Ice Cube – I Am The West [Review]

What do you do when you successfully help lead one of the most important Hip-Hop groups ever with an album bearing the same importance, write and produce a classic trilogy of movies, and create one of the most in demand sitcoms on cable TV that aren’t made by Tyler Perry? Simple, you drop your 3rd album on your own label. With the previous 2 albums going Gold and covering life in general and political issues, Cube comes at us from the West, relentlessly. Let’s take a trip to the bay and see what LA’s native has for us.
*A Boy Was Conceived is an intro*

2. Soul On Ice
Produced by Tha Bizness
I ‘m not a big fan of the beat and it would benefit from some turned up bass, that’s for sure. The hook features a chant of “You bout to smell my cologne” which I assume means you are way too close to Cube (based on context clues) and messin’ with his lane in the game. I’m not overly enthusiastic about the album based on this track. The highlight of the song lyrically is when Cube says “…rode in on some ass just like Jesus…” Other than that, this song is pretty forgettable.

3. Life In California
Featuring Jayo Felony, WC, & Young Maylay; Produced by Sir Jinx
One thing I’ll give Cube credit for since going independent, there is no doubt where his musical bases is. He incorporates funk and that West Coast sound as much as possible. It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none so we get to hear Jayo Felony, WC, & Young Maylay on this track and if the title isn’t enough to clue you in, about 40seconds in, Cube takes a shot at Jay-Z and the east coast/R&B influenced sound domination in the game. This song is the first step in asserting that this album is not about West vs. East, it’s about West is the best, without apologies or clarifications.

4. She Couldn’t Make It on Her Own
Featuring Doughboy & OMG; Produced by Bangladesh & Doughboy
2 things to note about this one that had me hyped before I heard a single part of it. OMG and Doughboy are Cubes sons, and Bangladesh makes some nice beats. The odd sounding, Mario Brothers time portal sound helps establish the base of this song, I guess. That sonic sound quickly gets annoying no matter how many times they change it up on this song and it takes away from a track where the beat and bass could really carry the track. Lyrically, I have NO idea what the song is about. You see the title, but this isn’t’ clearly about a chick and hints, at times, to this song being about the music industry a’la “I Used To Love Her”. Anyway, all of that analysis aside, this song still has enough of a funky baseline and catchy hook to be enjoyable background music for some.

5. Urbanian
Produced by Bangladesh & Track Bully
More sonic infusion that doesn’t really work for me along with a “Google me bitch” chorus that makes me dislike this track off the jump. I don’t like the track and again, the sonic element derails the hard working bassline and uptempo set up Track Bully (great name by the way) initially used to set the this song up. At 2:25, it’s short enough that you don’t have to worry about it too much before it’s over.

6. Y’all Know How I Am
Featuring Doughboy, OMG, WC, &Young Maylay; Produced by Willy Will & Doughboy
Anytime I hear the different drum tones, I think of the “Whisper Song”. Don’t get it twisted though, this song is branded West Coast. Curiously short at 2:18 each rapper spits like 4 bars and then it’s over. That’s a shame because this song really has potential. I hope he does a remix for this one. Even as a short song, there are some questionable lyrics, but not from WC, who rides this beat like it has a seat with his brief time on the mic.

7. Too West Coast
Featuring WC & Young Maylay; Produced by Hallway Productionz
WC clearly wasn’t done with as he steals this song from Cube and Young Maylay, however…“but me and bitch niggas don’t mix like 2 cocks”pause Grandad (c) Riley. I hear what you’re saying, but some shit I don’t wanna hear ya know? Anyway, this song is a West Coast banger, nothing less. The bassline is nasty as hell and the track has it’s own attitude without any lyrics being spit. I have to ask, am I the only one that doesn’t feel right hearing Cube reference himself as the Grand Wizard and him saying nigga in the same breath? I’m just asking, but the song is one of the best on the album.

8. I Rep That West
Featuring & Produced by JIGG
We all know this song, we all like this song. There isn’t too much to say about this one, dope song, dope track, good match. I look forward to hearing more from JIGG.

9. Drink The Kool-Aid
Produced by Brandon Alexander
So it appears that the album has a decidedly funkier and more musically aggressive attitude since “Too West Coast”. For the 3rd song in a row, I’m about to break my neck to the beat. This is the second single and all things considered, it could have been the lead if the title of the album wasn’t what it was. I think this is really the best song on the album lyrically and musically. Cube has a chip on his shoulder about the West being ignored, underrepresented and disrespected in this game that they gave so much to. Cube again asserts, “I wrote this shit without a rhyme dictionary…do you, know who you fuckin’ with?” Cube is taking no prisoners as he calls out Weezy, Eminem, Dre, Kanye, anybody claiming to be the second coming of Biggie or Pac, and basically anybody who calls themselves a rapper in the game that if they aren’t on his label. I’d say he’s calling them out in the spirit of friendly competition, but he’s calling them out without question. This song is my favorite song on the album.

10. No Country for Young Men
Produced by Milli Martian
Although it is keeping up with the most recent trend of aggression in tone, this song does sound different than the previous 3 songs. Don’t get it twisted though, it is decidedly West Coast, again. It features a lot more piano and musical influence than the previous songs that were primarily driven by the bass. I think my favorite lyric from this song is “I don’t like it when you call me Big Poppa from South Central.”

11. It Is What It Is
Produced by David “Dizmix” Lopez
Dizmix introduces the clap and the “aye” chants as the foundation for this song but the rest of the track sounds really simple, too simple to enjoy. It comes off as annoying very quickly and when coupled with the constant repetition of the last words of each bar (2 or 3x) this song is a quick
SKIP with no hesitation.

12. Hood Robbin
Produced by T-Mix
Simply put, this song is about real folks problems. The subject matter is home loans and financial woes and how the coungry is robbing from the poor and giving to the rich. The track features nice keys and, even though he’s been verbally antagonistic towards R&B influenced music on this album, this track could easily be sung over. It’s a good song though and probably more relevant to the average person outside of the West Coast than anything else on this album.

13. Young Money or Your Life
Produced T-Mix
Initially Dr. Dre was going to be on the album but somehow, that didn’t happen. Well, he left this beat behind. It sounds like something from the Slim Shady album. It’s, again, West Coast friendly and plays well with the Cube’s delivery. Cube “says” it’s not a diss as he names names and asserts that he’s one of the nicest to do this, and that includes everybody.

14. Nothing Like L.A.
Featuring Butch Cassidy; Produced by The Fliptones
Following in the same trend as the previous two tracks,we continue in a more smoothed out sound while remaining funky and West Coast at the same time. The high pitch part reminds me of Ghetto Bird from the beginning of Menace II Society. I really like the track musically and it puts me in the mind of the G-funk era. My boy says it best when he says “You don’t go Hollywood when you from Hollywood/Let’s go to the hood, and fuck with the haters/Then to the Staples Center and hang with the Lakers/Number 6 is cool but 24 is the champ/And even D. Wade and Chis Bosh know that.” I’m taking bets right now, this song will be played, especially that part, when the Lakers play on TNT. This is a new LA anthem and I damn near want to claim the city based on this song alone.

15. All Day, Every Day
Produced by Hallway Productionz
I’m trying to figure out the best way to say this. This song is beneath Cube. It’s a pretty bad attempt at a club song/dance song/stripper song that I’m sure someone named Diamond will be dancing to at some point, but that doesn’t make it a good song. Once again, I think Cube knew this song wasn’t up to par and cut it short at 2:21.

16. Fat Cat
Produced by JIGG
Every album needs an ego boosting, fantasy driven, King of the World type jam that attempts to make you forget about the economic paralysis we’re currently in. JIGG lays a pretty good background here but the snare work is too familiar and canned to benefit the rest of the track. I can’t even think of anything else to say about this song. It’s pretty average for me, subject, beat, and lyrics included.

Bottom Line:
Cube is making 4 statements with this album and he’s making them boldly. First, he’s making music for the West Coast, fuck the rest. Secondly, You can pretend that he’s not one of the best if you want, but if you really believe that, check his resume. Third, die slow if you don’t respect the West in this Hip-Hop game. Lastly, he’s watching what folks are doing in the game and none of it is lost on him. He’s defiantly incessant in championing his region and he doesn’t care if you don’t like it. With such a regional stance, I wonder if that will actually limit it’s enjoyment for folks. Sure, we don’t ask that when albums come from NY, but I think we all have come to expect and accept a certain amount of NY grandstanding not only in Hip-Hop, but in life in general (we all know a few people that assert that NY has the best anything, anywhere.) I guess that’s his point though, to point out the glaring discrepancy. The problem with this album, however, is that it’s not really cohesive at all. After stumbling out the gate with the first few songs, he becomes aggressive and masterful with the next few tracks, then softens the tone and almost goes from a roar to a whisper…and then forgettable. If you are a die hard Cube fan or you’re from California, I’d suspect that this may be one of your new favorite albums for now. Outside of that, I don’t know that this album really has high value outside of that run in the middle of the album. Even more importantly, I don’t think Ice Cube gives a shit what I think about this album, this is a West Coast conversation, so I’ll see my way out.


nappyPicks: “Too West Coast”, “I Rep That West”, “Drink The Kool-Aid”, “No Country for Young Men”

Download: Ice Cube – “Pros vs. Joes” [Bonus Track]
Download: Ice Cube – “Man vs. Machine” [Bonus Track]