Westside Connection – The Best of Westside Connection: The Gangsta, The Killa & The Dope Dealer
Rap / Hip-hop
Let’s see if I’ve got this right: The Westside Connection—comprising Ice Cube, WC and Mack 10 —released just two full-length albums in their career. Their first (Bow Down, in the fall of 1996) was rendered almost instantly irrelevant, as the bi-coastal rap wars that spawned it were already winding down. The group’s second album (2003’s Terrorist Threats) failed to capitalize on a strong first single, as tensions between Cube and Mack 10 killed any momentum right out of the gate.
Now, name five songs, combined, off of those two releases…
And, they’re dropping a “Best Of…” album?
Priority has been loading up on the gangsta rap compilations this Christmas, and this one is unique in that it effectively captures the state of the music industry a decade ago. The ubiquitous “Bow Down” is still equal parts braggadocio, paranoia and insecurity. Empty threats snarled over a G-funk bass line with only the three-man crew’s chemistry holding it all together.
The smash single “Gangstas Make the World Go Round” is still a clever spin around an old sample, even if the Robert Shapiro and Manuel Noriega references will be lost on any new listeners out there. “All the Critics in NY” is essentially WSCG’s mission statement and smacks of junk food’s (feud?) guilty pleasure with subliminal shots at several east coast rappers and many New York hip-hop traditions.
The problem with Westside Connection has always been twofold: (1) WC is the most talented of the group, often overshadowing Cube and Mack 10, and (2) a little bit of these guys goes a long way. The latter point is evident around the halfway point here. “Hoo Bangin'” is a terrific cut with a kick-in-the-door beat, but how many ways can gangsta posturing be presented?
“Gangsta Nation” is right from the “first verse, Nate Dogg hook, second verse, Nate Dogg hook…” assembly line. Meanwhile, tracks like “Walk” and “Bangin'” are nothing but clichéd filler. For me, the standout track is when the group goes outside the box on the hilariously satirical “So Many Rappers in Love”.
From a historical standpoint, the Westside Connection certainly has a place in any discussion of hip-hop’s ill-fated East/West feud. Unfortunately, it was an era that didn’t really produce much good material. Still, WC, Ice Cube and Mack 10 had their moments. Worth a listen if you missed their ’96 debut and/or are looking for some context on the industry’s near self-immolation of 10 years ago.