What’s Your Favorite Track Off AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted?
As an XXL editor I like to think of myself as a professional to the highest degree and I think most people who I’ve come across in this industry would agree. But fuck all that, I’m a hip-hop fan first and, while I mostly try to remain professional, sometimes I Stan the fuck out.
This was the case this past February when I started working on “Documentary of a Gangsta,” the making of Ice Cube’s debut album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted for our June issue. That drops May 25th so look out for that!
It’s hard to believe, but this Sunday May 16, will mark the 20th anniversary of when Cube dropped his seminal album. I still have the original vinyl, which our art department photographed for the story that appears in the upcoming mag (plug, plug).
I got up with Cube in February and asked him everything that I ever dreamt of for the past 20 years: How’d you go from Dr. Dre to the Bomb Squad? What was it like working with Flavor Flav? Where you afraid that Chuck D would murder you on your own shit? Did Yo-Yo write her own lyrics? What were you smoking when you wrote “A Gangsta’s Fairytale”?
From there I went on to interview Chuck D, then Hank and Keith Shocklee, then Eric Sadler, Yo-Yo, Flavor Flav and of course Sir Jinx. We talked about every track, every recording session. Cube and company reminisced on being in the studio and watching Mike Tyson get knocked out by Buster Douglas. Time truly stopped then didn’t it?
After all of these interviews I came away with a gang of information, too much to print, too much to blog about. I’ll probably keep some stuff in the mental vault. Truthfully, a lot of the information I gathered would be much better suited for SCRATCH magazine (R.I.P.), so maybe I’ll save it hoping for a SCRATCH resurrection. (Side note: One of my proudest professional achievements is to have written in both the first and last issues of SCRATCH— I think I may be the only one with that distinction, but will have to double check).
Now, these making of stories are my favorite. In the past I worked on “Still Ill,” the making of Nas’s Illmatic (XXL, April 2009) and “Time to Build,” the making of Jay-Z’s Blueprint album (XXL, October 2009). But this Ice Cube one was special. Jay and Nas are in most folks’ Top 5, but Cube inexplicably doesn’t receive the same respect. While gangsta rap did exist before Cube, most would agree that the South Central rapper perfected the sub-genre. That’s why AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted is so important. I don’t know that hip-hop has produced an album that was more politically driven, socially relevant, lyrically tight, musically strong and visual—all at the same time. Or maybe I’m showing my age (30 years young, damnit!). Still no matter your age, or the era of hip-hop you grew up in. Whether your favorite rapper is Soulja Boy or Big Daddy Kane, you gotta give it up for Cube.
So to celebrate, we’ve dedicated quite a few pages in the June issue of XXL. Then this Sunday we have a few words from the man himself, Mr. Ice Cube. Today, I ask all of y’all to dig into the crates break out your copy of AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and let’s talk about the album’s best songs and skits. Take that muthafuckas! —Rob Markman, The Deputy!