Thursday, April 19, 2012

It Was a Good Day

Straight Outta Compton - N.W.A. (mp3)
Endangered Species (Tales from the Darkside) - Ice Cube (feat. Chuck D (mp3)

O’Shea Jackson is America. O’Shea Jackson is the American Dream.

O’Shea Jackson is the story of success and self-loathing, of a culture that values transcendence but also mocks it.

O’Shea Jackson is the story of our eternal wrestling match with hypocrisy.

You might know O’Shea by another name: Ice Cube.

When David Wooderson stands against the outside wall of the pool hall in “Dazed & Confused,” smiling as the hotties walk by, he offers this now-immortal observation: “High school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”

David Wooderson is stuck. He’s not adapting. He’s not growing or changing. He’s in his 20s, barely getting by, and escapes his misery by chasing 17-year-old girls. We like laughing at him, not with him.

Cube went from Straight Outta Compton and AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted to Laugh Now, Cry Later.

Cube went from Boyz In The Hood and Friday to Are We There Yet? and... a TV version of Are We There Yet?

Cube went from selling St. Ides in 1993 to pitching Coors Light in 2011. Coors f*#king Light!!

Ice Cube entered the American cultural stream as the scary black man from the hood who’s pissed off and might well cap us in our sleep. His message: We’ve stolen from him, not the other way around. He made a bunch of money bringing that message.
I got six and I’m aimin’ ‘em
Will I shoot or keep you guessin’?
Cause fuck you and that shit you stressin’
His Doughboy was the secret heart of Boyz. Many people don’t know he wrote the screenplay for Friday. The reason I was always mesmerized by Ice Cube is because you could see the soft and sensitive human being underneath the scars and scabs, beneath the armor and anger and defensive distrust.

The flytrap of gangsta rap is success. Once you start raking in cash, making a name for yourself, you can’t really stay a gangsta, can you? If you insist on keeping it real, on living the gangsta life, they have a name for you: dead. More than a few rappers died of heart disease or AIDS or drug overdose well before they hit the big 40 (and I don’t mean another bottle of St. Ides), but death by disease is better than by slug or scattershot.

So instead you wear nicer clothes, maybe even start a clothing line. You start acting. You prove that you have more sides to your character, that you're 20 times as complex and diverse and creative as Matthew McConaughey. Because to stay in the gang is to be David Wooderson or to die.

O’Shea Jackson has been married to the same woman since 1992. They have four children of their own, and he had one from a previous relationship.

Ice Cube is the American success story of a man’s progression from an angry and neglected young black man in the heart of one of the toughest cities on the face of our continent, to a cultural and financial success.

And people despise him for it. We say he sold out.

We long for his previous characters. We wish he still brought the Doughboy cred. We wish he still had the stones to say F*#k tha Police. We wish he was still smoking fat blunts on the front porch with Chris Tucker. Instead, he’s producing a bad Cosby-meets-Brady knockoff TV show on TBS and shilling the whitest beer on the planet, a beer founded by some dude named Adolf.

Ice Cube survived. Ice Cube thrived. But we call it "selling out."

We do not approve of this. We do not like it, Sam I Am.

How long can a black millionaire remain outraged? Can a man living in a mansion legitimately rap about being pissed off, being disrespected, being in a gang in South Central, cocked and ready to confront the injustice of the people who spit in his face?

My Ice Cube music collection stopped after 1993, and I haven’t seen a movie of his since Three Kings. But I’m glad he’s still out there, and I’m glad he’s not still rapping lines like
steady mobbin’ is not just the name of this jam but a way of life
bound together by motherfuckers that’s known
to break ‘em off somethin’
'cuz that would be weird, coming from the mouth of a 43-year-old millionaire writer/actor/producer.
Ice Cube decided he’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six. Can't we just be happy for him?

Pardon me while I go kick back and crank out "It Was a Good Day" and celebrate one of the best rappers the world will ever know. And I'll raise a cold mug of Coors Light in his honor.


Bob said...

I guess I never picked up on the sell-out because I never thought it was real in the first place. I think you're most correct when you characterize him as simply an American businessman who has learned how to adapt his product (himself) to the times. Is Ted Nugent doing the same thing?

Billy said...

Ice was the son of a custodian and a groundskeeper. He grew up in South Central. His half-sister was murdered when he was 12. (All from Wikipedia.) This doesn't make him an honest-to-God gang-banger by any stretch, but he's not some suburban fraud, either.

Jackson isn't the product of some Disney/Nickelodeon music factory. I don't think there were talent agents hungrily scouting South Central to "invent" gangsta rap. He became a businessman following initial success as an artist, not the other way around.

N.W.A. and Ice Cube's stuff from the late '80s and early '90s is every bit as "real" as any blue collar song Bruce Springsteen sings, regardless of what value or quality we individually bestow upon it and it's "message" of violence, misogyny, etc.

Bob said...

I'm not talking about fraud; I'm talking about reality. I'm not questioning their background. I guess I'm talking more about 2 other things: the rap and the brand.

It's no great insight for me to point out that rappers don't actually live the lives that they rap about. To discover that Ice didn't and moved on into adulthood is not shocking to me, nor indication of a sell-out. Mainstream rap has always struck me as artificial.

Also, modern America is all about the branding, and Ice clearly figured out his brand and worked some very effective diversification of it. That he uses the "Ice" personna to sell conservative beer doesn't shock me either. Maybe he's a Republican, too.

Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas said...

I saw a commercial with Ice Cube days earlier and thought, wow, who would have imagined such a thing fifteen years ago.