This album right here is a classic. Few albums represent West Coast Gangster Rap as well as this collection of tracks did. Not even Cube’s other classic album, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted represented quite like this one.
It was because of how real he made it sound. The violent ideas strung throughout the songs are commonplace these days, with many Hip-Hop artists leaning on gangster influences to make catchy music. But back in this time, it made an impact. The raw stories of street life, such as the drug dealing tale on “A Bird In the Hand” was too frightening for many mainstream music fans. So naturally, Death Certificate became controversial, very similar to what happened to his debut album.
What it lacks in single power, the album makes up for in creativity and cohesiveness. While violent and controversial at times, Cube’s writing is also meant to teach and inspire. His method involves showing the bad to teach about the positive. As he explains himself during the intro, the album is split into two sides: the Death, and the Life.
Ice Cube must have been inspired to change the Hip-Hop game, and himself at the same time. I mention personal change because of his actions in his past N.W.A. days, a time full of angst and motivation to prove the law, or anyone else telling him what to do, wrong. That attitude carries into AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, all the way until Death Certificate. What could have been the major difference is Ice Cube’s involvement in the game growing rapidly, including his appearance on (the heavily Hip-Hop influenced) Boyz N’ Da Hood. A view from the other side of the screen, as well as an increase in age and maturity gave him a different perspective.
Whatever it was, it worked. Death Certificate went Platinum the same year it dropped, and also years later received accolades as being one of the best Hip-Hop albums of all time from countless sources. MTV, The Source, About.com, and Vibe are all included.
Wait, You Mean Ice Cube the Family Movie Actor, Right?
Yes it is true. Ice Cube has come a very long way since 1991. He spends most of his time picking up movie roles and being a family man. But hey, the man is an OG. Nobody can rap forever, you have to start doing something else at some point. The irony is still quite goofy, though.