“Everythangs Corrupt”, is the new full length studio effort from an artist with far too many aliases at this point to list, west coast, hip hop legend, Ice Cube.
It is easy to take for granted so many things about Ice Cube and hard to summarize the scope of his influence in hip hop in just a few sentences. It is very easy to forget his status as a pioneer of west coast hip hop and creator of an entire sub genre of hip hop in the form of gangster rap. Cube’s unheralded song writing ability helped establish him as one of the original hip hop ghost writers, i.e. NWA, and his innate ability to tell vivid stories in the form of rap helped influence future and fellow legendary artists like the late B.I.G. and Nas, to name a few. He can also be remembered as the person who took battle rap and diss tracks to the next level with “No Vaseline.” Ice Cube was also a key player in the era of politically charged rap music and at the front and center of social, cultural controversy with songs like “Fuck The Police” and albums like “Death Certificate”. All this was just from his music endeavors, and one could equal time discussing his other successful ventures, whether the pop culture cross over and uber successful foray into Hollywood and entertainment, or his position as a preeminent, African-American Entrepreneur and entertainment mogul.
This brief synopsis hardly does Cube’s epic career justice but is worth mentioning since an artist and influential figure of this magnitude, still living and creating new work (and prolifically I might add) should never be taken for granite. Whenever they do release new stuff, it is always worth paying attention to, for better or worse. After such a long and multi faceted career we ask, how does the new music stack up and is it, and the artist, still relevant?
In the midst of a tense political climate and troubled times in this country, it seems like the perfect opportunity for vintage Ice Cube to appear. For the once controversial figure, turned cultural and entertainment icon, just the album’s title, “Everythangs Corrupt” insinuate that this might mark Cube’s long awaited return to classic political/gangster fueled rap. However, the first half of the album is marred by musical production that does not fit the direction and scope of Cube’s lyrics and subject matter. The music production on the first eight songs comes off as a generic attempt at achieving a more modern, mainstream rap sound, and fails to fit the political subject matter. Songs like “Arrest The President” and “Chase Down The Bully” have so much potential in the context of great Ice Cube music, but fail to deliver on their promise. The sparse, electronic driven production seem to force Cube to dumb down his delivery and lyrics, and at times, even force him to rhyme words just to fit the beats. As a result, the social commentary is lost and he does not scratch the surface of the subject matter. As a Cube fan, when you see the song titles you have this hope of a return to sample driven Sir Jinx or Bomb Squad style tracks fueling a vivid, aggressive, and witty story teller espousing fiery politics, think songs like “I Wanna Kill Uncle Sam”. Instead you get cheap, generic “trap music” sounds that don’t give the legendary artist a chance to flex his legendary skill set. Speaking of “trap sounds”, the remainder of the first half of “Everythangs Corrupt” ironically have Cube rapping about the very subject matter of dope and drugs over even more, “not so dope” driven music. Even if the subject of drugs and dope were relevant to the overall theme of the album, and were at the forefront of modern politics, which I believe they are, we don’t get anywhere close to Cube classics on this same subject like “Dopeman” or “What Can I Do?”.
If you are patient enough to wade thru the first half of “Everythangs Corrupt” and lucky enough to make it to “Street Sheds Tears”, then the “Super OG” finally gets to cooking and you get some of the vintage Cube you have been waiting for. It takes an overused west coast sample on “Street Sheds Tears” to bring Cube back into old form and away from the trappings, pun intended, of “Trap” style music. He continues this old school approach with fellow west coast legend Too Short on “Ain’t Got No Haters” and the simplicity and nostalgia factor continue to shine. He gets experimental and does a sort of “Jackin For Beats” but jacks different vanacular and takes references from different eras on the ultra cool, “Can you Dig It”. With “The New Funkadelic” he pays homage to P funk and channels his “Bop Gun” days. Here he draws from the most comparable Cube album to “Everythangs Corrupt” in “Lethal Injection”. This comparison can be made as far as the album being comprised of mostly cleaner, more mainstream production at that perticular time period, that still compliment his classic skill set and also includes a share of vintage moments..
The strength of the second half of the album continues even on his most mainstream effort and NBA TV anthem–esque “Non Believers”, where the beat choice and delivery finally seem to blend well, unlike the aforementioned first half album tracks. Finally, he closes out “Everythangs Corrupt” on the political tip with the title track and “Good Cop Bad Cop”, a track that initially surfaced as one of the bonus tracks on the 25th Anniversary Edition, of what I believe is Cube’s Magnus Opus, “Death Certificate”. Here we are treated to a fiery, Cube tackling the latest politics, and although it fails to reach the levels of the album it first appeared on, (for the record it was obvious then, that it was not recorded during the “Death Certificate” sessions but long after), it still gives fans a glimpse into what makes him so great as a rap artist, and musician for that matter.
A good analogy for Ice Cube’s latest studio album, “Everythangs Corrupt”, and something I wrote about awhile back, is the older athlete. This is the perfect analogy given that Cube is the founder and owner of a basketball league, The Big Three, which, is comprised of older NBA player. In this case Cube, himself, is the older athlete. By the time we trudge through the first half we are left realizing that it took quite awhile for the older athlete to warm up and find their rhythm. It also seems as if the elder statesman is busy trying to keep up with the younger players instead of doing what they are best at. By the second half, we do catch glimpses of what made them great and for brief moments at a time they not only keep up with, but they surpass their younger contemporaries. We are then left wondering if the older athlete can continually sustain this vintage form and become as dominant as they once were in an everchanging landscape and evolving sport. On this album, Cube, shows flashes of his old brilliance but you just get that feeling that he might have lost a slight step, and at this point in a long and illustrious career, he may not be capable of creating an entire classic from beginning to end. However, since we are dealing with an all time great, whose face belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of Hip Hop, a fall off for him still puts him above most of his modern peers, especially, when he is still motivated and when the conditions are just right.