In case you just woke up and missed the news, west coast gangsta rap artist Ice Cube (ICE CUBE!), the legendary member of NWA, is taking it upon himself to independently release his new album, Laugh Now, Cry Later. “A record company’s schedule sometimes don’t coincide with what you need to do as an artist. By me not being on no schedules or deadlines, I made a better record because of that,” states Ice Cube. If that’s the case for the longer period between releases, the wait was certainly worth it as Ice Cube gives birth to an instant classic, a must-have, a watershed in hip-hop, a “better record”.
A few aspects jump out at you in Laugh Now, Cry Later, and put this album a cut above everything else in the industry today. First are the well-produced beats that serve as a backdrop to Ice Cube’s masterful lyricisms. While the sound isn’t exactly revolutionary, the very distinct and unique west coast gangsta rap sound is very predominant in Laugh Now, Cry Later and reminiscent of other artists’ work (2pac’s All Eyez on Me or Dr. Dre’s Chronic). This does not simply mean Laugh Now, Cry Later regurgitates an old flavor and presents it as something new, as many artists do today, and expect you to be blown away. Instead Ice Cube ushers a remastered west coast gangsta sound into 2006, with all the loud bumping and grinding, yet manages to retain an old sound amidst a new era—a testimony to the masterful production behind this album.
Secondly, as the west coast gangsta sound is ushered into 2006, Ice Cube parallels the evolution in sound with a similar change in lyricism. The inclusion of guest artists such as Snoop Dogg and Lil’ Jon helps bridge the eras together, though it is not exclusively responsible for this lyrical change. Instead, Ice Cube creates a hybrid between the old school, west coast gangsta rap and the newer, more modern rap by splicing the cliché themes and mainstream lyricism of today’s artist with a cynicism, sarcasm, and subtle criticism found in the works of old school rappers (see: 2pacalypse Now). The juxtaposition of these two different perspectives from two starkly different eras in hip-hop provides a powerful and humbling image, sound, and message in a seemingly carbon-copying world.
In Ice Cube’s own words, “ Everybody is doing a lot of laughing and playing and having fun, but someday you gotta pay. That’s really what the album is saying.”