Laugh Now, Cry Later
The problem with being both a first-tier gansta-rap legend and a second-tier Hollywood actor/screenwriter/producer is that it's hard to be the latter and remain the former. To that quandary Ice Cube has two answers: one is this journeyman album, full of sturdy Impala beats and old-school South Central bluster; the other is the sequel to the family-friendly road movie Are We There Yet?, due next year (rejected title: I Need to Pee). Cube, who in his salad days contributed the standout verse to Public Enemy's "Burn Hollywood Burn," is naturally defensive about the Tinseltown-sellout tag. "It ain't no fag in me," he raps on "Click Clack—Get Back!" over Emile's hype funk-rock beat, "If it was I would've joined the Academy." Take that, Ian McKellen!
There's sexism to complement the homophobia, plus some decent Bush bashing and crusty griping about Cube's "brainless" rap progeny. He also returns, sometimes sharply, sometimes perfunctorily, to the themes central to his early-'90s solo classics: the injustices of the American prison system, corruption in the halls of power, white exploitation of black culture, miscegenation (he's against it), the superiority of fat asses to skinny ones. Cube's singsong flow will sound a bit dated to the younger set, but he's still a master of swing and clarity, and here and there the album sounds like a return to form from an Olympian MC with some wise admonishments for the current establishment (hip hop and traditional). Elsewhere it sounds like a movie star/family man waxing pathetic about the MCs he's not really going to hurt and the skirts he's not really going to chase.