It's been 33 years since Ice Cube turned the hip-hop world on its head with his debut studio album, Amerikkka's Most Wanted. With hip-hop reaching its 50th anniversary in 2023, the album is one of the genre's most influential. After his sudden fallout with N.W.A., there were overarching doubts about whether or not Ice Cube would be able to succeed as a solo act. In fact, this was a question that fans had of every group member. The five core members had struck a seamless balance. The teams' two albums had piloted N.W.A. to the top of hip-hop. A combination of Ice Cube feeling he was being cheated out of his royalties and an innate desire to go off on his own would lead him to be the first to leave the iconic group.
However, Amerikkka's Most Wanted did anything but silence the hip-hop world. Cube became public enemy number one after its release. He dropped various damning bars surrounding his experience with N.W.A. throughout the project. To be fair, Ice Cube's groundbreaking responses throughout his debut solo album were justified. N.W.A. attacked first, going after Cube on "100 Miles and Runnin'." The 20-year-old Los Angeles rapper blew things up with his response, purposefully making the most outlandish statements from "Once Upon a Time in the Projects" to "Who's the Mack?"
The Project Was More Than An Attack On N.W.A.
Without his right-hand man Dr. Dre on production credits, Ice Cube was forced to look elsewhere to find an equally talented producer. He would find that person in Sir Jinx, who Ice Cube had already been collaborating with throughout the '80s. However, he would change the hip-hop game forever by looking towards New York to complete the project. He would discover The Bomb Squad, the production team behind the rap group The Public Enemy. He headed to New York City to load up an attack on his ex-rap squad. However, Amerikkka's Most Wanted was more multi-faceted than an attack on N.W.A. Like his work with N.W.A., he touches on boiling political topics from a street man's perspective throughout the project.
Ice Cube revels in the antagonist world that he curates throughout the project, solidifying the record's timelessness. Outside of his attacks on N.W.A., he's rapping about the world of paranoia that he exists in. Surrounded by women, drugs, and violence, he's looking to cocoon himself into the funk-based beats on Amerikkka's Most Wanted. "What I was trying to get across was a true definition of street knowledge, where you can bump my record but you can learn from it, too." The record's tone is a "me against the world" mentality. Shunned by the his group, Ice Cube emerged as focused and introspective as ever.
Ice Cube Blended East & West Coast Rap
Released on May 16, 1990, Amerikkka's Most Wanted immediately shook up the hip-hop world. Fans eagerly anticipated a response from N.W.A., shocked at Ice Cube's inability to mince his words. However, it wasn't only the beef between the two parties that gripped the audience. Ice Cube commanded the record seamlessly, proving that he could create timeless music without his musical protege on the other side of the United States. The funk-infused project took over car radios through the summer of the '90s, peaking at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 200 charts.
Amerikkka's Most Wanted was groundbreaking on a deeper level than solely from a lyrical perspective. Ice Cube was one of the first MCs to blend the worlds of California and New York sonically. While his trademark California flow remained unchanged, he did it over beats from Sir Jinx and The Bomb Squad. For the most part, MCs had been releasing projects that pulled from one area or another, striving to prove that their sound beat out the others. Everything about Amerikkka's Most Wanted prompted fans to see hip-hop in a new light, analyzing the genre from a narrative perspective.
"Amerikkka's Most Wanted" Changed Hip-Hop
While N.W.A. would eventually all go their separate ways, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre would lead the most successful solo careers. The two would each eventually venture out into the world of film. The group's rise and fall would subsequently be depicted on the film screen with Straight Outta Compton. The movie would become best known for depicting Eazy-E's AIDS diagnosis, signifying a stark end to arguably the most talented rapper out of the group. With time, the group's members have overcome their differences. In fact, Dr, Dre and Ice Cube continue to collaborate on both a musical and a film front to this day. Looking back on the past 50 years of hip-hop, Amerikkka's Most Wanted should be remembered as a record that encouraged artists to speak up rather than an indictment on N.W.A.