For those of us in the know, Ice Cube was once not such a lovable, affable actor as he has been portrayed in some of his recent movie roles. For those of us who were of age in 1990 and earlier, Ice Cube was not only a founding member of N.W.A., but a man with a plan whose political views would not be muzzled. Less teddy bear and more grizzly bear, Ice Cube had no problem declaring to anyone that if they were not down with his agenda, then they were an "oreo" or a "sell out." Ahh...those were the days. Such was the climate in 1990 when Ice Cube's AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted was released.
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted marked Ice Cube's departure from N.W.A. amidst--what else--internal strife amongst the group's members. Despite virtually no promotion or airplay, the album initially shipped out 500,000 copies and was later certified platinum. Add to this production from The Bomb Squad, Public Enemy's production team, and an appearance by Chuck D. from P.E., this album had post-civil rights anger scrawled all over it.
As some of the past Class of 1990 albums we've featured can attest to, 1990 was not a year full of racial harmony or necessarily a desire for the haves to listen to the supposed gripes of the have-nots. 1990 was a year fraught with pain and anger over this nation's previous plunge into class and racial disparity courtesy of Ronald Reagan's policies, including an unwillingness to acknowledge AIDS as an epidemic or that crack cocaine was being maliciously pumped into inner city communities. Ice Cube's take on society's ills was a sharp departure from his previous work in N.W.A. Not only was his production team a duo of East Coast producers who had worked with what were then known as the most political hip hop crew to date, but Ice Cube managed to embrace pan-African, nationalistic ideologies without losing his West Coast street cred.
Of note, songs such as "The Nigga Ya Love to Hate" and "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" are prime examples of the focused anger that characterize this album. Interestingly, "Endangered Species (Tales From The Darkside)" featuring Chuck D pits Ice Cube playing the sober role while Chuck D assumes the manic persona of his bandmate Flava Flav in a twist of sorts. "It's A Man's World" featuring femcee Yo-Yo is a spar of epic proportions centering around both rappers' misconstrued notions of each other's gender. It's not as bad as RZA as Bobby Digital's "Domestic Violence," but it's close.
Ice Cube certainly went on to much success, equally as a rapper and as an actor. He eventually went on to embrace his West Coast roots with his later albums and is probably the only rapper to date who is able to be remembered for exposing those he felt were sellouts, essentially acquire the same measure of success the subjects of his ire did by the same means, and still maintain the same level of respect. It's fitting, therefore, to end this particular exploration of this great album of 1990 with the following single from AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, "Who's The Mack?"