Classic Material: Ice Cube – Death Certificate [1991]


In 1991, Ice Cube was the best MC in the world. I’m not telling you just my opinion, it’s the truth. Exhibit A: Death Certificate. In 1991, Ice Cube released what I believe to be one of the best Hip-Hop albums of all time when he birthed Death Certificate. After going East with the Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad on his first release AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, and testing more waters with the EP Kill At Will, this album was O’Shea Jackson at his finest. It was here that Ice Cube refined his social commentary; he wasn’t just preaching to you about the ills of society, he was explaining it and maybe offering a solution. The way the album was set up was also genius; one side was called The Life Side, the other The Death Side (It was a time of tape cassettes, youngsters). Ice Cube explains this himself on the opening of the album; “The Death Side: a mirror image of where we are today; The Life Side: a vision of where we need to go”. From the explosive opening (“The Wrong Nigga to Fuck Wit”), to the storytelling brilliance (“Steady Mobbin'”), to cautionary (“Look Who’s Burnin'”), to comical (“Givin’ Up the Nappy Dug Out”), to creative (“Alive on Arrival”), the album gives you a barrage of classics. If you want lyrics, it has that too. A great example of this is on “Alive On Arrival”; Woke up in the back of a tray/On my way, to MLK/That the county hospital jack/Where niggaz die over a little scratch/Still sittin’ in the trauma center/In my back is where the bullet entered/Yo nurse I’m gettin kind of warm/Bitch still made me fill out the fuckin’ form/Coughin up blood on my hands and knees/Then I heard “freeze nigger don’t move”/Yo, I didn’t do a thing/Didn’t wanna go out like my man Rodney King. Oh yea, let’s not forget that this album also contained the best diss song of all time and NWA funeral song, “No Vaseline”. I could go on and on, but in short, Ice Cube’s Death Certificate is everything a Hip-Hop album can and should be.

Example: Ice Cube – “Alive On Arrival”