(editor’s note – links may lead to material which is NSFW) The last couple weeks have been all about the two arguably most famous former members of NWA, Dr. Dre and Eazy E. Before we move past the early days of Death Row and the feud between them and Ruthless Records, let’s check in on what some of the other former members of that platinum selling group. The last time we visited Ice Cube, he’d only recently separated from NWA and had just released his Death Certificate album. Just about a month before Dr. Dre’s massive successful The Chronic album hit shelves, Ice Cube own personal high mark, The Predator, came out in stores. This album is, to date, Ice Cube’s only #1 record on the Billboard hot 100 charts, and included two top 20 hits, including Ice Cube’s most well known track, “It Was A Good Day“, and the Das Efx duet “Check Yo’ Self“.
Meanwhile, on Ruthless Records, MC Ren launched his own solo career in 1992 with the 6 song Ep Kizz My Black Azz, which also sold well and went platinum in about 2 months. On a personal note, this is one of my favorite rap records ever. I was 14 when it came out, and attending a boarding school in Eastern Kentucky. A fellow student had a cassette copy of this album, and I recognized the name MC Ren from the NWA cassette I’d listened to as a pre-teen. Willie was nice enough to let me make a dub of the tape, and I literally wore my copy out, listening to it until the tape snapped. Thanks, Willie, wherever you are.
The tail end of 1993 was also a very busy time. We already discussed Easy’s It’s On (
Dr. Dre) 187um Killa album, which was released in October of that year. The following month saw two important releases. MC Ren’s first solo LP, Shock of the Hour, debuted on the 16th from Ruthless Records, and the following week saw the first solo album, on Death Row Records from rising star Snoop Doggy Dogg. I’m not sure why, but MC Ren has never had the following that others from the same camp enjoyed. Although Shock of the Hour was certified as a gold record, signifying a half million copies sold, compare that to the multi-platinum sales his former bandmates were registering during this period and it’s easy to see why Ren didn’t record nearly as prolifically as his cohorts. Nonetheless, Shock of the Hour is another enjoyable record, and it includes Ren’s highest ranking single, “Same Ol’ S***“, which samples the Slick Rick classic, “La Di Da Di”. Coincidentally, the same song was given the cover treatment on the Snoop Dogg album from the same month, Doggystyle. Snoop’s record was produced entirely by Dr Dre and continued the Death Row trend of heavily featuring other artists from the label. Doggystyle was another massive success for Death Row Records, debuting at number one on Billboard. It also contained several hit singles, including “Who Am I” and “Gin and Juice“, and remains Snoop’s best selling record.
The final album of note from 1993 was the fourth solo record from Ice Cube, Lethal Injection, another platinum hit for the popular rapper. Although less popular than his previous record, Lethal Injection still produced several top 30 hits. Particularly noteworthy were Ice Cube’s collaboration with influential artist George Clinton on a song titled “Bop Gun“, and the uber-smooth “You Know How We Do It“, another personal favorite.
West Coast gangsta rap was clearly a force to be reckoned with as the page turned from 1993 to 1994, but like all great empires throughout history, unbridled success is almost always prelude to a heavy fall. In other words, what goes up must come down. We’ll talk about what happened next in next week’s installation of West Coast Wednesdays.