"Black men if you have now a mind to join with me now is your time of freedom."
--Arthur, rebel slave, Henrico County, Virginia, 1802.
"I'm down for whatever."
--Ice Cube, South Central L.A., 1993.
You don't ignore a revolution. You either join it or oppress it. Maybe you live, maybe you die. But be sure on one thing: as James Baldwin once said, "it'll be the fire next time, so prepare now." Listen to Ice Cube. He's talking to you. The new album is LETHAL INJECTION, and this is one shot that's gonna hurt. A lot. Because what Cube seeks to exterminate are fear, ignorance, self-doubt, self-hate, and despair; what he seeks to inject are pride, knowledge, self-awareness, self-love, and resolve. And that could make some powerful people powerfully angry.
"I started working four months after THE PREDATOR was out," he says. "Initially, I was going to get this one out next summer, but I started bearing down the last two months." Indeed there is a palpable urgency in this collection. Ice Cube, one of the foremost artists and performers of our time, is an impatient man, and his music reflects that.
For those that have followed his career, Cube's growth as a producer is one of the more striking aspects to LETHAL INJECTION. Cube executive produced the album, co-produced every track, and oversaw every aspect of the album's dense and complex soundscape. Other producers who contributed include: Sir Jinx, QDIII, Madness 4 Real of Solid Productions, Brian G, 88/X Unit and Laylaw. His m.o. as a producer/artist remains solidly the same. "Once they get the track fat," he says, "I come in with my sugar and spice."
Some of that sugar is mighty sweet and to pull it off, Cube used more live musicians than ever before. "REALLY DOE" is a straight-up hip-hop gem Cube is particularly happy with. "After the success of 'IT WAS A GOOD DAY' and 'CHECK YOURSELF,' I wanted to do a hardcore back-to-the-underground street song," he says, "and let everybody know as long as they try to push me pop, I'll never go that way. I just say, 'Let me do beats and rhymes,' and I think it worked."
"GHETTO BIRD" offers a chilling vision of the inner city after dark, with police helicopters trawling the night skies. "They make the neighborhood seem like Saigon," says Cube. The song "YOU KNOW HOW WE DO IT" takes a different perspective. "That's a real laid back west coast record," he says, "talking about the neighborhood and what's really going on in 1994."
With the next track, "CAVE BITCH," cube speaks his mind on a touchy subject. "A guy I know told me once you get successful, you'll have to find a blond white girl to be your wife or girlfriend," relates Cube. "It blew me away. I had to do this song and see if the critics who don't complain when I use the word 'bitch' about a black girl will complain when I talk about a white girl." As often as Ice Cube has surprised his fans, probably no one could have predicted "BOP GUN (One Nation)," a joyous eleven-minute remake of the P-Funk classic, "ONE NATION UNDER A GROOVE." Even the man himself, George Clinton, sings with Cube in this carnival. "It's about giving respect to the man who started it all," says Cube.
"WHAT CAN I DO?" is a gripping tale, at once personal and universal. "It's the story of a lot of guys who dropped out of school when crack was the only employer of our young black kids," says Cube. "Then it dried up, and now they don't know what to do." As for "LIL' ASS GEE," Cube says, "It's dedicated to the youngsters coming up, on the road to destruction and who won't realize it until they get life in the penitentiary."
"MAKE IT RUFF, MAKE IT SMOOTH" is a reunion between Cube and his old homie K-Dee, while in "DOWN 4 WHATEVER," Cube states his position clearly. "I'm down for making records, I'm down for making revolution," he says. "Whatever the people call for, then that's where I'm rollin'." With "ENEMY," Cube draws the line: "It's no secret that the powers that be have been against us since we stepped foot in this country. So don't look to the white man to help your situation because he put you in the situation."
The album closes with the easy-tempered but explosive "WHEN I GET TO HEAVEN." Says Cube, "I don't think Jesus ever put himself equal with God, but people put Jesus in front of God and I don't think that's right. This song's about the bullshit we go through here on earth, what's the real deal and who put the whammy on us.
If Cube draws heat for speaking out about Christianity and the wickedness of white America, it's nothing he isn't used to. Since he burst on the scene, he has proven himself both a prophet and the preeminent lightning rod of his generation. Growing up in Los Angeles, California, Ice Cube treasured the music of PARLIAMENT/FUNKADELIC and the comedy of Richard Pryor, but it was rap that turned him around. By age 14 he was writing his own raps, and seeing Ice-T in concert for the first time sealed his determination to turn pro.
Ice Cube continues to astonish his fans, his detractors, the powerful and the powerless. And though the sentiments expressed on LETHAL INJECTION may disturb some, the man himself reflects the big heart that beats within. "We need to love and respect ourselves before we can love anyone else," says Ice Cube. "That is the key. Love does what a gun can not. Love makes you run into a burning building to save a baby. It's a lack of love for the next man that keeps the world poor and raggedy."
These are the words of Ice Cube. Downright revolutionary.