Monday, December 14, 2009 at 9:45 a.m.
The Hype: At this point in his 26-year career, we're pretty certain that Ice Cube's hype is well established, documented, merchandised and revered. If anything, his decision to stop at a well-known OC venue once again for the end of his three-date mini tour (that included LA and Vegas) gives our music scene little bit of it's own hype. But in case you've existed without TV, radio, or the 'Net for almost three decades--or are curious about his architecture certificate--check out the interview we did with Cube for this article in the current issue of the Weekly.
The Show: "Surreal" doesn't even begin to describe the feeling that comes from standing an arms length away from Ice Cube at last night's show at the Grove of Anaheim. In the roaring darkness punctuated by flashing cameras, the aura of rap's grittiest gangster rapper-turned-actor is palpable seconds before the show explodes with blaring stage lights and gunshot blasts from the DJ booth.
Strutting on stage with longtime friend and collaborator W.C. ( Dub-C) of West Side Connection, Cube's arrival was met with a hero's welcome after an hour and a half anticipation. It has been over a year since the release of Cube's latest album, Raw Footage, and by most accounts, the Grand Wizard opted to make this a night of gangster classics, allowing his fans to relive his rise to fame hit after hit, jam after jam.
As the sub woofers of the DJ Booth blasted with bone rattling bass, Cube opened with a viable list of classics that included "How to Survive in South Central", "Hello" and "Natural Born Killaz" as a gathering storm of chronic mist rose from different sections of the shadows. At various points, Cube and W.C. were satisfied with the deafening crowd response, often pausing to salute fans with a trademark gangsta grimace. Even after almost three decades of watching Cube and his crew rap from the gut about street life and West Coast hustle, his booming voice still sent chills through the audience as he punctuated the end of venerable 90s jams like "Check Yo Self" with the night's trademark phase: "Hell mutha fuckin' yeah!"
Over the course of the next hour or so, audiences were taken further into the realm of Ice Cube's greatest hits, "Bow Down", "Bop Gun," "Today Was a Good Day" and of course some choice W.C./Ice Cube joints like "West Up." Things just got funkier as Cube prompted his legendary selector DJ Crazy Tunes to fire off a hot mix of 80s and 90s tunes, offering a virtual hip hop history lesson to those who needed it. For the rest of us, it was an opportunity to see Ice Cube and W.C. bust a move on stage.
Though his set was definitely an ode to the cuts that made him a star, fans got a taste of Raw Footage when Cube launched into his new school club banger "Do Ya Thang" and a line that seems to embody the last 26 years: "Soon as I lace it, baby, wanna taste it/ Just face it/ Put me to the test/ Ice Cube would ace it/ I'm built for success." Enough said. The show was preceded by a semi talented group of MCs that included Vital Mindz and Sean Rex and Boston George with DJ sets by DJ Simon.
The Crowd: For the most part it was exactly what you'd expect in an old-school hip-hop show free from the day-glo aesthetic: Guys reliving the glory days of the 90s with baggy jeans and Raiders jerseys, flocks of girls braving the cold night air in form-fitting hip-hop fashions. Of course, you can't do a show in suburbia with out tapping into the local population of skaters and college students who've probably been smuggling Ice Cube albums past their parents since the fourth grade.
Overheard: At various points during the downtime waiting for Ice Cube, a sign kept popping up on the giant screens near the stage that said "The Grove is a Smoke Free Venue." To which one fan in the audience replied, "Man, fuck that, I'm smokin' the shit outta this joint tonight."