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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  • Pierzy

    An atom bomb of an album. It truly changed hip-hop forever.

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  • 4mat

    I love that album
    shit i was 11 or 12 when that album came out
    i had to ask my mom to buy me that album hehe
    it was on cassette though…


    AWW Man i remember gettin this for the first time and right away from the jump to end the sonic boom from this album was incredible . The Bomb Squad and them really gave it their all instead of giving Cube beats that would not work out for them . A top 10 of all time album if ever their was one .


    TRUE TRUE classic yo. I was on a bus coming back to KCMO from the zoo in Nebraska (in jr high) When I asked a friend if I could listen to his tape player, he had those fat over the ear headphones an the tape player had that xtra bass switch (whatcha know bout that?)I listen to both sides of this classic. Needless it was a tug of war givin’ it back, word to life yo, that was my 1st bootleg till I went out to buy it. I since broke that tape listening to so much, but now I have that new version w/kill at will on it. WHoa was that TMI, yo the album just brings back all kinds of memories yo. say word

  • ri067953

    Yo, I haven’t bought an issue of XXL in a long time, we talking about 4 or 5 years now, but I gotta read the rest of this article, so Imma cop that.


    Cube need to go back to working with the bomb squad now. that would be super hot!

  • Anonymous

    wow the first album that i ever purchsed on my own. th album that shaped my attitude to this day. “the nigga you love to hate”. i remember working in the french quarters (new orleans)at a restaurant my very first job very first pay check it was short so the boss paid me cash with the diffrence i had to give moms some money so i gave her the check brought me some new headphones and amerikkkas most wanted hated the job cause i had to work with a tom in the kitchen so i had my head phones on listening to that tape. i was 14 yrs old at the time.

  • $yk


    ^ Cube got burn in THIS.

  • realthug

    i wasnt even born when that album came out but that dont make me a 12 year old and plus im almost 19 and i like that album

  • adrian smith birmingham england

    fuck you ice cube the nigga ya love ta hate classic line best song on amerikkka most wanted album once upon time in the project sick ice cube living legend o.g.

  • Jamal7Mile

    Oh yeah, I gotta cop this issue on the 25th. Radio Shack used to sell those Walkmans with the Xtra Bass switch or the 3 band EQ. And I think KOSS had the best over-the-ear headphones to compliment those cassette players.

    Is it just me or do cassettes last waaaay longer than CDs? What’s more cost-efficient??? Hmmm…

    • DV8

      Dead on with that comment.

  • oskamadison

    With AMW, Cube politely snatched the dopest west coast lyricist title from D.O.C. and held it down…until Kurupt showed up. That album is the reason cats like The Game don’t impress me. You’re holdin’ it down for the west? Until you make something as timeless as AMW (and the conceptually superior Death Cetificate), stay in the lab and bake those joints a little longer. AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, nothing but a classic. And FOR THE RECORD, east coast heads(the REAL ones) know what time it is with that joint.

  • Craftmattic


    I like your comment about real east coast heads knowing what time it is. I’m born and raised in Brookly,=n. Straight from the projects. I remember bumpin this shit with my niggas everyday on the bench in the PJ’s. We was straight in awe that a nigga from the west coluld lay down some shit like that.. I remember after he dropped that album, he came to the apollo. Straight sold out the event. When he stepped on stage, New york niggas was goin crazy!!! He came out and looked in amazement for about 1 minute straight. He just stood there lookin at us go crazy! He couldn’t beleive that he had so much love out here. I’ll never forget that shit!!!

    • oskamadison

      Yo Craft,

      I live in NC but I was born and raised in Jersey City (14B, what’s up?). Everyone was on that AMW, cats that hustled, MC’s, regular cats, everyone. Before the album dropped, I remember a radio freestyle he did that my man had on tape and he was rocking over the “Funky Penguin” break (the same joint Ghostface rocked over on “The Grain” off Supreme Clientele) and he spit “What They Hittin’ Foe”. “…I don’t hang out as much, bang out dope cuts/Standin’ on stage and I’m grabbin’ my nuts…” What!! I gotta find that reissue that had “Ill At Will” with it.

  • $yk

    J7M whaddup?

    Koss headphones>>>

    They still sell those same ones.


    “Until you make something as timeless as AMW (and the conceptually superior Death Cetificate), stay in the lab and bake those joints a little longer.”

    ^ truth. oska what’s the word?

    • oskamadison

      Ain’t nothing, cat daddy. Working a lot of OT and waiting to get a new computer. That’s why I’ve been on the low. Cube represents a time in Hip-Hop when the diversity was off the chain. Now you got 50 different versions of the same cat. Once again AMW, straight classic.

  • NefariousSun

    The reason why Cube is in my top 10… He said things to America that hadn’t been said by a young black male unapologetically and uncompromisingly. I love Cube for that shyt…

  • bigsavage88

    I think Death Certificate was a better album
    cant wait to hear the new Cube album

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