Ice Cube 'Raw Footage' Review

Cube returns to gritty form on 'Raw Footage' -- Just don't call it a comeback

Ice Cube Raw Footage
Lench Mob Production

Loc'd up and ready for action, Ice Cube reminded us once again that, despite his status as an OG, he's still one of the most relevant emcees in the game.

Return of the Gangsta

For longtime fans of this West coast pioneer, Raw Footage is a fitting return to the fiery social commentary of decades past. And for the 90's babies who know him as nothing more than a family-friendly movie star, Ice "F*ck the Police" Cube is here to set the record straight! Fierce like the burst of a volcanic eruption, Raw Footage starts off with the blistering "I Got My Locs On", enlisting Southern rap sensation Young Jeezy as OG Cube spits: "Been ballin' since the word 'ballin' played out/". The notion of "been there, done that" seems to be the pervading tone throughout Raw Footage, as Cube highlights his famed career while simultaneously proving that he can still hold his weight with contemporary crowds.

Independent and loving it ("Ain't nothin' like a man that can do what he wanna"), Raw Footage finds Ice Cube comfortably riding along with a slew of producers spanning across every corner of the map, from Atlanta's DJ Toomp and New York's Emile to Seattle's Tha Bizness and West coast staple DJ Crazy Toones, among others.

Raw and Rejuvenated

More vehement than we had seen him in years, Ice Cube doesn't break a sweat as he cuts to the heart of the matter. Verbal hostility abounds and Cube spits daggers at every target in his proximity, from the broken government and the President to greedy media conglomerates - and that's all in just one song ("It Takes a Nation")! Flinging braggadocio every which way, Cube states his case for why he refuses to be put out to pasture: "They make it up as they go along/ But I'm going on, twenty-five years strong/". Ego-boosting aside, however, Cube's front and center message throughout Raw Footage deals with social mobility and a positive lifestyle.

Rapping for a Reason

A success story in his own right, Cube authoritatively pushes his agenda for responsibility and community consciousness as he cynically avows: "F*ck the new dance, I'ma learn how to eat/ Get my mind right, stay up out these f*ckin' streets/". Later, Cube dissects the ill-wrought education system: "No kid left behind, but he get the runaround," following up with his frustration: "Can't you motherf*ckers see that they tryin' to dumb us down?"

Lectures on self-education and economic responsibility are just a few of Cube's varied topics on Raw Footage ("Hood Mentality," "Get Money, Spend Money, No Money"), but he also delves back into his notorious storytelling mode. The Musiq-assisted "Why Me?" finds Cube narrating the tale of a confrontation between an ordinary man and a ruthless killer, as the former morally chin-checks the latter, aiming to dissuade this thug from a path of self-destruction.

Though the production throughout Raw Footage mainly consists of digital drums, keys, and heavy-hitting synths, there's a soulful gem tucked in right near the end of the album. Enough to be considered a hip-hop/soul remix (as opposed to a hip-hop track with a soul sample), "Stand Tall" finds Cube flowing on a revamped version of "Be Thankful for What You've Got" by William DeVaughn. Cube's enlightening take on the track has absolutely nothing to do with cars -- a shock to rap critics, no doubt -- as he quips: "Here comes another rapper with a song about hope."

The Bottom Line on 'Raw Footage'

On "Thank God," Cube jibes: "When I step up in the spot, 'Is he a thug or not'?" It's a tough question to answer. Cube evolved from a post-Black Panther L.A. landscape in which certain groups were established to hold the community together. The explosion of gang violence and its polarization in more recent time leave veterans like Cube sitting and reflecting. He ponders on "Hood Mentality": "Gunnin' n****s down 'cause they don't got the right clothes" and later regrets: "Shoulda took my ass to Berkeley." Raw Footage finds Cube retracing his roots while looking onwards towards his seemingly infinite path of success.

Simple and plain, Raw Footage is all about a knowledge-dropping OG who can still bang it out with the new schoolers (Young Jeezy,  The Game, and Doughboy all feel the wrath of Cube). Inciting riots or just offering insight, Ice Cube's music has always spoken truth to power, and with Raw Footage, Cube proves he always will.

Release Date: August 19, 2008