Ice Cube has come a long way, from screaming "Burn, Hollywood, Burn" on Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet in 1990 to The New York Times calling him one of Tinseltown's principal (and only) African-American players earlier this month. Films like Lottery Ticket and the Are We There Yet? franchise may not be Oscar bait, but in the grand hip-hop tradition, they do make money. They've also caused some rap cognoscenti to accuse Cube of "going soft," but he silenced the haters with typically pungent wordplay and laid-back but robust West Coast production on his ninth solo LP, last year's I Am the West (Lench Mob). Poking at Oprah, Tiger Woods and "ringtone rappers" on "No Country for Young Men" and keeping up with the second-generation rhyming of sons Doughboy and OMG on "She Couldn't Make It on Her Own," the ex-N.W.A MC moved All Music Guide to say, "Middle-age hip-hop is born here, and if it follows his lead, it will be a monster of a genre." Cube can still bring it live, too: At Meridian in late 2008, he was a long, long way from signing his death certificate.
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