most around. I know there were worse around at the time, but they were pretty much one-trick ponies, easily avoided. We didn’t want to avoid Ice Cube, his anger and his political/that’s how I’m livin’ raps were so good, the man was intelligent, articulate, funny, so why did he rack up the bitch count so high? I know I’ve bored you all about this before and all manner of stuff has been written about how it was a cultural thing, which I don’t subscribe to at all; my theory of choice being simply that, such lowest common denominator stuff sold records. Black kids / White kids, it didn’t matter there were enough adolescent gimps** who just lapped this stuff up by the ton – and boy was he dishing it out by the ton.
I strategically ignored the ‘get the right bitch / Hit the light switch’ rhyme scheme in ‘Really Doe’ earlier, but the real jewel in the Crown Of Inexcusability (COI) is ‘Cave Bitch’. Basically, this track is about how, because he is so fabulously fabulous at all he does and is damn famous and loaded now to boot, he basically can’t leave the house without some cave bitch^ throwing herself at him. Given a much lighter touch, by De La Soul say, there’d be a potentially amusing rhyme here about successful black men going for white women, despite their ‘ironing board backsides’, but Ice Cube doesn’t really do light and you’re left with a pretty ugly sexist, racist mess. Flip the colour scheme and put it in, for example, a country setting and you’d have a song that’d be universally abhorred^^ so why treat this any differently? I don’t think you should.
Okay, okay, I know that’s simplistic and you can argue about not applying equal rules within a situation where there is an imbalance of social and political power, but I’m simply left with an innate feeling that this is all just not cricket and a bit unnecessary. Hey, I’m British, deal with it!
So anyway, we’re left with about a side worth of good stuff, some very good and a side of unplayable nonsense. Not a great return but infinitely better than Ice Cube has managed since, sadly he got stuck bombing along down Bitch Avenue and missed the intersection with Social Commentary Boulevard. The injection of G-funk here proved more fatal than lethal.
Motherfuck you and your punk-ass ghetto bird!
The rest is silence.
*also the bearer of the all-time great ‘Uncle Fester … / Polyester’ rhyme scheme – double 1537 bonus points for that one!
**or adolescent-minded, gimps.
^^ Alternative dictionary definition: ‘Abhorred’ – lady of easy virtue with a six-pack. Ambrose Bierce lives!!