If Ice Cube's debut was a shocking attack that proved the N.W.A legacy would be stronger divided, his sophomore effort was a new kind of superstar pulling off the miraculous, a follow-up that equals its classic predecessor and tops it in some people's books. With a million copies of Death Certificate preordered, Cube was no longer the rock critics' darling. A million people listening was dangerous, especially since he was now slithering his influence into the suburbs. If the black rage didn't get you, the misogyny of "I'm gonna do my thing, with your daughter" probably would. Here, one of rap's greatest storytellers is able to draw hatred in under a minute with the short and direct "Black Korea," an angry protest song concerning Korean grocers that got him dubbed "racist" and "Ice KKKube" by some. The track is an extreme representation of how a much sharper and cutting this album is when compared with his debut, and even though the intro announces the full-length is divided into a "Death Side" and "Life Side," both are equally bleak. With the CD format, the two sides are indistinguishable and run over the listener with fast tales of drug dealing, drive-by shootings, and women who go from "Ms. Thing to Ms. Gonorrhea." This would be numbing if it weren't for the rapper's amazing lyrics, ground-shaking delivery, and insight like when "A Bird in the Hand" deals with the irony of selling crap to buy diapers ("Gotta serve you food that might give you cancer/Cuz my son doesn't take no for answer"). A bit of sweet relief comes with the brightness of the great single "Steady Mobbin'" and with the nostalgia and slow tempo of "Doing Dumb Shit." "True to the Game" ("Ain't that a bitch/They hate to see a young nigga rich") is arguably the quintessential Cube track and if all this weren't enough already, the N.W.A diss "No Vaseline" hangs off the album like a crowd-pleasing, Brick-sampling encore. Although next year's Predator would be a bigger hit, Death Certificate brings to a close the man's trilogy of perfect albums that began with N.W.A's Compton and explodes into a supernova right here.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries