Ice cube’s “Laugh Now, Cry Later”
Ice cube’s “Laugh Now, Cry Later” essay
Introductions: First person “I”, your personal experience with the presentation topic:
1. Your knowledge of and exposure to the topic prior to working with team
2. Why choose this topic. Your view of topic going into the work
3. Your summary of why the topic is important to you – not to general audience
Body paragraph: write about what is in the powerpoint and answer how songs reflect african-american experience:
1. Economic disenfranchisement and criminal behavior
2. Sexism towards women
3. Oppostion to middle class wasp values and tastes
Ice Cube’s Laugh Now, Cry Later
Analyzing Ice Cube’s 2006 album, Laugh Now, Cry Later, means to understand the basis of the genre of gangsta rap. Ice Cube was a co-founder of gangsta rap, along with members of his former band, N.W.A. Gangsta rap is a subgenre of West Coast hip-hop, which is a localized to the West Coast area specifically to represent resident issues in Compton and the greater Los Angeles region. Major themes in West Coast hip-hop include violence, gender roles, and drugs. The music of gangsta rap is much heavier, not just in the beats of the music (which are more hard-core) but in the lyrics. Gangsta rap has been controversial for its portrayal of crime, misogyny, police brutality, gang violence, social and political commentary, drug dealing, and sex addiction. The N.W.A. was a group that represented Compton specifically, and Ice Cube’s solo career will still reflect on those times.
Laugh Now, Cry Later is a comeback album for Ice Cube. He designed it specifically to play like a “history book… [that] shows you a part of life that you might not have been paying attention to,” (Ice Cube, “Defied Ageism”). The album is very much like a record of the issues that occur in impoverished neighborhoods like Compton, and the major themes in this album are normally apparent in gangsta rap. Themes like political commentary, self-identity through representation of your past, sexuality, status, and violence are most present in this album.
The first single of the album is “Why We Thugs,” This single was a means to address violence in neighborhoods, and how children are picking up the behavior by the influence of adults who are in the drug dealing business or are part of street gangs. This is apparent in the lyrics, “They give us guns and drugs/ Then wonder why in the fuck we thugs.” This may not also be linked directly to gang members. The song also serves as a political commentary of how the current legal system is failing people who are vulnerable to poverty and violence. He continues in the song, “Call me an animal up in the system/ But who’s the animal that built this prison/ Who’s the animal who invented lower living,” as a direct reference to how capitalism is leaving the poor behind and leaving them vulnerable to violence. This theme is shared with another song on the album, “The Ni**a Trap,” which discusses how the hood is a trap that police men use to capture black men involved in crime (as in, hoods are targeted specifically for such activity without any progress in stopping the issue). In this song, Ice Cube remarks on this as a “reality.”
A major element of gangsta rap is street battling, which is the process of competing on the streets for recognition and praise from the crowd watching. Street battles are “tests of lyrical dexterity, rhetorical wit and competitive charisma,” (Carmichael “Conflicted”), and involves either freestyle rapping, or competitive hip-hop dancing. It is competitive by nature, and involves toasting, or making derogatory comments towards competitors. “Go To Church” is the hallmark of this style for the album, and it was a collaboration with Snoop Dogg and Lil’ Jon. For those who are not able to compete, Ice Cube has this advice: “If you a scared motherfucker, go to church.” The song in general is a lyrical description of what it means to be hypermasculine and strong. This includes how “your favorite rapper ain’t got no nuts,” in regards to lesser rappers not showing the proper spirit in rapping, and how competitors should “never question the size of Ice Cube’s balls.”
The purpose of gangsta rap is all about representation, whether it’s representation of issues in poor neighborhoods or representing place of birth and roots in skills. “Child Support” is an example of the former, which details child abuse and infidelity. Ice Cube is not trying to justify abuse when he says “I brought you to this world/ I’ll take you out/ do you ugly.” The point here is to illustrate some of the harsh truths of what happens in certain households. Critics who speak out against gangsa rap “neither understand the music nor desire to hear what’s going on in the devastated communities that gave birth to the art form,” (Philips “The Uncivil War”). The song “Growin Up” is an ode to Ice Cube’s roots, from the people he grew up with in his neighborhood, to the members that made up the former N.W.A. Representation in gangsta rap comes with pride, and this is apparent throughout the album whether he is discussing how he got to where he is today, or whether he is exposing these terrible issues to his readers.
Carmichael, Rodney. “Conflicted: Two Battles Illustrate How Hip-Hop Is Fueled By Competition,” NPR, 27 February 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2017/02/27/517487979/conflicted-two- battles-illustrate-how-hip-hop-is-fueled-by-competition
Ice Cube. “Ice Cube’s ‘Laugh Now, Cry Later’ Defied Ageism to Become His Most Overlooked Work,” The Boombox.Inter. Preezy. 7 June 2016. http://theboombox.com/ice-cubes-laugh-now-cry-later-defied-ageism-to-become- his-most-overlooked-work/
Phillips, Chuck. “The Uncivil War: The Battle Between the Establishment and Supporters of Rap Music Reopens Old Wounds of Race and Class,” Los Angeles Times, 19 June 1992. http://articles.latimes.com/1992-07-19/entertainment/ca- 4391_1_uncivil-war/2