Considering that he hadn't delivered a full-fledged solo album since 1993's disappointing Lethal Injection, maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise that Ice Cube returned hard in 1998 with War & Peace, Vol. 1 (The War Disc), since five years is a long, long time to stay quiet. What was a surprise was how ambitious the album was. The first installment in a proposed double-disc set, The War Disc is a cacophonous, cluttered, impassioned record that nearly qualifies as a return to form. Designed as a hard-hitting record, it certainly takes no prisoners, as it moves from intense street-oriented jams to rap-metal fusions, such as the Korn-blessed "Fuck Dying," with its seething, distorted guitars. It's a head-spinning listen and, at first, it seems to be a forceful comeback. Upon closer inspection, The War Disc falters a bit. Not only does the relentless nature of the music wear a little thin, but Cube spends too much time trying to beat newcomers at their own game. His lyrical skills are still intact, but he spends way too much time boasting, particularly about material possessions, and his attempt to rechristen himself Don Mega, in a Wu-like move, simply seems awkward. Even so, the quality of the music -- and the moments when he pulls it all together, such as "3 Strikes You In" -- sustains War and makes it feel more cohesive than it actually is. The key is purpose -- even if Cube doesn't always say exactly what he wants, he does have something to say. That alone makes War & Peace, with just one album completed, a more successful and rewarding listen than the typical double-disc hip-hop set of the late '90s.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Mack 10