Ice Cube

Boy In Hollyhood

By 1991 Cube had developed a new skill in acting and found himself co-starring alongside Cuba Gooding Jr. in the John Singleton movie, Boyz N The Hood as ‘Doughboy’ a teenager suffering a derision from his mother and common absence of a father-figure a local drug dealing gangster from his own neighbourhood of South Central L.A. During an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show Ice Cube met Arsenio’s intern John Singleton a South Central native who would become a leading black film-maker who spoke to Cube about a movie he was working on and expressed his desire for him to undertake the lead role. However this idea of acting in a movie seemed too distant for the rapper. It wasn’t until a year later when Cube’s manager pointed out a film role he encouraged him to audition for. As he turned up he saw Singleton and realised it was his film. Ice Cube had found a mentor in John Singleton throughout his acting career. He had landed the lead role of Darren ‘Doughboy’ Baker starring alongside Laurence Fishburne and Cube Gooding Jr. who together with Ice Cube began their careers off the success of this film. Boyz N The Hood was incidentally released shortly before the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and was nominated at the 1991 Academy Awards for both Best Director and Original Screenplay. It later claimed the MTV Movie Award in 1992 for Outstanding Motion Picture. Cube shone through the film and earned himself the Chicago Film Critics Award for Most Promising New Actor. Ice Cube provided the track ‘How To Survive In South Central’ for the soundtrack.

Upon return into LA for the filming he frequented the local Islamic mosques in the area where he met Craig ‘Kam’ Miller a reformed gang member-turned Nation of Islam and rapper who was about to become ‘Craig X’ at Compton Mosque #54. Cube soon met Khalid Abdul Muhammed who referred to himself as a “Truth terrorist and knowledge gangster, a black history hit man and an urban guerrilla.” He was an integral part of organizing gang truce in Watts and South Central. Cube found refuge in the Nation of Islam and shaved off his jheri-curl and with a head of new ideas and confidence he was sure his follow-up album would be his masterpiece.

Sign Your Death Certificate

Later that year he put to work his second release, Death Certificate which hit the streets October 31, 1991 as a brand new controversial heavyweight of narration on the unheard voices of black residents in down-trodden LA. The release marked the calm before the storm of April 29, 1992 riots across his home turf. At a very hostile and bubbling hotpot of confusion, Cube expressed the view of his people very blatantly and concisely as perhaps the best conciliator of the youth of South Central since Bunchy Carter left the Slausons street gang for the Black Panther cause. On the album cover Cube stood next to a white body slab on the coroner’s gurney wrapped in the American flag with ‘Uncle Sam’ written on his toe tag. The album had two distinct components to it, clear as black and white, “Niggas are in a state of emergency, the Death Side: Mirror image of where we are today. The Life Side: A vision of where we need to go, so sign your Death Certificate.”

He seemed to be in full consciousness of his position and purpose. On the record sleeve he had aligned himself in the middle to his left his street life sat with the Lench Mob unsure and defensive. To his right the Fruit of Islam soldiers prepped for war reading a copy of The Final Call with headline ‘Unite or Perish’. Inside the words of the tracks seemed to target broadly anyone against his cause, from the NWA days, Jerry Heller, Eazy-E, Ren and Dre to government oppressors of President Bush, the American Army, Darryl Gates, Jesse Jackson, and back to his neighbourhood sighting at gangbangers, drug pushers, Korean shopkeepers and Japanese capitalists. His vision was defined and his hit list was growing.

The start of the Death Side opened with a funeral over a fallen homeboy which opened into "Wrong Nigga to Fuck Wit" showing his emotion of anger against local LAPD authorities pushing their rights. This summed up the album’s energy and showed the power of the Bomb Squad’s devastating effect when dropped. "My Summer Vacation" told the pandemic truths of South Central drug dealers migrating out to St. Louis to embark on an untapped market. With that St. Louis inherited the gang-life, the song resulting in his friend dying at the hand of local bangers. The track closed with police launching a crackdown on the streets. Cube’s message passed onto sexual relations in the hood, on the track "Givin’ Up the Nappy Dugout" depicts him and his Lench Mob turning out daddy’s little Catholic good girl into the neighbourhood hoe and rapping their exploits to her father when greeted at his front door. Following on to "Look Who’s Burnin’" and they pay their price after sitting in a clinic waiting for STD treatment. Inside he bumps into a local girl who turned him down for a clean-cut college boy. "Bird In the Hand" tells the inevitable struggle of a low-level drug pusher trying to make ends meet by dealing for change, however the tale continues on "Alive on Arrival" when Cube’s narration takes pot shots at the shocking conditions of the King-Drew County Hospital after the pusher is shot on the corner in a drug sale and gruesomely bleeding profusely in the waiting room. Typically the victim caught more attention from the LAPD than a doctor, asking whether he was a gangbanger. Cube cites the legendary rhyme “I don’t bang I rock the good rhymes/ and I’m a victim of a neighbourhood crime” The subject dies in the waiting room waiting for treatment. Cube tells of his disgust with the nihilism of drug-dealing and the abandonment of health care. Dr. Khalid Muhammed closes the Death Side with his preach, using the united Crip slogan in context for solidarity of brotherhood.

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