Death Certificate

Ice Cube

Priority, 1991

REVIEW BY: Ben Ehrenreich


In the late eighties and early nineties, Ice Cube was a mad rapper. He wasn’t making music to be played at barbecues and block parties; he was making music to riot. It’s a shame he’s not as angry as he used to be, because it provided us with classic hip-hop that Ice Cube now seems to have forgotten how to make. His second solo album, Death Certificate, solidified his position as one of the greatest rappers of all time, and pretty much excuses him for any mishaps he might make in the future.

This album starts off with a skit entitled “The Funeral,” which is ironic because if you ignore the annoying “Robin Lench” skit, the next two skits are “Death” and “The Birth.”  To be honest, I’m not sure why Ice Cube decided to go in reverse order or why on the CD he separates the album into a death and life side. There are no major differences between the two sides, and with the majority of the production coming from the Boogie Men (DJ Pooh, Bobcat, Rashad), the album flows very nicely. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first three songs (“The Wrong N- to Fuck Wit,” “My Summer Vacation,” “Steady Mobbin’”) are very similar, but very different from the rest of the album. They display Ice Cube’s “fuck you” mentality and glorify the gangsta lifestyle. Ice Cube is one of the few rappers who can pull this off without sounding corny or trite. His delivery is impeccable and he raps with such passion that he comes across as sincere. In hip-hop today, this same subject matter tackled by the likes of 50 Cent does not do justice to gangsta rap, the genre Ice Cube helped start.

With the exception of the N.W.A. diss "No Vaseline," every song on this album has a specific social commentary, ranging from promiscuous women to hospitals in the hood to the black community as a whole. This is the type of music, combined with hard beats, that we have come to appreciate from Ice Cube. "A Bird In The Hand" is an intriguing narrative about Ice Cube’s many endeavors in supporting his family before he ends up selling drugs. With lines like "Gotta sell ya food that might give you cancer / 'cuz my baby doesn't take no for an answer," Ice Cube delivers.

"Color Blind" is Ice Cube’s anti-gang song and with the help of Threat, KAM, WC, Coolio, King Tee,, and J-Dee delivers a cinematic verse that only Ice Cube can do so well. "Doing Dumb Shit" is probably the best song on this album and is the most personal, full of anecdotes including a hilarious description of the loss of his virginity. Ice Cube describes growing up in the hood with passion and precision over a fitting Parliament sample.

My only real criticism of this album is that on a couple of songs Ice Cube can come off as a little racist. He talks about interracial dating and how he would never stand for it in his hood on the harsh "Horny Lil’ Devil," and elsewhere criticizes sellouts and black men trying to act white on "True To The Game." As much as I enjoy the rest of this album, these two songs are just hard to listen to, and I can’t excuse any form of racism. I doubt a mature Ice Cube still holds the views expressed in these two songs, but in 1991 he was a mad rapper, and perhaps his anger was misplaced then.

Those two songs aside, this disc is worth owning, plain and simple.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-



© 2006 Ben Ehrenreich and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Priority, and is used for informational purposes only.