The second volume of Ice Cube's War & Peace album finds the multi-talented veteran MC evolving beyond a mere gangsta rap artist. Of course, Ice Cube doesn't admit his maturity, starting the album off with an excellent song titled "Hello" featuring MC Ren and Dr. Dre. The Dre-produced song has the ex-NWA members rapping "I started this gangsta ****/and this is the ************ thanks I get?" and reinstating their thug stance. Besides this opening song, Cube also is heard later on the album rapping to "keep in gangsta," yet for as much as Cube flexes about being hard, he has actually evolved into a wiser, more composed artist than the hate-fueled gangsta found on his early albums. Some of the songs on War & Peace, Vol. 2 such as "Record Company Pimpin'" reflect the deep insight he is easily capable of injecting into his lyrics. Unfortunately, for every contemplative moment on this album, there are also plenty of songs such as "Can You Bounce?" and "Hello" that reduce themselves to simple, lucid attempts at hit singles. These songs -- along with the slightly more thought-out, radio-friendly "Until We Rich" -- are wonderful songs, rich in hooks and full of strong beats, but they don't really fit in with the rest of the album. The fact that Ice Cube churned out two albums of content during his lengthy absence from the rap world in the late '90s makes the two volumes of War & Peace overly eclectic. What made albums such as Straight Outta Compton and AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted such strong albums were consistency; Dr. Dre and the Bomb Squad, respectively, were able to map out an overall musical feel for these albums with their signature styles and unique motifs. Instead of having a fully realized sound such as the aforementioned albums, the revolving door of production on War & Peace that includes Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy, and One Eye for One Eye among others makes this album sound very undeceive in terms of style. Cube's rapping sounds great with plenty of ideas that extend outside of simple gangsta motifs and slick rhymes full of wit; however, the constant changes in the album from hook-laden hits to denser, message-filled songs and from stark, minimal beats to up-tempo dance-rap make this a sometimes brilliant yet ultimately spotty, multi-dimensional album that needs more focus.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
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