Ice Cube’s Death Certificate, released in 1991, has been called the “most racist rap album ever.” It’s filled with threats of racial violence towards White America, preaches Black empowerment, and made the angry voice of rebellious Black youth evident and tangible.
Through careful narrative and raw emotion, Ice Cube forced the powers-that-were to take notice. His message? Black men were done being proverbial rugs and stepping stones. Especially in their own communities. Cube wasn’t eschewing royal African rhetoric, either, like many of his contemporaries. He was standing on the corner, between the brothers selling bean pies and them niggas hustling incense, dropping truth bombs that exploded in your brain even as you tried to hurry past. Rap music has migrated from that. I wonder if cats still made albums like this…would it make a difference?
If this album was remastered, repackaged, and reintroduced to the public, with a strong promotional backing and equally aggressive marketing campaign, would it affect the social climate of America’s unspoken metropoli? (The plural of metropolis is metropolises but I refuse to use that wack word.) Of course Ice Cube wouldn’t condone such a move, because it would remind people where all his success was begat, but we’re not talking about O’Shea Jackson, Sr. We are talking about a message that a people may need to be reminded about. It seems we have forgotten some very tribal things over the past 60 years. And harsh honesty is generally the most effective way to jog a memory.
In this era of Black Lives Mattering and sensationalized racism, I believe it would help foster a certain amount of recognition, for one’s self & his surroundings. Back in the early/mid 90s, there was balance with the music. There was a symbiotic element at work, perpetually. Once radio play become the 7th element of Hip Hop, all that changed. For years, music that promotes drugs, sex, violence, hate, fratricide, suicide, and evil have dominated the music that wafts ambiently in our lives. No longer are songs of unity & cultural strength recognized. Not that there was ever a big market for it, but the point remains.
Stream Ice Cube’s Death Certificate playlist below (via youtube.com):
If more music like this — with perhaps a little less hate and a little more commUNITY — were being made, I think we’d see a difference. Maybe one day we’ll have the privilege of witnessing it (again) for ourselves.
Words by Tony Grands