Monday, January 21, 2008

Ice Cube' s Anthem For Gangsta Rap



Ice Cube's "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It" gauges American influence, rooted in violence, and puts it in a nut shell proving that music is light years ahead of cinema and social criticism by hack journalists and uninformed commentators. Not since "Really Doe" has Ice Cube encompassed urban schizophrenia with such grace -- bringing us back to the introspective, yet, straight forward Ice Cube we recall on Death Certificate, The Predator, and Lethal Injection:

"You lookin' at the Grand Wizard
war lord,
vocal cords so vicious.
And I don't gotta show brit-giss,
to pull up
pull off wit' some bad bitches."

...so begins "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It", which ignites a commentary not only to defend gangsta rap, but to call out the black elite who write off the expression as destructive. Ice Cube has not touched on a commentary this deep in years (drowning himself in dance records and kid-friendly films), though his previous work is forever a engraved in pop culture history as a landmark for urban expression, this "come back" is a relief in knowing that irony still has a place in rap music (only matched by the likes of Mos Def and Immortal Technique).

"I keep it gangsta
and why should I change that?
Fuck you old mutha-fuckas tryin' to change rap!
But ain't you the same cat
that sat back
when they brought cocaine back?
I'm tryin' to git me a may-bag,
how you mutha-fuckas gon' tell me "Don't say that?"
You the ones that we learned it from
I heard "nigga" back in 1971."

A clear strike at the old generation (and Reverend Wendell Anthony, of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP for the burial of the "N-Word") who were the origins of the urban up rise that eventually evolved into gangsta rap (which did not have it's true birth until NWA's Straight Outta Compton in 1988). The old generation who forgets the blues-men who were the gentlemen gangsta rappers of the day -- complete with booze, drugs, womanizing, and criminal records -- and used the same straight forward methods that Ice Cube, Geto Boyz, and Immortal Technique adopted. One would be a fool to miss the gangsta rap-isms of Leadbelly's "John Hardy":

"John Hardy, he was a desperate little man
Carried two guns every day
Shot a man down by the West Virginia line
They saw John Hardy get away
They saw John Hardy get away."

...so it is ironic that the old generation would judge the expression in gangsta rap, considering they lived and appreciated the very life embraced by most rap artists (the gangsta/pimp persona).

"Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It" is a reminder that America still misreads the intentions behind what true gangsta rap represents (urban frustration); yet this also comes from a refusal to listen to the actual music, but rather listen to the hearsay conjured by critics who not only never bother to understand rap music, but down right detest it. For one to ignore Ice Cube's The Predator album and write it off as urban shallowness rather than urban frustration only proves that it is NOT the fault of the artists for being over the top; but rather the fault of close minded Americans for never bothering to explore the art in the first place. Opinions reign loud when coming from those who lack experience in part of a culture; but conservative, pro-censor America encourages this type of thinking (much like Irvine Kristol with his attacks on pornography), since to experience it would be to subject one's mind to corruption. Those who do take a moment to listen to a song or two often times are exposed to the worst examples, which then takes gangsta rap out of context. For one to hear Snoop Dogg instead of The DOC; 2 Live Crew instead of The Geto Boyz; Rage instead of Boss; Tha Dogg Pound instead of Compton's Most Wanted, it is no wonder the plot behind gangsta rap superimposes as an audio gun show and chaotic cluster-fuck in American understanding of rap music. Snoop Dogg's contribution to popular culture is based in image, whereas The Geto Boyz are based in substance; this is a major difference between the attitude of "fuck it" and the attitude of "fuck you." "Fuck it" is the root of the white boys of Generation X (Beck, Ben Folds, Rage Against the Machine, Kurt Cobain), who found a sub-culture in the coffee shop revolution. "Fuck you" is the root of ghetto madness (Ice Cube, The Geto Boyz, Immortal Technique) encompassed by voices that make a clear distinction of their backs being against the wall. Both "fuck it" and "fuck you" are important; and still the tone must be fitting for the artist portraying it. When ghetto madness takes on "fuck it" (like Snoop Dogg; like 2 Live Crew) it poses the "lazy nigger" theory and misinforms white kids that urban life is a lazy life. Beck's "Loser" and "Today Has Been A Fucked Up Day" works best in the "fuck it" rather than "fuck you" since it was the staple to Generation X in the 90s. The Geto Boyz's "Dame It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta" is the "fuck you" to the mass public who felt gangsta rap could never capture the gentleman (gangsta) quality the blues-men represented. Snoop Dogg's inability to take the "fuck you" attitude makes him acceptable in white America. The fools controversy behind the "lyrical content" of Doggy Style (a dismal outbreak that did not live up to "Deep Cover" and "Ain't Nuttin' Butta G Thang") was nothing but a put-on to contribute to gangsta rap as a scapegoat. Had America listened to the "fuck you" in the Geto Boyz they would find a more introspective report on urban life, leaving Snoop Dogg in isolation along side 2 Live Crew.

Hence the plot to "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It":

"I can say what I wanna say
(ain't nuttin' to it! Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It!)
If I call you a "nigga"
(ain't nuttin' to it! Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It!)
I can act like an animal
(ain't nuttin' to it! Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It!)
If I eat you like a cannibal
(ain't nuttin' to it! Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It!)"

Cube's chorus captures the thinking of American white kids who live for their idolization of black culture (shown beautifully in the 1999 James Toback film Black & White); not to mention blacks who use the persona to their advantage while misrepresenting the urban folklore. Cube understands that gangsta rap is the scapegoat for violence (the late Bill Hicks said it best: "America needs an enemy") in a way that is impossible to ever be proven as fact. If gangsta rap were truly to blame, one would have to assume Geroge W. Bush has a collection of 2Pac, Mobb Deep, and Eminem blaring from his CD player, serving as his influence to continue the war and endanger the future of the US citizens. It's gangsta rap (not Christianity, despite the countless amounts of blood shed held in the name of God) that suffers the consequences, aided by support from the black elite; and even with over thirty years in American Pop Culture, rap has yet to dismiss it's controversy, which is why Ice Cube's "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It" stands as an anthem for America's search for an enemy.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Damn, you nailed that on the head. I think you wrote an opinionated/unbiased assessment, which is hard to do. I was looking to see another opinion to make sure I interpreted the song correctly, and I think you made it more clear than I could have.

Kevina said...

Interesting to know.

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writer, actor, & producer in training. in 2005, along side my partner in film and best friend since childhood, we produced and executed 3 films. to this day i am still working in "the business" to the best of my abilities and moving forward to the "next level." currently i am producing a film project, co-writing another, awaiting word on a stage play for New York, and pursuing my next one-person show. i'm also in school pursuing my Ph.D in Social Science.