Album Remarks & Appraisals:
I Am the West is the 9th studio album by American rapper Ice Cube. It was released on September 28, 2010. The album debuted at #22 on the Billboard 200 and sold 22,000 copies in its first week. As of November 7, 2010 the album has sold 44,000 copies.
"There's an interesting parallel between the lives ofIce Cube and Snoop Dogg which has become more apparent in recent years, but in terms of their musical careers, the similarities are far more interesting. While both have focused much of their time to non-musical projects over the course of the past decade, neither has ever left music behind. In 2008 both Cube and Snoop released new albums,Raw Footage and Ego Trippin' respectively, and each resulted in genuinely solid sales figures (Cube selling 300k copies and Snoop, 400k). With last year's Malice in Wonderland, Snoop released his tenth solo album, and with I Am The West Cube is releasing his ninth; both are also technically now working as "independent artists" now as each is now recording under their own imprint. The two also hold each other in high regard, so it's no surprise that a shout out to Snoop pops up on West ("Snoop Dogg is down with us," in "Your Money or Your Life"), but what is surprising is a statement Cube made toHip Hop DX regarding the shift from a major to releasing under his own Lench Mob label and the freedom it gives him. "Being independent is beautiful because we can do things 'out the box' that record companies would usually frown at." He continued, "Going on Regis & Kelly is not going to sell you hip-hop records! Wrong crowd."
His pal Snoop clearly sees things differently; apparently just because he's doing things his own way doesn't mean that he's afraid of making the daytime rounds. While shaking hands and kissing babies, Snoop's Malice went on to sell the same 400k albums that Ego Trippin' did, and in doing so there may be a lesson that Cube is overlooking. Soccer moms might not be the right crowd, but they're the ones who are either going to be buying music for their kids, or are going to be on top of them regarding what music is blaring from their rooms. So at this critical point in time where the two seem to be ideologically veering off on their own directions, where does that leave Cube? He's not heading to Candyland to mug it up with Katy Perry - that's for sure - rather, he's going back to Cali.
I Am The West is Cube's gangsta-rap-in-2010 record which finds him both lyrically and musically attempting to re-immerse himself in the sub-genre he once helped define. Following an introduction featuring the unforgettable voice of Keith David (who also appeared on Raw Footage) and Cube's longtime tag-along Mike Epps (both of whom appear later in the record as well) the initial synthetic horns and beat of "Soul on Ice" quickly sets precedent for what is to come. Production-wise Tha Bizness prepares Cube to succeed but, as he does throughout the record, he keeps stumbling through off-putting, forgettable, and oftentimes nonsensical, lyrics, "Cool as the fridge and you shakin' like Jell-o/Mad 'cause my life is like a marshmallow."
"Life in California" continues by stepping up and calling out Jay-Z for his widely beloved "Empire State of Mind" collaboration with Alicia Keys, "If Jay-Z can rap about the NYC why can't I talk about the shit I see/Without Alicia Keys, without goin' R&B/This ain't Motown, this is R-A-P." Again, though: nonsensical as Cube believes R&B to apparently be miles away from the curiously soulful vocals that introduce the song; not to mention "Nothing Like L.A." which finds Butch Cassidy crooning his way through Cube's ode to his wife later in the record. "California" has a great beat though - so he's got that goin' for him - but unfortunately the album isn't even consistent on that front.
"She Couldn't Make It," for all its electronic sizzle, comes off about as fresh as the bulk of Common's embarrassingly poorUniversal Mind Control did in 2008. The album's final tracks might be West's most awkward however, "All Day, Every Day" utilizing something of a children's toy xylophone throughout while "Fat Cat" ends up sounding like a towel-waving Cash Money left-over. But the album's best example of awkward lyrics meets questionable production comes in the form of "Urbania": the song's beat is laced with the electronic equivalent of waterboarding while Cube marches through, chanting "Google me, bitch."
The album's focus - if its title didn't give it away - is Cube's return to West Coast rap however, and the album succeeds through the tracks where he concerns himself as such. WC seamlessly lights it up amongst a cast of young players on "Y'all Know How I Am" and "Too West Coast," the latter of which boasts the most furious beat on the record. Even West's lead single, "I Rep That West," does well in creating an aggressive us vs. them feeling that nods to a time gone by, with Cube rolling through bars before taunting, "Who gives a fuck if they play it in Virginia." "Drink the Kool-Aid" takes another shot at the East Coast ("This ain't Sinatra, this Ain't the Carter") and weaves together an alluring minimal-funk beat while "No Country For Young Men" rolls crisply and succinctly. "Hood Robbin'" is where the album finds its peak however, musically bouncing along as if we were all still deep in the mid-'90s while Cube lyrically wraps his mind around the perils of the times and how the common person is affected. Slyly tossing in "This adjustable rate: it choked me out," Cube touches on the most obvious issues that have created overwhelming burdens in this time of economic crisis, all the while sentimentally bouncing as he tries to relate to those who have had their lives devastated, "And everything is lost without Blue Cross." And that's where the biggest question arises with West: Who exactly is Cube trying to prove himself to here?
Snoop, as time has proven, has shifted away from being viewed as a dangerous rapper caught up in a murder trial to someone who fits in nicely with the likes of the Cube-snubbed Regis and Kelly. He's a business man, and part of his business is selling whatever project it might be that he's working on at the time. Sure, he's popping up in some potentially embarrassing rolls occasionally (be it musically or elsewhere), but it all serves its purpose; certainly rolling with the Pussycat Dolls is no less damning than rolling with Korn, as Ice Cube did in the late-'90s. But Ice Cube has this back and forth about him and his career which leaves this vague ambiguity as to who exactly he is and what he's trying to do. Musically, I Am The West is an inconsistent, yet generally passable listen. The cast behind Cube throughout the record including WC, Jayo Felony and Young Maylay do well in supporting Cube and overall, despite his faulty flows, Cube does well enough in representing himself along the way; like many of Ice Cube's albums it has its highs and its lows. But the guy saying he's "too West Coast for the West Coast" is also the guy making Are We There Yet? (as well as creating and producing the TBS show of the same name). This isn't to say that he can't have it both ways - such a duality would be amazing if it seemed legitimate - but it just comes off as though Cube is trying to be too much to too many people; more importantly, too much to himself. In the process, be it burning bridges with soccer moms or snubbing the East Coast, he just comes off as a guy who's trying to bring cards to a game that no one else wants to play." - CultureBully
"Listening to I Am The West, it's hard not to think about Ice Cube's long and successful career, specifically, those early solo years. While prepping for this latest release, Ice Cube became a presence with his blog, insinuating that he would bring back the rawness of his first solo efforts, critically acclaimed albums with potent lyrics, poignant observations and all presented with an in-your-face delivery. The man who some love to hate announced that it was time to get a brand new payback, one inspired by his California roots.
"For seven or eight years now the West coast has been trying to do music that appeals to the south and midWest...Left coast emcees were now trying to change their sound to cater to all the followers. We lost our way...We were all guilty of over reaching. No more. At least not from me."
When Cube wrote those words, there was a feeling that I Am The West would be a strong leftist followup to 2008's Raw Footage, a reflection of where The Don Mega is in 2010 and where west coast Hip Hop stands. Unfortunately, that's not what always shines through on this new record, as Cube misses his mark.
Now, to be clear, Ice Cube has not "lost" his skills behind the mic. His voice is still blaring through the speakers with possibly as much confidence as the 1991 "No Vaseline"-era O'Shea Jackson. He's still head and shoulders above various competitors, young and old alike. When he speaks on topics with a serious tone, he still delivers quite a punch. "Hood Robbin,'" for instance, is a round-house that connects with poverty in America, the loss of homes, political corruption and nightmare that can sometimes appear when chasing the American dream. In other ways, Cube proves that age no longer matters much in this culture with "No Country for Young Men." He continues to succeed with the simple yet intentionally fierce flow on "Drink the Kool-Aid" . Other standouts include "Soul on Ice" "Too West Coast," "Nothing Like L.A." and the Jayo Felony, WC and Young Maylay assisted "Life in California."
However, this album also has pitfalls that overshadow some of its successes. After claiming he wouldn't be guilty of "overreaching," he falters with the unimpressive "She Couldn't Make It On Her Own," which sounds like a feeble attempt at a Southern smash. "Y'all Know How I Am" follows suit, while "Fat Cat" continues this odd pattern with a Texas-inspired instrumental and flow to match. It makes one wonder if the broken promise of Dr. Dre beats affected this project's outcome in a major way but more than that, it makes one ponder why these cuts landed on an album titled I Am The West.
Approaching 25 years in the game, Ice Cube remains a strong emcee who can still garner top-shelf anticipation for new releases. He continues to thrive on California-based material and he even expands his legacy by introducing OMG, his son, to the Rap world, on this album. However, there are a wealth of parts of the disc that terribly diminish its high points. It's tough to listen to I Am The West at times, especially after reading his original statements about the album's direction. It's difficult not to be disappointed by these flaws after experiencing the N.W.A. alum's pre-album vigor. Nevertheless, Cube continues to stand tall on I Am The West as the veteran gun-slinger in the new west coast, who can still shoot with the best of them, even if he misses his mark." -HipHopDX
Mojo (Publisher) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Twelve different producers mix styles vintage and modern....Here's proof that this veteran MC still has things to say."
Audio Mixer: Dave "Diz Mix" Lopez.
Photographer: Eric Williams.
While his 2008 effort Raw Footage brought aggression and bitterness, I Am the West leans back a bit, assured in its status and wisdom, showing hip-hop how to grow old both gracefully and gangsta. Ice Cube's first album since turning 40 masterfully lays it all out on key track "No Country for Young Men." This witty, rapid-fire damnation of the ringtone rapper generation and their foolishness declares them "bitches" with "Rappers go to jail like Oprah go to Gayle/Stedman's policy: Don't ask don't tell," along with a laugh-out-loud Redd Foxx line that shouldn't be spoiled. Making the case that his generation fought the power while the 2010 crew was just fighting itself happens elsewhere, and when you combine this with the "we've got a bigger problem now" attitude of "Hood Robbin'" -- high-tech and high-finance corporations are widening the gap between the classes -- and the sage advice of "Your Money or Your Life" -- "This world, so trife/Your money or your life/Keep your kids, keep your wife/Your money or your life" -- you've got a layered argument against misdirected priorities and their devastating consequences. Cube suggests there are more choices than burning out and fading away when he dedicates a song to his wife of 21 years and explains how she's enriched his life on "Nothing Like L.A.," but the real proof is in all the vital yet lighter cuts that keep the message-filled album from being ponderous. Flashy production drives the infectious "She Couldn't Make It on Her Own," featuring fine contributions from Cube's sons Doughboy and OMG, while big daddy himself has put an entertaining, Kool Keith-like spin on his punch lines this time out, dropping odd stingers like "Internationally known/You about to smell my cologne" ("Soul on Ice") and "You about as lethal as a mojito/Be my amigo, eat my burrito" ("Too West Coast"). Add the usual Keith David narrations and the hard-hitting, full-bodied production the West Coast favors and the album is anchored by tradition, becoming an unassailable cocktail of talent, experience, and growth. Most won't have the skills to follow his playbook, either on or off the field, but Cube's utterly unique I Am the West shows the younger generation how to cross 40 while retaining their freedom and baller status. Middle age hip-hop is born here, and if the game follows his lead, it will be one monster of a genre. ~ David Jeffries