Dealing with the good, the bad, and especially the ugly, Raw Footage is an appropriate title for Ice Cube's eighth album. Some kind of subtitle that mentioned the yin and yang of life would have made it perfect because the tracks here are as inclined to paradoxes as the man himself and offer just as few excuses. If you want insight into how a man justifies making family fun movies by day and hardcore rap by night, the only answer offered is that you grow up in this cruel world and you deal any way you know how, something that drives the great "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It." This key track may not be "fair and balanced," but it's honest and revealing as Cube embraces what he wants from the good -- a literate life that damns those who "read your first book in the penitentiary" -- and the commonly accepted bad as he attacks Oprah and everyone else who has a problem with hardcore rap using the "N" word. The 187 in "Why Me?" could be a metaphor for the attacks from Cube's detractors ("You want to take the life God handed to me/Send it back to him 'cuz you ain't a fan of me") while "Jack in the Box" suggests he's already won the war with "Fool, I'm the greatest/You just the latest/I'm loved by your grandmamma/And your babies." The album's guiding principle, "only thing I expect is self-check," is dropped in "Get Money, Spend Money, No Money," but the great news is that all these standoffish and self-serving rhymes are written with that whipsmart wit and sit on a bed of wonderfully minimal beats from lesser knowns like Young Fokus and Emile. The only time things sound slick are when an Eddie Kendricks sample meets Angie Stone's vocals on "Hood Mentality," or when the so-big-in-2008 Young Jeezy shows up for the disappointing and out of place "I Got My Locs On." The bombastic intro and interludes with Keith David could go too, but otherwise this no-answers, gritty ego trip will satisfy his fans while pushing everyone else away even further.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
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