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Pop - Released January 1, 1900 | Unknown

As Ice Cube's 2006 Laugh Now, Cry Later was landing in stores, all the chatter was about whether or not Cube was back, and whether or not he could recover from a couple of lackluster solo albums that came out years ago. Did his major contribution to Westside Connection's satisfying 2003 album Terrorist Threats slip everybody's mind and do we have to consider that release "slept on"? Laugh Now picks up right where Terrorist Threats left off, and while Cube does a little "this is why I'm important" posturing on the excellent "Child Support," this isn't a forced "I'm back" effort in the least. After a short intro, Cube goes right for the upper classes' throats with "Guns and Drugs," a track that acknowledges that there was a George Bush in office when he began his solo career, there's a George Bush in office as he returns to it, and he doesn't much care for either. Switching gears, the following club track "Smoke Some Weed" gives everyone the finger in a much less socially conscious manner. The track's rain stick and East Indian vocal loops constructed by producer Budda give the album its most riveting beat, the competition supplied by various upstarts and, surprisingly, Lil Jon, who upstages the heralded Scott Storch and his underwhelming contributions. Lil Jon tweaks his usual crunk juice and blends some West into his South for the low-riding "Go to Church" and "You Gotta Lotta That," both with Snoop. Just as satisfying, "Doin' What It 'Pose 2 Do" is a modern banger that's well aware of the 2006 success of folks like Bun B and Z-Ro. It's only when Cube jumps on the "Stop Snitchin'" bandwagon that he sounds the least bit unnatural. He also scores a lyrical triumph with the title track, but unlike his early classics, Laugh Now stumbles occasionally and fails to keep the momentum going through the whole fourth quarter. This is his first effort on his own independent label, so if the album lacks a little final product-minded polish, it trades it for a homegrown feel that's distinctively direct. Strip a couple redundant tracks and you've got that bitter, edgy, and sharp Cube album you hoped for. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released March 16, 1990 | Priority Records

When Ice Cube split from N.W.A after the group's seminal Straight Outta Compton album changed the world forever, expectations were high, too high to ever be met by anyone but the most talented of artists, and at his most inspired. At the time Cube was just that. With AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted the rapper expanded upon Compton, making a more full-bodied album that helped boost the role of the individual in hip-hop. Save the dramatic intro where a mythical Ice Cube is fried in the electric chair, his debut is filled with eye-level views of the inner city that are always vivid, generally frightening, generally personal, and sometimes humorous in the gallows style. Ripping it quickly over a loop from George Clinton's "Atomic Dog," Cube asks the question that would be central to his early career, "Why there more niggas in the pen than in college?," while sticking with the mutual distrust and scare tactics N.W.A used to wipe away any hopes of reconciliation ("They all scared of the Ice Cube/And what I say what I portray and all that/And ain't even seen the gat"). "What I'm kicking to you won't get rotation/Nowhere in the nation" he spits on the classic "Turn Off the Radio," which when coupled with the intoxicating Bomb Squad production and Cube's cocksure delivery that's just below a shout, makes one think he's the only radio the inner city needs. The Bomb Squad's amazing work on the album proves they've been overly associated with Public Enemy, since their ability to adapt to AmeriKKKa's more violent and quick revolution is underappreciated. Their high point is the intense "Endangered Species," a "live by the trigger" song that offers "It's a shame, that niggas die young/But to the light side it don't matter none." This street knowledge venom with ultra fast funk works splendidly throughout the album, with every track hitting home, although the joyless "You Can't Fade Me" has alienated many a listener since kicking a possibly pregnant woman in the stomach is a very hard one to take. Just to be as confusing as the world he lives in, the supposedly misogynistic Cube introduces female protégé Yo-Yo with "It's a Man's World" before exiting with "The Bomb," a perfectly unforgiving and visceral closer. Save a couple Arsenio Hall disses, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted is a timeless, riveting exercise in anger, honesty, and the sociopolitical possibilities of hip-hop. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released July 1, 1990 | Priority Records

Ice Cube's riveting debut album, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, was still burning up the charts when Priority Records released this EP, which lacks that album's overall excellence but has its moments. With Kill at Will, Cube unveiled his engaging "The Product" and "Dead Homiez," a poignant lament for the victims of black-on-black crime that is among the best songs he's ever written. Enjoyable but not essential are remixes of "Endangered Species (Tales From the Darkside)" and the outrageous "Get Off My Dick and Tell Yo Bitch to Come Here." Clearly, Kill at Will was intended for hardcore fans rather than casual listeners. [The EP was later added to a 2003 expanded edition of AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted.] © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released November 17, 1992 | Priority Records

Released in the aftermath of the 1991 L.A. riots, The Predator radiates tension. Ice Cube infuses nearly every song, and certainly every interlude, with the hostile mood of the era. Even the album's most laid-back moment, "It Was a Good Day," emits a quiet sense of violent anxiety. Granted, Ice Cube's previous albums had been far from gentle, but they were filled with a different kind of rage. On both AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (1990) and Death Certificate (1991), he took aim at society in general: women, whites, Koreans, even his former group members in N.W.A. Here, Ice Cube is more focused. He found a relevant episode to magnify with the riots, and he doesn't hold back, beginning with the absolutely crushing "When Will They Shoot?" The song's wall of stomping sound sets the dire tone of The Predator and is immediately followed by "I'm Scared," one of the many disturbing interludes comprised of news commentary related to the riots. It's only during the aforementioned "It Was a Good Day" that Ice Cube somewhat alleviates this album's smothering tension. It's a truly beautiful moment, a career highlight for sure. However, the next song, "We Had to Tear This Mothafucka Up," eclipses the relief with yet more calamity. By the time you get to the album-concluding "Say Hi to the Bad Guy" and its mockery of policeman, hopelessness prevails. The Predator is a grim album, for sure, more so than anything Ice Cube would ever again record. In fact, the darkness is so pervasive that the wit of previous albums is absolutely gone. Besides the halfhearted wit of "Gangsta's Fairytale, Pt. 2," you won't find any humor here, just tension. Given this, it's not one of Ice Cube's more accessible albums despite boasting a few of his biggest hits. It is his most serious album, though, as well as his last important album of the '90s. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released November 17, 1992 | Priority Records

Released in the aftermath of the 1991 L.A. riots, The Predator radiates tension. Ice Cube infuses nearly every song, and certainly every interlude, with the hostile mood of the era. Even the album's most laid-back moment, "It Was a Good Day," emits a quiet sense of violent anxiety. Granted, Ice Cube's previous albums had been far from gentle, but they were filled with a different kind of rage. On both AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (1990) and Death Certificate (1991), he took aim at society in general: women, whites, Koreans, even his former group members in N.W.A. Here, Ice Cube is more focused. He found a relevant episode to magnify with the riots, and he doesn't hold back, beginning with the absolutely crushing "When Will They Shoot?" The song's wall of stomping sound sets the dire tone of The Predator and is immediately followed by "I'm Scared," one of the many disturbing interludes comprised of news commentary related to the riots. It's only during the aforementioned "It Was a Good Day" that Ice Cube somewhat alleviates this album's smothering tension. It's a truly beautiful moment, a career highlight for sure. However, the next song, "We Had to Tear This Mothafucka Up," eclipses the relief with yet more calamity. By the time you get to the album-concluding "Say Hi to the Bad Guy" and its mockery of policeman, hopelessness prevails. The Predator is a grim album, for sure, more so than anything Ice Cube would ever again record. In fact, the darkness is so pervasive that the wit of previous albums is absolutely gone. Besides the halfhearted wit of "Gangsta's Fairytale, Pt. 2," you won't find any humor here, just tension. Given this, it's not one of Ice Cube's more accessible albums despite boasting a few of his biggest hits. It is his most serious album, though, as well as his last important album of the '90s. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released December 7, 1993 | Priority Records

Following the relentless intensity of his early-'90s albums, particularly his post-Rodney King statement, The Predator (1992), Ice Cube reclined a bit and put his rap career on autopilot beginning with Lethal Injection, the last album he would record for five years. Yes, it's a disappointing album, but it's not terrible by any measure. Even if Ice Cube is a little devoid of substance here relative to his rabble-rousing past, he's still a talented rapper, and he has one of the West Coast's premier producers, QDIII, joining him for almost half the album. Unfortunately, much of what made Ice Cube's early-'90s albums so electric -- his thoughtfulness, wit, hostility, energy, and social consciousness -- is sadly in short supply. For compensation, Ice Cube offers a few standout singles, namely "You Know How We Do It" and "Bop Gun (One Nation)." The former follows the successful template that worked a year earlier with "It Was a Good Day" -- a laid-back G-funk ballad laced with an old-school funk vibe; the latter clocks over 11 minutes, an epic ode to George Clinton's P-Funk legacy. These two songs undoubtedly rank alongside Ice Cube's best work ever. There are a few other songs like "Really Doe" and "Ghetto Bird" that also stand out, but even these songs sound rather lackluster relative to Ice Cube's previous work. He's obviously not interested in making an album as daring and ambitious as The Predator again, and you can't really blame him. After all, Ice Cube had delivered three brilliant albums, and a similarly brilliant EP as well, Kill at Will (1990), in just three years, not to mention his then-burgeoning role as an actor. He deserved a break. But at least he took the time to craft two standout singles that alone make this album worthwhile for fans. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 1994 | Priority Records

As Ice Cube albums became few and far between once the rapper turned actor, Priority Records started gathering up a few compilations, one less interesting one being Bootlegs & B-Sides. The 13 tracks are mostly throwaways, not necessarily bad but not necessarily good either. The few gems buried here are remixes of Cube's biggest hits: "Check Yo Self," "It Was a Good Day," and "You Know How We Do It." The others will interest mainly completists. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 1994 | Priority Records

Following the relentless intensity of his early-'90s albums, particularly his post-Rodney King statement, The Predator (1992), Ice Cube reclined a bit and put his rap career on autopilot beginning with Lethal Injection, the last album he would record for five years. Yes, it's a disappointing album, but it's not terrible by any measure. Even if Ice Cube is a little devoid of substance here relative to his rabble-rousing past, he's still a talented rapper, and he has one of the West Coast's premier producers, QDIII, joining him for almost half the album. Unfortunately, much of what made Ice Cube's early-'90s albums so electric -- his thoughtfulness, wit, hostility, energy, and social consciousness -- is sadly in short supply. For compensation, Ice Cube offers a few standout singles, namely "You Know How We Do It" and "Bop Gun (One Nation)." The former follows the successful template that worked a year earlier with "It Was a Good Day" -- a laid-back G-funk ballad laced with an old-school funk vibe; the latter clocks over 11 minutes, an epic ode to George Clinton's P-Funk legacy. These two songs undoubtedly rank alongside Ice Cube's best work ever. There are a few other songs like "Really Doe" and "Ghetto Bird" that also stand out, but even these songs sound rather lackluster relative to Ice Cube's previous work. He's obviously not interested in making an album as daring and ambitious as The Predator again, and you can't really blame him. After all, Ice Cube had delivered three brilliant albums, and a similarly brilliant EP as well, Kill at Will (1990), in just three years, not to mention his then-burgeoning role as an actor. He deserved a break. But at least he took the time to craft two standout singles that alone make this album worthwhile for fans. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released November 17, 1998 | Priority Records

Considering that he hadn't delivered a full-fledged solo album since 1993's disappointing Lethal Injection, maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise that Ice Cube returned hard in 1998 with War & Peace, Vol. 1 (The War Disc), since five years is a long, long time to stay quiet. What was a surprise was how ambitious the album was. The first installment in a proposed double-disc set, The War Disc is a cacophonous, cluttered, impassioned record that nearly qualifies as a return to form. Designed as a hard-hitting record, it certainly takes no prisoners, as it moves from intense street-oriented jams to rap-metal fusions, such as the Korn-blessed "Fuck Dying," with its seething, distorted guitars. It's a head-spinning listen and, at first, it seems to be a forceful comeback. Upon closer inspection, The War Disc falters a bit. Not only does the relentless nature of the music wear a little thin, but Cube spends too much time trying to beat newcomers at their own game. His lyrical skills are still intact, but he spends way too much time boasting, particularly about material possessions, and his attempt to rechristen himself Don Mega, in a Wu-like move, simply seems awkward. Even so, the quality of the music -- and the moments when he pulls it all together, such as "3 Strikes You In" -- sustains War and makes it feel more cohesive than it actually is. The key is purpose -- even if Cube doesn't always say exactly what he wants, he does have something to say. That alone makes War & Peace, with just one album completed, a more successful and rewarding listen than the typical double-disc hip-hop set of the late '90s. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released March 21, 2000 | EMI

The second volume of Ice Cube's War & Peace album finds the multi-talented veteran MC evolving beyond a mere gangsta rap artist. Of course, Ice Cube doesn't admit his maturity, starting the album off with an excellent song titled "Hello" featuring MC Ren and Dr. Dre. The Dre-produced song has the ex-NWA members rapping "I started this gangsta ****/and this is the ************ thanks I get?" and reinstating their thug stance. Besides this opening song, Cube also is heard later on the album rapping to "keep in gangsta," yet for as much as Cube flexes about being hard, he has actually evolved into a wiser, more composed artist than the hate-fueled gangsta found on his early albums. Some of the songs on War & Peace, Vol. 2 such as "Record Company Pimpin'" reflect the deep insight he is easily capable of injecting into his lyrics. Unfortunately, for every contemplative moment on this album, there are also plenty of songs such as "Can You Bounce?" and "Hello" that reduce themselves to simple, lucid attempts at hit singles. These songs -- along with the slightly more thought-out, radio-friendly "Until We Rich" -- are wonderful songs, rich in hooks and full of strong beats, but they don't really fit in with the rest of the album. The fact that Ice Cube churned out two albums of content during his lengthy absence from the rap world in the late '90s makes the two volumes of War & Peace overly eclectic. What made albums such as Straight Outta Compton and AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted such strong albums were consistency; Dr. Dre and the Bomb Squad, respectively, were able to map out an overall musical feel for these albums with their signature styles and unique motifs. Instead of having a fully realized sound such as the aforementioned albums, the revolving door of production on War & Peace that includes Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy, and One Eye for One Eye among others makes this album sound very undeceive in terms of style. Cube's rapping sounds great with plenty of ideas that extend outside of simple gangsta motifs and slick rhymes full of wit; however, the constant changes in the album from hook-laden hits to denser, message-filled songs and from stark, minimal beats to up-tempo dance-rap make this a sometimes brilliant yet ultimately spotty, multi-dimensional album that needs more focus. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2001 | Priority Records

Although the 17-track Greatest Hits covers all phases of Ice Cube's solo career in an extremely balanced fashion, it isn't quite the last word on one of the most seminal figures in hardcore and gangsta rap. It is definitely a worthwhile purchase, since it collects all the best singles from Cube's more uneven latter-day efforts; there are also two new cuts (although "In the Late Night Hour" has a lot of rewritten N.W.A. rhymes) and a couple that have never appeared on an Ice Cube album: the soundtrack contribution "We Be Clubbin'" and the Westside Connection single "Bow Down" (which are nice for collectors but not all that essential). That occasional filler makes it all the more frustrating that the classic "Dead Homiez" is inexcusably nowhere to be found, and that it apparently wasn't possible to license Cube's duet with Dr. Dre on "Natural Born Killaz." Selection issues aside, the singles from the post-Predator era prove that in his best moments, Cube could be a credible radio-crossover artist and keep up with contemporary production trends. As a storyteller (a facet of his work that's underrepresented here), Cube had a knack for keenly observed detail, as evidenced on "Once Upon a Time in the Projects" and his laid-back masterpiece "It Was a Good Day." Still, it doesn't quite add up to a truly classic compilation. Perhaps the problem is that while Greatest Hits is a fine, listenable portrait of Ice Cube the sometime hitmaker and full-time hip-hop celebrity, it doesn't completely capture the provocative, incendiary qualities that made him an icon in the first place (for that, listeners will have to go back to AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate). For a fully fleshed-out picture of Cube's career, though, Greatest Hits is a very good place to go. © Steve Huey /TiVo

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2001 | Priority Records

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Although the 17-track Greatest Hits covers all phases of Ice Cube's solo career in an extremely balanced fashion, it isn't quite the last word on one of the most seminal figures in hardcore and gangsta rap. It is definitely a worthwhile purchase, since it collects all the best singles from Cube's more uneven latter-day efforts; there are also two new cuts (although "In the Late Night Hour" has a lot of rewritten N.W.A. rhymes) and a couple that have never appeared on an Ice Cube album: the soundtrack contribution "We Be Clubbin'" and the Westside Connection single "Bow Down" (which are nice for collectors but not all that essential). That occasional filler makes it all the more frustrating that the classic "Dead Homiez" is inexcusably nowhere to be found, and that it apparently wasn't possible to license Cube's duet with Dr. Dre on "Natural Born Killaz." Selection issues aside, the singles from the post-Predator era prove that in his best moments, Cube could be a credible radio-crossover artist and keep up with contemporary production trends. As a storyteller (a facet of his work that's underrepresented here), Cube had a knack for keenly observed detail, as evidenced on "Once Upon a Time in the Projects" and his laid-back masterpiece "It Was a Good Day." Still, it doesn't quite add up to a truly classic compilation. Perhaps the problem is that while Greatest Hits is a fine, listenable portrait of Ice Cube the sometime hitmaker and full-time hip-hop celebrity, it doesn't completely capture the provocative, incendiary qualities that made him an icon in the first place (for that, listeners will have to go back to AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate). For a fully fleshed-out picture of Cube's career, though, Greatest Hits is a very good place to go. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2003 | Priority Records

When Ice Cube split from N.W.A after the group's seminal Straight Outta Compton album changed the world forever, expectations were high, too high to ever be met by anyone but the most talented of artists, and at his most inspired. At the time Cube was just that. With AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted the rapper expanded upon Compton, making a more full-bodied album that helped boost the role of the individual in hip-hop. Save the dramatic intro where a mythical Ice Cube is fried in the electric chair, his debut is filled with eye-level views of the inner city that are always vivid, generally frightening, generally personal, and sometimes humorous in the gallows style. Ripping it quickly over a loop from George Clinton's "Atomic Dog," Cube asks the question that would be central to his early career, "Why there more niggas in the pen than in college?," while sticking with the mutual distrust and scare tactics N.W.A used to wipe away any hopes of reconciliation ("They all scared of the Ice Cube/And what I say what I portray and all that/And ain't even seen the gat"). "What I'm kicking to you won't get rotation/Nowhere in the nation" he spits on the classic "Turn Off the Radio," which when coupled with the intoxicating Bomb Squad production and Cube's cocksure delivery that's just below a shout, makes one think he's the only radio the inner city needs. The Bomb Squad's amazing work on the album proves they've been overly associated with Public Enemy, since their ability to adapt to AmeriKKKa's more violent and quick revolution is underappreciated. Their high point is the intense "Endangered Species," a "live by the trigger" song that offers "It's a shame, that niggas die young/But to the light side it don't matter none." This street knowledge venom with ultra fast funk works splendidly throughout the album, with every track hitting home, although the joyless "You Can't Fade Me" has alienated many a listener since kicking a possibly pregnant woman in the stomach is a very hard one to take. Just to be as confusing as the world he lives in, the supposedly misogynistic Cube introduces female protégé Yo-Yo with "It's a Man's World" before exiting with "The Bomb," a perfectly unforgiving and visceral closer. Save a couple Arsenio Hall disses, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted is a timeless, riveting exercise in anger, honesty, and the sociopolitical possibilities of hip-hop. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 6, 2006 | Virgin Records

As Ice Cube's 2006 Laugh Now, Cry Later was landing in stores, all the chatter was about whether or not Cube was back, and whether or not he could recover from a couple of lackluster solo albums that came out years ago. Did his major contribution to Westside Connection's satisfying 2003 album Terrorist Threats slip everybody's mind and do we have to consider that release "slept on"? Laugh Now picks up right where Terrorist Threats left off, and while Cube does a little "this is why I'm important" posturing on the excellent "Child Support," this isn't a forced "I'm back" effort in the least. After a short intro, Cube goes right for the upper classes' throats with "Guns and Drugs," a track that acknowledges that there was a George Bush in office when he began his solo career, there's a George Bush in office as he returns to it, and he doesn't much care for either. Switching gears, the following club track "Smoke Some Weed" gives everyone the finger in a much less socially conscious manner. The track's rain stick and East Indian vocal loops constructed by producer Budda give the album its most riveting beat, the competition supplied by various upstarts and, surprisingly, Lil Jon, who upstages the heralded Scott Storch and his underwhelming contributions. Lil Jon tweaks his usual crunk juice and blends some West into his South for the low-riding "Go to Church" and "You Gotta Lotta That," both with Snoop. Just as satisfying, "Doin' What It 'Pose 2 Do" is a modern banger that's well aware of the 2006 success of folks like Bun B and Z-Ro. It's only when Cube jumps on the "Stop Snitchin'" bandwagon that he sounds the least bit unnatural. He also scores a lyrical triumph with the title track, but unlike his early classics, Laugh Now stumbles occasionally and fails to keep the momentum going through the whole fourth quarter. This is his first effort on his own independent label, so if the album lacks a little final product-minded polish, it trades it for a homegrown feel that's distinctively direct. Strip a couple redundant tracks and you've got that bitter, edgy, and sharp Cube album you hoped for. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 6, 2006 | Virgin Records

As Ice Cube's 2006 Laugh Now, Cry Later was landing in stores, all the chatter was about whether or not Cube was back, and whether or not he could recover from a couple of lackluster solo albums that came out years ago. Did his major contribution to Westside Connection's satisfying 2003 album Terrorist Threats slip everybody's mind and do we have to consider that release "slept on"? Laugh Now picks up right where Terrorist Threats left off, and while Cube does a little "this is why I'm important" posturing on the excellent "Child Support," this isn't a forced "I'm back" effort in the least. After a short intro, Cube goes right for the upper classes' throats with "Guns and Drugs," a track that acknowledges that there was a George Bush in office when he began his solo career, there's a George Bush in office as he returns to it, and he doesn't much care for either. Switching gears, the following club track "Smoke Some Weed" gives everyone the finger in a much less socially conscious manner. The track's rain stick and East Indian vocal loops constructed by producer Budda give the album its most riveting beat, the competition supplied by various upstarts and, surprisingly, Lil Jon, who upstages the heralded Scott Storch and his underwhelming contributions. Lil Jon tweaks his usual crunk juice and blends some West into his South for the low-riding "Go to Church" and "You Gotta Lotta That," both with Snoop. Just as satisfying, "Doin' What It 'Pose 2 Do" is a modern banger that's well aware of the 2006 success of folks like Bun B and Z-Ro. It's only when Cube jumps on the "Stop Snitchin'" bandwagon that he sounds the least bit unnatural. He also scores a lyrical triumph with the title track, but unlike his early classics, Laugh Now stumbles occasionally and fails to keep the momentum going through the whole fourth quarter. This is his first effort on his own independent label, so if the album lacks a little final product-minded polish, it trades it for a homegrown feel that's distinctively direct. Strip a couple redundant tracks and you've got that bitter, edgy, and sharp Cube album you hoped for. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released June 6, 2006 | Virgin Records

As Ice Cube's 2006 Laugh Now, Cry Later was landing in stores, all the chatter was about whether or not Cube was back, and whether or not he could recover from a couple of lackluster solo albums that came out years ago. Did his major contribution to Westside Connection's satisfying 2003 album Terrorist Threats slip everybody's mind and do we have to consider that release "slept on"? Laugh Now picks up right where Terrorist Threats left off, and while Cube does a little "this is why I'm important" posturing on the excellent "Child Support," this isn't a forced "I'm back" effort in the least. After a short intro, Cube goes right for the upper classes' throats with "Guns and Drugs," a track that acknowledges that there was a George Bush in office when he began his solo career, there's a George Bush in office as he returns to it, and he doesn't much care for either. Switching gears, the following club track "Smoke Some Weed" gives everyone the finger in a much less socially conscious manner. The track's rain stick and East Indian vocal loops constructed by producer Budda give the album its most riveting beat, the competition supplied by various upstarts and, surprisingly, Lil Jon, who upstages the heralded Scott Storch and his underwhelming contributions. Lil Jon tweaks his usual crunk juice and blends some West into his South for the low-riding "Go to Church" and "You Gotta Lotta That," both with Snoop. Just as satisfying, "Doin' What It 'Pose 2 Do" is a modern banger that's well aware of the 2006 success of folks like Bun B and Z-Ro. It's only when Cube jumps on the "Stop Snitchin'" bandwagon that he sounds the least bit unnatural. He also scores a lyrical triumph with the title track, but unlike his early classics, Laugh Now stumbles occasionally and fails to keep the momentum going through the whole fourth quarter. This is his first effort on his own independent label, so if the album lacks a little final product-minded polish, it trades it for a homegrown feel that's distinctively direct. Strip a couple redundant tracks and you've got that bitter, edgy, and sharp Cube album you hoped for. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2007 | Priority Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | Priority Records

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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released September 19, 2008 | EMI America Records

Dealing with the good, the bad, and especially the ugly, Raw Footage is an appropriate title for Ice Cube's eighth album. Some kind of subtitle that mentioned the yin and yang of life would have made it perfect because the tracks here are as inclined to paradoxes as the man himself and offer just as few excuses. If you want insight into how a man justifies making family fun movies by day and hardcore rap by night, the only answer offered is that you grow up in this cruel world and you deal any way you know how, something that drives the great "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It." This key track may not be "fair and balanced," but it's honest and revealing as Cube embraces what he wants from the good -- a literate life that damns those who "read your first book in the penitentiary" -- and the commonly accepted bad as he attacks Oprah and everyone else who has a problem with hardcore rap using the "N" word. The 187 in "Why Me?" could be a metaphor for the attacks from Cube's detractors ("You want to take the life God handed to me/Send it back to him 'cuz you ain't a fan of me") while "Jack in the Box" suggests he's already won the war with "Fool, I'm the greatest/You just the latest/I'm loved by your grandmamma/And your babies." The album's guiding principle, "only thing I expect is self-check," is dropped in "Get Money, Spend Money, No Money," but the great news is that all these standoffish and self-serving rhymes are written with that whipsmart wit and sit on a bed of wonderfully minimal beats from lesser knowns like Young Fokus and Emile. The only time things sound slick are when an Eddie Kendricks sample meets Angie Stone's vocals on "Hood Mentality," or when the so-big-in-2008 Young Jeezy shows up for the disappointing and out of place "I Got My Locs On." The bombastic intro and interludes with Keith David could go too, but otherwise this no-answers, gritty ego trip will satisfy his fans while pushing everyone else away even further. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2008 | Priority Records

Booklet
Replacing 2001's Greatest Hits, Ice Cube's 2008 compilation The Essentials sticks with the post-N.W.A solo releases -- no Westside Connection tracks here -- and updates with tracks from the West Coast legend's later releases. The bad news is that "Cold Pieces" is chosen off 2008's Raw Footage instead of the superior "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It," plus the great "Bop Gun" is missing -- but that's it for big blunders. "It Was a Good Day," "Check Yo Self," and the early burner "Dead Homiez" are all here, along with the slept-on classic "Greed" and the fan favorite "Rollin' with the Lench Mob." Release dates are shuffled into a running order that makes sense and while the liner notes are minimal, the essay from hip-hop writer Soren Baker is informed and insightful. Buy this along with the 2007 collection In the Movies and you've got a great portable collection, but the problem with compiling Cubes discography are the three vital albums -- AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, Death Certificate, and The Predator -- that kicked off his solo career. Put a box around those three, throw in a disc of singles, and you've got the real essentials -- but this will do in a pinch. © David Jeffries /TiVo