By 1987 McKenzie River Corporation of San Francisco introduced a new forty-ounce malt liquor called St. Ides to rival Pabst’s Olde English 800 brand better known as 8-Ball. Their strongest selling point was the alcoholic potency St. Ides had 8 percent compared to 8-Ball’s 6 percent and 3.5 percent in an average can of beer. The demographic market of this product was strongest in the black neighbourhoods of LA. By ’88 McKenzie River had approached KDAY music directors Greg Mack and DJ Pooh to recruit rappers to sponsor their St. Ides product in a sixty second radio commercial. Pooh offered the spot to King-Tee and together they used a Mixmaster Spade track. Tee made $50,000 and an endless supply of St. Ides delivered right to his front door. The spots were hot with east coast rappers joining in to with "Crooked I" spots to endorse McKenzie Rivers sales and listeners were requesting the radio station to continually play them. By 1990 they recruited the controversial and highly acclaimed voice of South Central, Ice Cube. At the time Death Certificate was released St. Ides was the malt liquor choice of the ghettos.
KAGRO represented over 3,500 stores across southern California with over 20,000 members controlling 7 percent of the national market and they demanded that McKenzie River withdraw all promotion and commercial endorsement involving Ice Cube and cut all business relations with him. By November 7, 1991 McKenzie refused to follow their demands stating losing Ice Cube would cripple their small company’s sales. KAGRO sympathised with the business but stated they had picked the wrong rapper to work with. Stores were ordered to pull sales on their product and cease orders. This trend caught on through some 5,000 stores all along the west coast and spread through the east coast market of America. McKenzie River eventually conceded defeat and severed all ties with Ice Cube. Conciliation soon followed three months later in February with Ice Cube met with the KAGRO leadership in a meeting put together by McKenzie River, Cube apologized to the merchants and offered to re-establish a more unified community between Korean and African Americans. The end result of this saw Ice Cube resume his sponsorship deal with St. Ides donating the proceeds of his earnings to charities including a large cash donation to the King-Drew Hospital. KAGRO implemented a ten-point code of ethics for their 3,200 store owners which African and Korean Americans signalled as a breakthrough in improving minority relations. They also conceded that Ice Cube’s gripes were fair and legitimate and hoped the future would help to understand each other’s cultures.
On November 15, Soon Ja Du to just five years probation for her killing of Latasha Harlins at the gavel of Judge Joyce Karlin who in her final statement lectured the African-American community about taking revenge on the streets for her lenient sentencing. The African-American community reacted horrifically at the suggestion of revenge it was something that never crossed their minds. Unfortunately this sat bitterly with the people. The community had moved their attention to waiting for the outcome of a trial involving four officers who had viscously beaten motorist Rodney King on camera. There was a very strong sense from within the ghettos of LA of a disturbing uproar about to take place in the city. At that same period on the cover of the Korean Times, a picture of Ice Cube shaking hands with the Southern California president of KAGRO was printed with the headline “Ice Cube the Peacemaker”. The meeting happened in February but the article was released on May 4th, 1992 right in the peak of the LA Riots. A very ironic reminder of how close conciliations reached at a time when they could not be further apart.
The New Predator
In 1993 continued his acting resume starring alongside fellow L.A. rapper Ice-T in the film, Trespass following writing the title track for the soundtrack with Ice-T. Just as Cube’s name was growing and touring on the Lollapalooza in ’92 to widen his fan base, he converted to the Nation of Islam religion, the controversial extreme black empowerment organization. Late November Ice Cube worked on his most successful project ever in his illustrious career. He released his third album, The Predator by 1993 which débuted at #1 on the Pop and R&B charts, the first album in history to do so. The album saw Cube become extremely infuriated, strongly energised by the political upheaval of the Los Angeles riots that preceded the Predator release, providing him with the social, pro-black commentary with excerpts from the four charged L.A.P.D. officers accused of beating Rodney King, off the tracks "We Had To Tear This Motherfucker Up" and "Say Hi To The Camera". The album also included powerful excerpts by Islamic minister Farrakhan on the Phil Donahue Show and the singles from this included "It Was A Good Day" and "Check Yo Self" collaborating with Das EFX which had a two-part music video concluding on the start of the video for "It Was A Good Day". The album superseded his previous releases and became a phenomenal exemplary in the volumes of hip-hop. The Predator sold five times platinum.
After the height of his three top selling albums, Cube brought out his fourth, Lethal Injection which was heavily overshadowed by Dr. Dre’s G-Funk dominance from Death Row Records, namely Snoop Dogg’s, Doggystyle classic. Lethal Injection was underrated at the time, but in years to come the album became a classic among Ice Cube fans. Growing sales made the album a four times platinum hit record. He took a brief hiatus in 1994 to work on his labelmates’ projects, Da Lench Mob’s début album, Guerillas in the Mist and Kam’s Neva Again. During this year Cube reunited with Dr. Dre to co-write the track, "Natural Born Killaz" for the soundtrack to the short film, Murder Was The Case. Late ’94 Cube starred in the movie, Glass Shield as Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department officer, Teddy Woods. By ’95 he had starred in another John Singleton film, Higher Learning as Fudge, a mature-aged university student in the racially inspired film pairing up alongside Laurence Fishburne again, Omar Epps and supermodel Tyra Banks’ first theatrical performance.
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