Over the weekend, Yo! MTV Raps, one of the most beloved shows in hip-hop history, made a comeback. The newly christened, Yo! MTV Raps Presents: Classic Cuts debuted early Monday morning (December 5), bringing behind the scenes stories from three of the most popular videos to air on MTV during the trailblazing Yo! era—A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario,” the Geto Boys’ ‘Mind Playing Tricks on Me” and Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day.” With only a 30-minute run time, it was impossible for MTV2 to tell the entire story teach video. So here at XXL, we have the extra scoop of what you may still not know.
A Look Back at Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day”
Back in 1992 when Ice Cube first recorded “It Was Good Day,” his hometown of LA was in utter chaos but the legendary rapper was having a great year. In fact, Cube had strung together a few phenomenal years. The scowling West Coast icon was arguably the King at the time. Along with Chuck D, Cube definitely provided the genre with its most provocative and controversial voice and was attaining platinum plaques, endless street credibility and critical accolades. Hollywood had also become his playground with his historic film role “Boyz In The Hood.”
He wrote the record in his hotel room in the summer of 1992 while being in a state of “euphoria” over his success.
Cube became a Godfather of gangsta rap when—as part of N.W.A.—he released the classic, trailblazing, game changing LP, Straight Outta Compton in 1988. Just two years later he had left the group over financial gripes and became a super power as a solo MC. Cube’s 1990 LP, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted became a instant classic and in 1991, he followed with a disc that many consider to be one of hip-hop’s greatest albums of all-time, Death Certificate. Both projects gave searing social commentary that Cube delivered with aggression and thought provoking articulation.
“It Was A Good Day”—the second single off of Cube’s 1993 LP, The Predator, was such a pivotal track, not just in the era that it was released, but still to this day because it illustrated that no matter what chaotic environment you come from, there is always going to be some light. Yes, Cube showed a brighter side, but he also delivered heavy social commentary simultaneously.
The video was also a launching pad for filmmaker F. Gary Gray who has gone onto to direct Hollywood features such as The Negotiator, The Italian Job, and Law Abiding Citizen.
“It Was A Good Day” was filmed in downtown and midtown South Central LA as well as some areas of Baldwin Hills and the infamous Rolling 60s Crips neighborhood. The production was a total run and gun shoot, no permits were used and everyone had to very cognizant of not just the police, but of car jackers and gangbangers who might not have taken kindly to their hoods being captured on film. The video came almost a year after the LA Riots and was filmed at the height of gang violence in LA. Just because Cube rapped about decreased violence, didn’t mean that happened in real life. Speaking of real life, Cube’s house in the video, was actually owned and lived in by the MC at the time.
Gray says the line that inspired him the most to direct the video was “today I didn’t even have to use my my AK./ I’d have to say it was good day.” It was his third production with Cube (W.C. And The Mad Circle’s “Dress Code” and Cube’s “True To The Game” were his first two) and early ideas for the film Friday were talked about on the set. After receiving a cassette of the song in the mail prior to Predator’s release, Gray wrote the concept overnight.
The video’s kitchen scene was shot in Ice Cube’s actual South Central home. Cube took pride that he kept a home in the hood while his friends-turned-enemies at the time, N.W.A. had moved out.
Real Crips and Bloods were used in the video as a way to promote a gang truce. The green low rider in the video belonged to one of F. Gary Gray’s friends and while shooting the scenes at night, the production had to be leery of car jackers. The scene at the end of the video where the police surrounded Cube was paid for by Gary Gray himself. The money in the budget that was slotted to pay his salary, was invested into the video for the closing sequence by the director.
“Cube was like fuck that, I had a good day,” Gray explains Cube turning his back on the police in the video in the finale. “I’m not gonna succumb to your bullshit. You can surround the house or whatever. I’m out. I’m going inside. I’m gonna continue my good day. I’m not tripping off of your bullshit. You have to remember the context of the time. There was a big war between the streets and the LAPD at the time. He was sending a message that ‘I’m my own man. I didn’t do shit. I’m a innocent man having a good day… I’m not gonna surrender.”
Cube’s next video, “Check Yourself” starts where “It Was A Good Day” ended. The police apprehend Cube and took him to prison.
“It Was A Good Day” became a number one record for Cube on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles charts and a top ten hit on Billboard’s Hot 100. The record also sold over 500,000 copies in its initial run and the line in the song where Cube says “messed around and hit a triple double” has become a staple catchphrase for sports anchors on ESPN over the years and is still heavily used. “It Was A Good Day” has grown to be universally considered to be one of rap’s greatest narrative songs, but it also made onto such acclaimed lists as XXL’s “Top 250 Songs of the 90s” and VH1’s “Greatest Rap Songs.” Yaah yay!