Some groups make hit records. Others create movements. Westside Connection does both.
The super group of Ice Cube, Mack 10 and WC has finally returned after a seven-year hiatus with "Terrorist Threats," one of the most explosive hip-hop albums of the century. That's right, the follow-up to 1996's double platinum, incendiary "Bow Down" brings the edge, angst and attitude that was missing back to hard-core hip-hop.
"So many people are going soft, so many love songs on the radio that I felt like I probably wouldn't be able to buy nothing I liked unless I bought my own stuff," Ice Cube explains. "It was just time to be hard-core and not be so damn soft all the Goddamn time. The mixture of R&B is killing the music."
Indeed, there's nothing soft on "Terrorist Threats." The album's title refers to rap's counter-culture potential. More so than any other music, rap has the ability to strike fear in the hearts of the establishment -- and no group has done that more than Westside Connection.
"We understand that we're still being perceived as environmental terrorists by mainstream America," WC says. "We're not going be a------s and come out and say that we're terrorists. Only an idiot would be in a frame of mind to do that. But in this rap music, we bring cannons to the gunfight. We're going to bring it and a lot of people fear that. It's terror that we see in their eyes."
That fear should turn to adulation thanks to lead single "Gangsta Nations," a thumping, Fred Wreck-produced song that pays tribute to the West Coast's standing as the premier gangster rap region. In between Nate Dogg's poignant chorus, Ice Cube, Mack 10 and WC call out fake gangsters and explain that being "gangster" is more than it appears.
"It's a salute to what I call the 'Gangsta Nation,' which is people who like it hard-core who do it in their own way," Ice Cube says. "Everybody knows what gangster represents out here. It ain't always a criminal thang. It's just somebody that won't conform, somebody that doesn't want to do it the way the plan is laid out. They want to do it their own way, so we're saluting them."
The group also salutes its loyal, die-hard following in the Dave Myers-directed clip for "Gangsta Nations." Cube, Mack and Dub sport a variety of outfits in the video, tracing their musical evolution from the 1980s until now.
But it's Westside Connection's grasp on the present that makes "Terrorist Threats" so formidable. On the sizzling "So Many Rappers In Love," the group calls out rappers who are watering down the art form into a cheesy R&B-rap hybrid. "If it ain't rough it ain't me and I refuse to turn r-a-p into R&B," Mack 10 raps on the confrontational cut. "You went from hard-core to pop, just to be on top/I give Cool J his props and that's where it stops."
There's no mistaking that Mack 10 is disgusted by the development. "These cats kill me because they're turning rap into R&B," he says. "They used to be separate. Now, these rap records sound like The Whispers, The Temptations or some love song. I refuse to do that. I'm going to keep it gutter and keep it gangsta."
Westside Connection's muscular brand of rap has no reservations. They turn their focus to rap's current affinity for pimping on the wicked "Pimp The System." The group asserts that rappers need to pimp companies, not women, in order to really get paid.
"Pimping a woman, you ain't getting no money out of that," Ice Cube adds. "We feel like pimp a CEO, pimp the system, pimp something that you can really get paid off of. We like to take these old concepts that have been floating around for years and flip them a little bit and try to give the audience a new way of thinking."
The group also looks at the paradoxical place violence has in our society on the telling "Super Star." Violence is, of course, condemned by most people, but in the rap game it seems as though jail time and bullets give rappers instant credibility, regardless of their talent.
"Everybody likes the bad guy and everybody wants to see the man who's been through hell and back, what he's got to rap about," Ice Cube says. "It's to the point where you don't even have to be that good. All you to do is get shot, murder somebody, have the right jail record and you can get on. We're addressing that and saying that if we want to go double platinum we must get a double murder."
Elsewhere, the group sets the album off on a sinister tone on the eerie "Call 9-1-1", thank God for their blessings on "You Gotta Have Heart" and deliver West Coast heat on "Get Ignit," "Izm," "Lights Out" and "Bangin' At The Party."
With 1996's "Bow Down," Westside Connection brought their own agenda to the hip- hop party, something they've been doing since they formed in 1993. Ice Cube, Mack 10 and WC were tired of getting overlooked by East Coast media outlets and being considered second-class citizens in a genre they helped popularize. The album instilled a sense of pride in West Coast rap fans and started a worldwide movement that anyone who is underappreciated could identify with.
"'Bow Down,' the first one, was a record out of necessity," Ice Cube recalls. "The industry needed somebody to stick up for the West Coast because we were starting to get disrespected on every level. So, in '96 we started a movement that swept all across the world, really with the 'W,' the West Side, people finally having something to identify with on the West Coast. Then, people all over the country started to respect the West Side. It's a beautiful thing. We've got Westsiders in Japan, South Africa and they're pumping it. It was a big deal."
"Bow Down" made the Westside Connection one of the most respected and despised rap groups of all time. They were loved for their blunt discussion of any topic, their top-tier lyricism and their bone-crushing production. But they were despised for exposing the prejudice that runs rampant throughout the rap industry.
Now, with "Terrorist Threats," Westside Connection returns to form with the same sense of purpose they had back in 1996. The times have changed, but Westside Connection is as vital today as they were when they had to defend the West Coast's place in hip-hop.
"Evacuate the building · here come a plane," Mack 10 raps on "Gangsta Nations." "No, it's the mad-a-- Westside connect gang."
You've been warned.
--- from the official Westside Connection website