April 1, 2011
City National Grove of Anaheim
It's always interesting to watch an old-school, West Coast rapper do his thing in Orange County.
It's not that OC isn't street (cough-cough!), it's just that if you're a SoCal rapper who got your start on the gangsta side of things, chances are you weren't writing your rhymes about mobbin' through the mean streets of Irvine or being chased by the ghetto bird through South Central Newport Beach.
It's more likely that places such as Compton, Inglewood and Watts played more of a part in shaping your experience than the pristine beaches and award-winning school districts of OC.
That being said, Ice Cube performed the gritty material that made him famous at the not-so-gritty City National Grove of Anaheim last night, and he brought it in a way that was socially responsible for the veteran fans, yet still street enough for the impressionable kiddies to get their "thug" swagger on.
This ultimately makes sense considering the rapper himself has come far from the angry core member of N.W.A he started his career as. He's morphed more into the family man, with a credible screen-production career, than the gang-banging hoodlum he was when he first came onto the scene. And while Ice Cube has been showing up more as an actor and producer of films and TV sitcoms than as a gangsta rapper in the past few years, he still wants us to know he's Westside 'till he dies. ("Yayee-yayee!")
Cube came reppin' hard for the West Coast and the whole Westside Connection gang (minus Mack 10 since their split last year) in a black fedora and black button-down shirt with a blingin' "W" on the back. Dub C was with him, playing hype man to Cube's "Smooth Criminal" vibe.
Material-wise, Ice Cube brings with him some of the most quotable rap hits in the business, which is not a surprise from the man who brought us quite possibly the most quoted cult-classic film of our generation and geographical location, Friday.
Along with the LA County grit, Cube had with him hits such as "Good Day," "You Can Do It," "We Be Clubbin'" and even "Straight Outta' Compton" from his N.W.A days. He started the show on time, which was shocking considering the majority of shows star an average of hour and a half late, and he performed for a little more than an hour.
Performance-wise, there's a palpable separation between the rough outlook Cube once employed to survive and the way he serves it to you live. He never fully seems to let go and really let the audience into his energy like some of the more-in-your-face performers such as Busta Rhymes or Snoop Dogg. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it just feels a bit like being held at arm's length, which likely has more to do with Ice Cube's feelings toward the hard-living rhymes he came up on years ago versus the cookie-cutter cue-call stuff he likely does on the set of Are We There Yet? in his day-to-day.
That's not to say our boy has gone soft. There wasn't a head in the fully packed house last night that didn't shout out the line, "Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp, and it read 'Ice Cube's a pimp'!!"
Critic's Bias: When I was 11 years old, Ice Cube's character as "Doughboy" in 1989's Boyz N the Hood was one of the first of a long line of onscreen bad boys I thought I could mother and eventually change.
The Crowd: More working-class hip-hop fans made it to this show than the prison-yard thug variety. (Not surprising.)
Overheard In the Crowd: "Are we there yet?" (while in line for drinks). "Yayee-Yayee!!" "I hope he and Mack 10 squashed it already."
Random Notebook Dump: Cube's tribute to Nate Dogg was unique, to say the least. Instead of going the heartfelt-speech route, he did things a little differently by briefly shouting out to the late rapper and having the DJ play Nate Dogg's famous "Smoke weed every day" line from Dr. Dre's Next Episode at least a dozen times in a row for the crowd to, umm, sing along to.
Natural Born Killas
Straight Outta Compton
History of Violence
No Country for Young Men
Life In California
You Know Me
Why We Thugs
You Know How We Do It
Nothin' Like LA
You Can Do It
We Be Clubbin'
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