“Us will sing the blues, because all we care about is hairstyles and tennis shoes….”
-Ice Cube, 1991
On October 29, 1991 Ice Cube released Death Certificate; the most socially conscious album ever made. A picture of a deceased Uncle Sam draped the cover and Khalid Muhammad (once a rising star in the Nation of Islam community) punctuated many of Ice Cube’s points. Ice Cube targeted as many black issues as he could fit into one album. Poverty, STDs, crime, race relations, and healthcare were all at the top of the list. This was also the same year the movie Boyz n the Hood debuted and Ice Cube seemed to be the voice of inner city black culture. He followed Death Certificate up with 1992’s The Predator (where he flirted with some issues from the LA riots), and 1994’s Higher Learning and The Glass Shield (movies).
But after that- his voice went a silent. Lethal Injection, War & Peace Vol1 1& 2 sounded good but didn’t offer any further conscious lyrics or songs. Friday is a comedy classic and Dangerous Ground, Anaconda, and The Players Club were all entertaining movies but- that’s all they were. The trend stayed the same unitl 2010’s I am The West album; an independent release that felt like it “tried” to pick up where Death Certificate left off but maybe a few years too late.
Now in Ice Cube’s defense (I’m not trying to bash the brother)- several artists/entertainers believe that giving the same message can get “stale.” Others believe you have to reinvent yourself every 5 years. Ice Cube is entitled to cultivate his career as he sees fit. No one said he “had” keep the socially conscious music going. But much of what was said is still prevalent today and conscious hip-hop has fallen below the radar.
It’s even been suggested that maybe there was a conspiracy at play that moved Cube off his black conscious square. Whatever the reason; the album is still a classic none the less
A quick recap of some of Death Certificate’s Highlights.
My Summer Vacation-
“No chance for rehabilitation because look at the mutha fuckin’ years that I’m facin’”
Look Who’s Bunin’-
“But a bitch like you will be returning with the HIV,-R.I.P.”
A Bird In the Hand -
“Do I gotta’ sell me a whole lot of crack for decent shelter and clothes on my back or should I just wait for help from Bush & Jesse Jackson and Operation Push….”
Alive On Arrival
“Had the chills but my tempturer is 103, only had a band aid and a IV.”
I Wanna Kill Sam
“Broke us down and us pray to his God….”
Horny Lil Devil-
“Because you raped our women and we felt it but it will never happen again if I can help it…”
Black Korea –
“…they hope I don[‘t pull out a gat and try to rob but fuck your little store because bitch I gotta’ job..”
True To The Game-
“You was hardcore hip-hop, but look at yourself boy you done flip-flopped. Giving our music away to the mainstream, don’t you know that ain’t down with the team.”
Color Blind –
“Ain’t the light turns green I done bone out, I wanna see what these black men are all about.”
“…we can’t even enjoy ourselves; too busy jealous at each to other’s wealth.”