Mister Rogers tried to sue us!
October 14, 2014 5:47 AM   Subscribe

The Making of Ice Cube's AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, an excerpt from Brian Coleman's upcoming Check the Technique 2: More Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies (SLMedium)
posted by box (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You come at Mister Rogers, you best not miss.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:26 AM on October 14, 2014 [14 favorites]

the first 200,000 copies of the album have a piece on the beginning of “A Gangsta’s Fairytale” that’s like Mister Rogers [Jinx sings a version of theme song with gangsta drawl… after “Won’t you be my neighbor?” he makes sounds of gunfire]

Getting sued by Mr. Rogers is a red flag that you need to stop what you're doing and rethink your choices in life.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:50 AM on October 14, 2014 [11 favorites]

I still remember the first time I saw this flyer. It was on the Upper East Side, right across from Lincoln Center. I wasn't hip enough to really understand what it was, but I could still understand that it was seriously badass.
posted by the painkiller at 8:03 AM on October 14, 2014

Thanks box! A lot of good information in there.

I remember buying the tape the day it came out. Seeing him on the cover like that with his hands clasped, eyebrows flared and looking like he had the world behind him, marching, just made it an incredible purchase. I put it into the cassette player and played it on the way home, and like a lot of his stuff, the first few tracks are uptempo, furious joints and it was just glorious.

I could have done without a lot of the background provided because it didn't seem like much of a value add and a lot of the stories were conflicting and narrow anyway, but I appreciate having them available. I listened to the whole thing while reading the piece.

This was the first I'd seen the "Amerikkka" thing, and years later I delighted in hearing Paris say "In the land of amerikh-kh-kuh..." on a track. There are probably a dozen or two classic lines and phrases on this album. You can hear so many lines that have been sampled, some into whole songs. It's funny because I was rapping some of the songs off Amerikkka's Most last week and I realized that Cube had the lines "You wanna free Africa, I stare at ya, cause we aint got it too good in America" and "MFs that say they too black, put em overseas they'll be beggin to come back".

Cube also was awesome enough to use the line "Word, but who the fuck is Herb?", playing off of Chuck D's "Word to Herb, yo if you can swing this...learn the words - you might sing this". (The Lady of Rage also chimed in on that, saying rappers wouldn't be able to "utter a word, not to mother or Herb...") And then on Kill at Will, which I'm glad was included because it was like Amerikkka's most's little brother with the ill cover and ridiculous beats you could play in the car on the way home from the record store Cube again referenced Chuck on Jackin For Beats. "And even if you're down with my crew....I jack them too!" and then that towering, end of the world, Children of Men helicopters, air raid sirens, martial law mimicking Welcome to the Terrordome beat comes on.

About half way through box's article, Hank Shocklee talks about not wanting to bore the listener, so you make sure the product flows through, and doesn't let down. And its great to listen to albums that way because as Rakim says it holds and controls you. I never listen to music that way anymore. I have a bunch of different genres, different tempos, completely different artists lined up in playlists.

This is yelly Ice Cube at his best. He's continued to make albums, and even yells from time to time, but his voice was on fire for much of this album. It was like listening to a guy rap through a megaphone. So good. I'm glad the piece got to where it went over individual tracks on the album. But I really needed more background behind The Bomb. There is so much going on in that song, from the audio from the crash of the Hindenburg to the BDP "uh!"s that come in when Ice Cube says he's solo. It compares so well to another fiery verse cube delivers - the one on The Grand Finale, off of the D.O.C.'s album (who is in one of the pictures, wearing Jordan 4's - the original issue). But even though Cube is yelly on that, The Bomb is still a grand finale for Amerikkka's Most.

With Turn off the Radio, I had to explain a few weeks ago that there used to be drama between hip hop and r&b. You'd never know that today, of course, and I feel like sometime around the Aaliyah era, things began to cool. But for a while there, listening to r&b and dancing was near tantamount to being a sellout, because it was basically ignoring the fury that was to be had by listening to, as Ice Cube notes in the piece, the pain of the black man in Amerikkka.

Rappers have been saying it for years. Cube in 1990 was literally saying every black person had a target on them, now 25 years later, you see FPPs with PDFs proclaiming it. At any rate, thanks again for the post, box.
posted by cashman at 8:04 AM on October 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

Loved this album at a time, but eventually realized that it wasn't all the joke that I thought it was. Especially on other albums like the Predator and on tracks like Black Korea, you realize that Cube was taking this all very seriously and it was only serving to incite meaningless violence. He seems to have changed personas dramatically since. Curious what he has to say now.
posted by destro at 8:31 AM on October 14, 2014

Yeah, it's a shame that most accounts of Cube's life and times are fanboy slobbering, because there's really a lot of interesting stuff there. How someone goes from Black Korea to kid's films, how you make a record like Death Certificate and have it not be a career killer... He's a really interesting figure, who's been the fact for the whole history of hip-hop, from party jams to 'black America's CNN' to hate speech to pop entertainment. But every article I've read has been so wrapped up in "that dude is soooo coooool" that there's not much serious thinking going on.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:49 AM on October 14, 2014

How someone goes from Black Korea to kid's films, how you make a record like Death Certificate and have it not be a career killer... He's a really interesting figure, who's been the fact for the whole history of hip-hop, from party jams to 'black America's CNN' to hate speech to pop entertainment.

Black Korea is black life in America. So is kid stuff. How do you make Death Certificate and have it not kill your career? The same way PE made records talking about fighting the power and dissing Elvis. In a sense there is a tradeoff - you trade real power for the ability to get your message out there. If it was a true and tangible threat to the power structure in America, it wouldn't even have come out. It always tripped me out how I'd see so many white people wearing PE shirts, notably the kid in T2. But over time you realize there is no threat there. Nothing you say to much of your audience is in any way going to have a tangible effect on the daily life of a random white person in the U.S. And in fact you're just making the white executives at the major music companies money hand over fist.

Party jams to news about black pain, to hate speech to pop entertainment? Welcome to black life, where you can hate r&b but MJ is the most revered pop star ever. Where you know full well about parents and grandparents struggles with basic civil liberties, where you have stories about cousins or grandparents who were chased by the kkk or threatened, but you're hearing about it over Earth, Wind and Fire. That's why when I see that "at first I was all.....then I was like" gif, it's wholly unsurprising, and not even a diss. Remember that Chris Rock joke where he talked about that oh so subservient black guy? And then his uncle (or somebody) with the white wife? Black life in America is full of crossed paths like that.
posted by cashman at 1:32 PM on October 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Predator is still the best IC record tho.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:19 PM on October 14, 2014

Me, I'd give the crown to Death Certificate.
posted by box at 3:09 PM on October 14, 2014

The b side wins again. It's Death Certificate.
posted by cashman at 9:13 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been listening to 'Death Certificate' again lately (digression: I have an old car with a plain-old CD player, and it's a convertible, so I don't like to keep a lot of stuff in it (and I'm not going to burn a gang of CDs, and my own collection is mostly either mp3/FLAC or vinyl), so I basically just check out a CD from the library, then listen to it until I'm sick of it (yes, my local public library has 'Death Certificate,' and that's at least partially because the AV collection development librarian, a couple years back, was, like, 'hey, box, I have a budget to buy a hundred hip-hop albums, I know that's your jam, make me a list').

And one thing I've noticed about 'Death Certificate' is that it is, by far, the most honest and sincere (or, if you prefer, the realest) album Cube ever recorded. He's large, he contains multitudes, and, while he definitely says some mean things about women, and gay people, and white people, and Korean people, and etc. (and that stuff basically set the tone for the critical reception that album received from the non-rap music press in its day), he saves the meanest things for African-American people (well, he saves the meanest things for NWA and Jerry Heller on 'No Vaseline,' but you get my point).

'Us,' specifically, is one of my favorite Cube songs--it reminds me of the material Chris Rock was doing shortly before he started to feel like people might be laughing for the wrong reasons.
posted by box at 7:07 PM on October 21, 2014

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