AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted is the debut studio album by American rapper Ice Cube. It was released on May 16, 1990, by Priority Records. It serves as his first solo album, after his acrimonious split from his former group N.W.A. The album was primarily produced by Public Enemy's production team The Bomb Squad, and the album was an unexpectedly large critical and commercial success, and remains one of the defining hip hop albums of the 1990s.
|AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted|
|Studio album by Ice Cube|
|Released||May 16, 1990|
|Studio||Greene Street Studios|
(New York City, New York)
|Ice Cube chronology|
|Singles from AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted|
After departing from Ruthless Records and the West Coast–based group N.W.A, Ice Cube immediately moved to record his own album. Cube maintains that originally, he and N.W.A producer Dr. Dre still wanted to collaborate for Cube's debut solo, but the move was nixed by label powers:
When I went solo, I wanted Dr. Dre to do AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, but Jerry Heller vetoed that...and I'm pretty sure Eazy didn't want Dre to do it. But Dre did want to do it; we gotta put that on record. Dre wanted to do my record, but it was just too crazy with the break-up [of N.W.A].— Ice Cube, "Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted Retrospective [20 Years Later]", XXL
Linking up with Sir Jinx, Dr. Dre's cousin, Cube made use of pre-written notebooks of songs meant for N.W.A member/Ruthless co-founder Eazy-E. After relocating to New York, they worked on the songs, which included "Once Upon a Time in the Projects", "Get Off My Dick & Tell Yo' Bitch to Come Here" and "Gangsta's Fairytale", among others. Under fire from his former group with the song "100 Miles and Runnin'", from the EP of the same name, he also recorded the song "Jackin' for Beats", using beats allegedly planned for use on the next N.W.A album, though he would use this several months later on the Kill at Will EP.
After contacting Public Enemy's production team The Bomb Squad, they completed the album. The album received a fair share of production credited to various Bomb Squad members, with an appearance by Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, despite Jinx's claims that the only Bomb Squad member fully present was Eric Sadler. Hank Shocklee spoke on meeting and working with Ice Cube in a Cool'eh Magazine interview:
Cube contacted me wanting to know if we could do a few tracks for his solo album after the whole NWA thing came to what it was and I was like, I'll do it if I can do the whole album. And he said, that's what I was hoping you would say…y'know…and when we were in the studio he showed up with notebooks and notebooks full of new rhymes, a bag full of rhymebooks.— Hank Shocklee, Cool'eh Magazine
The title of the album appears to be an allusion to the television show America's Most Wanted, wherein real-life crimes are reenacted and viewers are asked to call in with information about the alleged perpetrators. The intentional misspelling of "America" with three Ks is named after the infamous white supremacist organization Ku Klux Klan.
With socio-political conscious and gangsta rap content, its songs delve into the issues of ghetto life, drug addiction, racism and poverty. Throughout the album, Ice Cube incessantly attacks institutions for perceived or actual racist tendencies, as well as social norms which directly or indirectly allowed the oppression of those living in the ghettos of Los Angeles to continue. On "Endangered Species (Tales from the Darkside)," he predicts that his neighborhood would become a flash point for violence before 1992's scandal over the beating of Rodney King, and takes police to task for the policies that would later lead to the L.A. riots that resulted.
Throughout the album, Cube takes some controversial stands, referring to certain types of African-Americans as "oreo cookies", an epithet implying that they appear black on the outside, but have, internally, negative white tendencies. Arsenio Hall is specifically mentioned as being a "sell-out." Cube also heavily criticizes R&B and hip hop radio stations for watered-down broadcasting. The title song directly parodies the television show, America's Most Wanted, alleging bias and denouncing the glee the program displays in arresting African-American men.
A later skit, "The Drive By," returns to the same theme at the end, with newscaster Tom Brokaw reporting on rioting, stating: "Outside the south central area, few cared about the violence because it didn't affect them." He also addressed gender relations on "It's a Man's World", a duet between Cube and female rapper Yo-Yo. Cube and Yo-Yo verbally spar and trade sexist barbs back and forth in an exposé of sexism between men and women. Amidst critics' accusing Ice Cube of sexism, Peter Watrous of The New York Times wrote, in review of a live show at New York's Apollo Theater:
|“||...no one came out ahead; any new sense of cultural violence or sexism promoted by the record had dissolved into a traditional battle of the sexes, no better or no worse.||”|
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted initially charted without the support of a lead single or video, although the title track would later receive a pressing, and a rare video for "Who's the Mack?" eventually surfaced.
The title track was the first official single from the album. The B-side for the song was "Once Upon a Time in the Projects". The next single released for the album was "Endangered Species (Tales from the Darkside)" featuring Chuck D. of Public Enemy. The title comes from an excerpt in the beginning of the song, in which a reporter talks about the alarming death rate of black males in America, and the song's lyrics focus on this as well.
|The Austin Chronicle|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|The Village Voice||B−|
Upon release, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted received critical acclaim, and over the years it has been regarded by many as a hip-hop classic. Davis Mills from The Washington Post praised the album for its lyrical dexterity, stating: "Ice Cube has now proven that he was N.W.A's crucial element. He's an unusually gifted rhymer, and his delivery is even more self-assured." Greg Sandow from Entertainment Weekly called it "not necessarily cohesive art", but complimented the album's vivid depictions of urban realities and wrote that Ice Cube "emerges as a rapper most original for his uncompromising tone. He throws ghetto life in our faces and dares us to draw our own conclusions".
Rolling Stone originally gave the album 2½ out of 5 stars in 1990, with Alan Light commenting; "The relentless profanity grows wearisome, the Bomb Squad beats lose steam, and Cube's attitudes toward women are simply despicable." He also declared the album as "a disappointment." (Light wrote the liner notes for the 2003 CD reissue of the album, that also included the Kill at Will EP.) Rolling Stone, however, raised the rating to 3½ stars in 1992 and to 5 stars in 2004, and praised the album for its production, and lyrics. In a retrospective review, David Jeffries from AllMusic stated: "This street knowledge venom with ultra fast funk works splendidly throughout the album, with every track hitting home [...] AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted is a timeless, riveting exercise in anger, honesty, and the sociopolitical possibilities of hip-hop."
- The information regarding accolades is adapted from acclaimedMusic.net except for lists that are sourced otherwise.
- (*) signifies unordered lists
|About.com||United States||100 Greatest Hip Hop Albums||2008||33|
|Best Rap Albums of 1990||2008||2|
|Robert Dimery||1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die||2005||*|
|Ego Trip||Hip Hop's 25 Greatest Albums by Year 1980–98||1999||1|
|The Guardian||United Kingdom||1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die||2007||*|
|Mixmag||The 100 Best Dance Albums of All Time||1996||24|
|New Musical Express||Albums of the Year||1990||41|
|Chris Rock||United States||Top 25 Hip-Hop Albums||2005||17|
|Rock De Lux||Spain||Albums of the Year||1990||46|
|Rolling Stone||United States||The Essential Recordings of the 90s||1999||*|
|The Source||The 100 Best Rap Albums of All Time||1998||*|
|Spin||Top 100 (+5) Albums of the Last 20 Years||2005||33|
|Albums of the Year||1990||1|
|Top 90 Albums of the 90s||1999||80|
|Tom Moon||1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die||2008||*|
|Village Voice||Albums of the Year||1990||6|
Ice Cube's social, and political commentary, delivered in an incisive manner, has influenced numerous rappers since Amerikkka's Most Wanted, particularly in the gangsta rap and political rap subgenres. Focusing on the hardships of life in South Central, Los Angeles, as well as criticizing the American Justice System and race relations in the United States, Cube became an outspoken voice of U.S. social customs tipped against young Black Americans.
Although Ice Cube's popularity among mainstream listeners has lessened since the 2000s, and his sound may be considered distinctively old school to modern ears, many notable rappers themselves have been influenced by AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. His style of rapping about real life sentiment and socio-political awareness influenced the music of West Coast rappers, including that of Tupac Shakur, Ras Kass, and Xzibit, as well as East Coast rappers Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., and more recently, Saigon and Southern rapper Young Jeezy. East Coast rapper Redman also covered "Once Upon a Time in the Projects" on his album Doc's Da Name 2000, with the song "Jersey Yo!".
AmeriKKKas Most Wanted debuted at number 19 on the US Billboard 200 chart. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) two weeks after it was released for sales of over 500,000 copies. The album was eventually certified platinum two months later on September 16, 1991. As of June 2015, the album has sold over a million copies in the United States.
|1||"Better Off Dead"||Ice Cube, Sir Jinx||–||1:03|
|2||"The Nigga Ya Love to Hate"||The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.)||3:13|
|3||"AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted"||The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.)||
|4||"What They Hittin' Foe?"||The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.)||1:22|
|5||"You Can't Fade Me / JD's Gaffilin'"||The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.)||
|6||"Once Upon a Time in the Projects"||Sir Jinx, The Bomb Squad (co.)||
|7||"Turn Off the Radio"||The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.)||2:37|
|8||"Endangered Species (Tales from the Darkside)"
(featuring Chuck D)
|The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.)||3:21|
|9||"A Gangsta's Fairytale" (featuring Lil Russ)||Ice Cube, Sir Jinx, The Bomb Squad (co.)||3:16|
|10||"I'm Only Out for One Thang" (featuring Flavor Flav)||Ice Cube, Sir Jinx, The Bomb Squad (co.)||–||2:10|
|11||"Get Off My Dick and Tell Yo Bitch to Come Here"||The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.)||0:56|
|12||"The Drive-By"||Sir Jinx||1:01|
|13||"Rollin' Wit the Lench Mob"||The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.)||
|14||"Who's the Mack?"||Sir Jinx, The Bomb Squad||4:35|
|15||"It's a Man's World" (featuring Yo-Yo)||Sir Jinx, Ice Cube||
|16||"The Bomb"||Sir Jinx, The Bomb Squad (co.)||3:25|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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