Best Coast Living
Snoop and Cube still showing the whippersnappers how it’s done
by Sara Brickner
Even the most half-baked hip hop fans know all the words to “Gin and Juice” or “It Was A Good Day.” Those two songs forever altered popular music as we know it, and the MCs who spit those rhymes, West Coast gangsta rap icons Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube, have built decades-long careers on top of those hits. Snoop and Cube weren’t the only MCs to attract crossover audiences, but in 2010, they are two of the most prominent examples of MCs who have managed to popularize and legitimize hip hop to a mainstream audience — if also contributing to the stereotypical notion that all hip hop is violent and misogynistic.
The problem, of course, is that once your album about dealing drugs and the hardships of street life goes double (or, in the case of Doggystyle, quadruple) platinum, it’s pretty hard to rap about street life with any real legitimacy. Twenty years on, the people who invented gangsta rap are no longer gangsta … at least, not in the original sense. That the guy responsible for “It Was A Good Day” — a classic anthem in which one of the reasons it’s a good day for Cube is because he doesn’t have to use his AK — is now making his money producing and starring in cheeseball family-friendly slapstick comedies like Are We There Yet? is the textbook definition of irony. Kind of like watching Public Enemy tell this year’s Sasquatch audience to “fight the power” at a festival put on by the biggest, most powerful ticketing/production company in the world. And the audience of mostly privileged, predominantly white youths (at least, privileged enough to afford Sasquatch’s not-inexpensive ticket prices and overpriced concessions) did just that.
It just goes to show how far hip hop has come since its humble beginnings more than three decades ago. Snoop now works as the chairman of recently revived Priority Records, an EMI subsidiary. Cube has produced myriad films. Both rappers have turned “gangsta” into a commodity that kids who’ve most likely never held a gun or gone without a meal in their lives can buy with their parents’ money and then bump to piss off authority figures. It happened to punk. Why shouldn’t it happen to hip hop?
To Snoop and Cube’s credit, both MCs have resisted the Autotune abuse and monotonous, repetitive non-rhymes employed so successfully by artists such as Lil Wayne and T. Pain, the latter of whom Snoop calls out by name on “Protocol,” a track from More Malice, the re-release of 2009’s Malice N Wonderland. This is not hip hop, he snarls. It’s pop. Meanwhile, Ice Cube is about to drop I Am The West, an album he made with the support of prominent West Coast producers like DJ Quik and Sir Jinx (who performed with N.W.A. at the beginning of the seminal group’s career). Cube says it’s an album about the problems real people face, not just money, women and cars. Whatever the songs are actually about, both Cube and Snoop continue to produce jams tailored for the club that don’t sacrifice the adroit wordplay on which hip hop is founded. And that’s how they’ve both managed to stick around for the better part of two decades. Let’s see T. Pain, whose sound is as dated as burnt orange shag carpeting, pull that off.
Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Orgone
Cuthbert Amphitheatre • 7 pm Friday, July 16 • $37