As West Coast hip-hop took hold of the music scene, there were a few seminal names that kept popping up: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg (although he was known as Snoop Doggy Dogg back then – it was a simpler time, after all), Tupac Shakur and more. Today, we’ll focus on a selection that featured a man whose career has spanned decades, bridged cultures and enveloped the media landscape. The group is Westside Connection, and the man I’m referring to is Ice Cube.
Ice Cube started as a member of NWA, the forefathers of gangster rap. He was aggressive, and has made millions of dollars over the years as his influence has shifted to include beer commercials and family TV shows on TBS.
But in the mid-’90s, Ice Cube joined rappers Mack 10 and WC to form a group called the Westside Connection. Their first album was titled Bow Down and it sold 1.7 million copies, peaking at #2 on the Billboard charts. The biggest single was the title track – a 3.5-minute joyride through the lyrical stylings of the three rappers – which hit #1 on the rap charts in late 1996.
Speaking of those lyrical stylings, this song has some real gems.
Here are the opening lines:
The world is mine, n**** get back.
Don’t fuck with my stack, the gage is racked.
About to drop the bomb, I’m the motherfuckin’ don.
Big fish in a small pond.
At the outset, we’re getting Ice Cube’s attitude, sure, but we’re also getting some fun imagery about fish. Normally I would let this slide as nice wordplay, but he actually rides it out on the fish thing, as he continues with the very next lines…
Now the Feds wanna throw the book at the crook
But I shook, they worm and they hook.
Guppies hold they breath.
They wanna mess me when I’m tipsy –
Runnin’ everythang west of the Mississippi.
Now hang on. That’s two more fishplays! First he shakes the worm-and-hook (which could be considered two fish-related things, but I’ll conservatively call it one, as it’s one extended image) and then he refers to others as guppies! It’s fantastic!
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Hey man, relax, the words worked. Who cares?”
I care. That’s who cares. Me. Because I listen to a lot of rap and it’s not often that someone liberally throws around ichthyic wordplay that has nothing to do with the actual song.
Also, I had a fish tank as a kid, and I had guppies. This song made me realize that rappers weren’t so different than I was.
I might have even let this all slide, though, if Ice Cube didn’t go back to the well one last time before the chorus:
…before any of you guppies get heart,
N****, rewind my part, fool. And bow down.