The rap music world was a very different place back when The Westside Connection released their first album (Bow Down in 1996). The stench of the noxious “east coast/west coast” feud had permeated the entire industry and rappers couldn’t choose up sides fast enough. The beef was arguably at its peak when Bow Down dropped, as Tupac Shakur had been gunned down barely a month before its release.
Rap veterans Ice Cube and WC, along with Cube’s protÃ©gÃ© Mack 10 released ten scathing tracks that added truckloads of gasoline to an already out-of-control fire. The album was a mixed bag of boisterous taunts, overt disses and outrageous claims (“hip hop started in the west?”), but managed to move over two million units worldwide.
In the years since, all three rappers have gone their separate ways as Ice Cube has been focused on establishing himself in Hollywood, at the expense of his recording career. WC has dropped a pair of criminally overlooked albums, 1998’s The Shadiest One and 2002’s Ghetto Heisman. While Mack 10 peaked in 1997 with the Backyard Boogie single and hasn’t been able to recapture that same magic again.
The three have reunited for Terrorist Threats, hoping that lightning can strike twiceâ€¦with the exact same formula. The first track, Call 9-1-1 moves at a methodical pace and sets the tone as WC just destroys this one with a verse that threatens to turn the hoods into “The Gaza Strip”. Cube and Mack 10 don’t sound all that interested on this one and would’ve been best served just to get out of WC’s way.
From there, the album moves on to Potential Victims, which wastes a hot T.R.E. beat on rehashed anti-America rhetoric (“the red, black and blue”) that Cube was doing better over 10 years ago. With acts out there today like dead prez taking political agendas to the next level, a cut like this comes across as vacant filler.
There are moments when everything clicks and none more evident than the first commercial single, Gangsta Nation. Fred Wreck crafts a simple but tight production, while Nate Dogg lends his trademark hook. WC once again shines with his lyrical tongue-twisting wordplay, as Cube and Mack 10 manage to keep up.
So Many Rappers In Love is another highlight that tackles the timely subject ofâ€¦well, it’s in the title. It’s pretty much dead on and doles out copious amounts of mocking to every rapper who has wanted to hold his girl’s hand or profess his undying love to her. The cynical You Gotta Have Heart hints at better days ahead for the streets, but with a heavy lining of hopelessness along the way.
Unfortunately, there’s just not enough consistency from song to song. Pimp The System has a salient message to young up-and-coming rappers, warning them about the music conglomerates who pull the strings. The problem is Ice Cube was saying many of the exact same things on Record Company Pimpin’ from his horrific War & Peace, Vol. 2 album in 2000. Meanwhile, Superstar starts out as a nice satire of the whole “get shot, sell millions” theory for rappers, but by the end, it sounds like nothing more than jealous rambling.
On other tracks, such as Bangin’ At The Party and Don’t Get Out of Pocket, Mack 10 enlists some of the, uh, talent from his Hoo Bangin’ Records label to lend a hand. They contribute nothing more than anonymity and mediocrity on both efforts, however.
In addition, there are two very oddly placed and thinly veiled shots at Eminem on this album. There hasn’t been much word from the shit-stirring street corners of rap’s resident fight promoters (i.e. radio and mixtape DJs), so hopefully whatever beef is there between the two camps will die down pretty quickly.