Post-Riot Fury Fuels Ice Cube’s ‘Predator’
ICE CUBE “The Predator” Priority * * *
This loomed as the most important album of the year, especially in Los Angeles: the first post-Rodney G. King/L.A. riots collection from the most powerful rap voice in the ‘hood.
Even more than Ice-T, Ice Cube--first with N.W.A. and then in two solo collections--has defined the anger and heartache of alienated inner-city youth.
His “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” and “Death Certificate” remain two of the most compelling albums ever in rap--works that were sometimes so brutal in their imagery and so politically incorrect in their ideas that even some longtime liberal rap enthusiasts recoiled.
But the albums’ best moments offered such memorable portraits of helplessness and rage that they assumed an eerie ring of prophecy in the days and weeks after much of the city went up in flames.
In “The Predator,” Ice Cube has 60 minutes to tell us about life after the riots . . . 60 minutes in which to put the events of last spring into perspective and, perhaps, offer words of conciliation or advice. Unfortunately, the young rapper wastes too much of that time.
Ice Cube does deliver on that post-riot challenge in a few key selections--and they alone make the album essential listening.
Echoing what many journalists have found recently in interviews in South-Central, the title track expresses a continuing sense of disillusionment and despair. The song is a blunt, no-holds-barred taste of the frustration behind the warning cry, “No justice, no peace.”
It is accompanied by two more biting exercises--"Who Got the Camera,” a tale of Ice Cube getting caught in a King-like situation and looking around in vain for a video-camera operator to document it, and “We Had to Tear This (expletive) Up,” a revenge fantasy about going to Simi Valley after the King decision to hunt down a juror and two of the acquitted policemen.
The fury of these tunes is softened briefly by one of the warmest selections Ice Cube has recorded. “It Was a Good Day” still requires a parental warning sticker for its sexy language, but there is a tenderness in the song that is rare in hard-core rap, and it helps humanize Ice Cube.
In the song, he wakes up to find everything going right, from no smog in the sky to a police car that rolls through the intersection without hassling him. Most of all, he offers:
Nobody I know got killed in South-Central L.A. / Today was a good day.
Elsewhere, however, Ice Cube spends too much time recycling attitudes and images that have been documented in hard-core rap--tales of tough-guy bravado and more rantings against the misbehavior of bitches and “ho’s.”
He also spends considerable time defending himself against criticism leveled at his last album, including charges that he is anti-Semitic and anti-Korean. Against the complaint that he is also sexist, he snaps:
A black woman is my manager / Not in the kitchen /So will you please stop bitchin’ .
Ice Cube’s biggest step forward in the album is in the music. Without abandoning the hard-core rap emphasis of the past, he adds exciting musical color, including enough horns and backing voices for the album to serve in places as a rap summit between George Clinton and Sly Stone.
By failing to deal more directly with the events of last spring, however, Ice Cube has not taken advantage of an opportunity to speak more openly to the non-rap fans who may turn to the album in a genuine attempt to better understand the angry young black viewpoint.
Ice Cube has always said that his main interest as a record-maker is to speak to his own community--the hard-core rap audience. But he is one of the most compelling artists in all of pop music--and he should should think in terms of that larger community.
If the riots taught us anything, it is that we all have to think in terms of total community if the conditions that contribute to the rage in Ice Cube’s music are to be corrected. Otherwise, there is no justice, there is no peace.