Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
When O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson left N.W.A in late 1989, it was a bittersweet moment. On one hand, it was sad to see such a talented lyricist leave a pioneering group on acrimonious terms. However, it also made sense. Ice Cube had been a larger-than-life personality on record, with his striking voice and his superior lyrical and story-telling abilities. Recording a solo album seemed like a logical eventuality. However, it’s safe to say that if Ice Cube had never left N.W.A and still recorded a solo album, it would never have sounded like AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.
Though AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted still plays to Ice Cube’s gangsta sensibilities, it’s also widely known for showcasing his political awareness. Much of the inspiration for the album’s socio-political slant is due to the influence of Chuck D, who counseled Cube during his break-up with N.W.A, and helped guide the album’s direction and feel. The production for the album was a collaborative process handled famously by the Bomb Squad, Public Enemy’s production crew, Cube himself, and Los Angeles’ Sir Jinx, Dr. Dre’s cousin and Cube’s longtime cohort. At times the production is as loud and noisy as anything you’ll find on Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet (1990), and others as straight up funky as one would expect from an early ’90s Los Angeles hip-hop album.
The album showcases Cube at the crossroads, still able to create tongue-in-cheek gangsta fairytales and ill-fated adventures in the project, but also astute enough to vividly explain how the LAPD has transformed young black men in Los Angeles into a hunted animal. AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted transitioned Cube from gangsta rapper to political poet and hip-hop icon. Few rappers that followed struck such a balance as well as Cube did here.