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Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted Retrospective [20 Years Later]

Twenty years ago today, Ice Cube dropped his classic debut, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Following an abrupt split from N.W.A, the West Coast MC headed to New York in search of a new sound and wound up connecting with Public Enemy’s production team, Bomb Squad, which resulted in a musical combination that shook up the hip-hop world. Here, Cube retells the story of how it all came to be.

“You know, I had went to New York, back and forth with N.W.A, and ended up being real cool with [then-Def Jam executives] Russell [Simmons] and Lyor [Cohen]. And they would have me come down to Rush [Management Offices] and I would fuck with some of the biggest names in hip-hop at the time. EPMD came through; you’d see everybody walking through. From a person who was a hip-hop fan and then became entrenched in hip-hop as an artist it was cool to do. So when I went solo, I was like I wanted Dr. Dre to do AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, but Jerry Heller vetoed that. So since he vetoed that shit—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]. The break-up snowballed into some shit. I was talking to Lyor because I wanted Sam Sever [to produce my album]. Sam Sever did all the 3rd Bass shit and their beats were the shit at the time. So I went out to New York looking for Sam Sever [and] the muthafucka didn’t show up to the meeting. So I’m out in New York like, ‘This muthafucka!’ So I’m mad now, but I ain’t trippin’. I’m up at Def Jam, so I ain’t trippin’.

I see Chuck D in the hallway, he’s like, ‘Yo, what you doin’ out here?’ You know I had consulted with Chuck before I broke up with N.W.A, so he had advised me on a lot of shit. [Actually] I ain’t gonna say he advised me on a lot of shit, we had one or two phone calls where I can vent to him and he would hear me out. So anyway I told him what I was doing, that I left the group and I was tryin’ to work on my record. He was like, ‘Yo, come talk to [Bomb Squad producer] Hank Shocklee, we over here at Greene Street Studios and we’re working on this song with Kane called ‘Burn Hollywood Burn’, do you want to be on it?’ I’m like, What? So that’s how that shit came together.

So I show up in the studio. It’s Chuck there, it’s P.E., dudes from Stetsaonic is there and shit, ya know, Daddy-O… Big Daddy Kane. You know, it was hip-hop royalty coming through. We out there doin’ ‘Burn, Hollywood, Burn.’ Hank comes; Hank, Keith Shocklee’s there, Eric Sadler; we all there and then I just start tellin’ them the story of what happened with N.W.A and that they caught wind that I was coming out to New York to do my album and everybody [in N.W.A] laughed [at me]. And when I said that they laughed at the fact that I came out to New York to get my album done. Something in Hank’s eyes turned on, like, ‘They laughed?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘We’ll do your whole album if you want us to.’” —As Told to Rob Markman

Look for the Making of Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted in the June 2010 issue of XXL, which drops nationwide May 25th.

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