View more photos in Timothy Norris' Ice Cube slideshow.
Ice Cube @ House Of Blues, Dec 11
Twenty-plus years into the game, Ice Cube has figured out at least a few things about the rap performance. He's perfected the rapper-on-stage routine with minimal extras (no fire, video, bitches, or shirt-ripping -- just a backup dude, Dub-C, oh, and an umbrella with pre-glued droplets for one song), can make a crowd wait two hours and forty five minutes (at least) for his show without any apology. And, most important, he knows how to 'Put your back into it,' pointing at your wifey in the VIP section as romantic gesture.
Almost three hours waiting for the man who rebelled against N.W.A felt a little like gangster torture. You're forced to listen to every hit song that played on the radio since 1992, including LMFAO's about "The ladies love us when we pour shots/They need an excuse to suck our cocks..." -- twice. You must drink more but do not smoke that joint yet, do not spark that blunt yet, because despite any paranoid fears, the anaconda-conquering rapper will appear onstage eventually, and say, "We in L.A., it doesn't smell like a X-Mas tree up in here." The crowd shrieks. The scent rises; Pine-Sol wood shine, charcoal sticky wetness.
Refresher course: Ice Cube was one of the main lyricists on 1988's Straight Outta Compton on Eazy-E's independent Ruthless Records, an album that genre-defined gangster rap, laying paths for Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella. It glorified gang violence and turned a real eye on ghetto poverty, at the same time managing to both corrupt and inspire the youth's speech, dress, behavior, and musical style in ways that may have had an even bigger impact on American culture than, say, refrigeration.
"I got nuthin but love for everybody in this bitch right now," said Ice Cube. Over 21 years ago, his 19-year-old self was an AK-47 toting badass saying "Fuck The Police" in a meaningful way that coincided with major reality checkers like Rodney King getting ass-whupped, the LA riots, and so on.
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Having seen his beautiful home on Cribs, it's way evident that Cube's come a long way since then. His performance employs all the rap-show essentials without pyrotechnics. His interludes moved perfectly between songs. Every beat stopped and started on a well-measured dime. "Anybody who try to wreck this unity tonight you better check yourself," he announced as "Check Yo Self" kicked into gear. He wore the threads, he danced the shuffle in his Converse, he rolled his mic in his palms like a blunt, he lovingly thanked the crowd as extended family, and grabbed his crotch a lot.
The crotch grabbing remark isn't meant to sound disparaging. The gesture in rap defines male arrogance, but is also a rebellious stance that has become a symbolic gesture of defiance in the same way as hippies wearing hairy armpits did in the 1960s. The man, and his moves are iconic. This was evident in the way certain people seemed intent on throwing themselves over the balcony when he performed "You Can Do It," "We Be Clubbin," and "It Was A Good Day" during the '90s portion of the setlist. He moved, and we moved with him.