Westside Connection

Bow Down

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Following Lethal Injection, Ice Cube's career began to sag slightly, both in terms of sales and critical respect. As a response, he formed Westside Connection with fellow West Coast gangsta rappers Mack 10 and WC -- the first hip-hop supergroup ever formed. Bow Down, the trio's debut, is everything you would expect from this pedigree, for better and for worse. Musically, the record is fantastic, with tight, slamming production that alternates between driving hardcore rhythms and elastic booty-funk. Similarly, all three rappers give brilliant performances, rhyming with fierce venom and grace. The problem is, the trio -- who have all demonstrated exceptional observational skills and social commentary in the past -- have decided to abandon their conscious for a spirited defense and celebration of gangsta rap. If anyone has represented the best gangsta has had to offer, it would be Ice Cube, Mack 10, and WC, but none of their lyrics here illustrate this; instead, they simply make half-hearted excuses for the violence and no political attacks at authority, which renders it nearly devoid of content. Nevertheless, Bow Down is filled with so much exceptional music that it ranks as one of the finest latter-day gangsta rap records. Listening to it, however, it's hard not to believe that it is an epitaph for the genre.

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