On this day, November 17, in hip-hop history…
1992: Ice Cube’s third solo album, The Predator, bubbles over with the simmering rage of the 1992 L.A. Riots that ravaged the city a few months before the LP’s release. Ice Cube serves a potent potion of righteous indignation and justified hostility at the racially oppressive system that led to his city devolving into a cauldron of violence. Working as a timely work of social protest, The Predator is one of Cube’s most impressive and arresting albums to date.
Starting with the marching stomp of the impressive “When Will They Shoot?,” Cube puts a red dot squarely on the forehead of an unfair system that led to boiling tensions in Los Angeles during the time period. Songs such as “Wicked,” “The Predator,” and “We Had To Tear This Mothafucka Up” all explicitly deal with the heat that led to the riots in Los Angeles. Even the album’s lone respite from Cube’s lyrical onslaught, the relatively mellow “Today Was A Good” implicitly deals with anxiety of life in the hood. While the song was a massive crossover hit for Cube, landing at No. 15 on the Billboard 100, Cube’s story of a perfect day in Los Angeles centers around the cold reality of not being hassled by racist cops or being forced to using his gun as a black man living in South Central.
Overall, The Predator is one of Cube’s crowning achievements in his career. Despite its often difficult subject matter, the album was a commercial smash selling over 2 million copies on its way to double platinum certification by the RIAA. 21 years later, The Predator remains a powerful artifact of the era that birthed it and one of the greatest pieces of music Los Angeles has ever produced.