According to historical records, Wikipedia and Instagram, Ice Cube’s debut, solo album, the indisputable classic, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, turns 30-years-old on May 16, 2020. For those of us (you) less mathematically inclined individuals, that means that the album was released on May 16, 1990.
On the heels of his departure from N.W.A. and without the producerial essence of Dr. Dre, the hip-hop world was curious what Ice Cube would be able to do. To say he delivered was a significant understatement. I don’t intend to do a retrospective of this seminal album; it’s a classic, rated thusly, by nearly every outlet upon its release. The only outlet that maligned it, reversed course years later and the only outlet that truly mattered for hip-hop at the time, The Source, gave it the vaunted 5 mic rating back when that meant something. Cube’s lyricism, storytelling, rage, vitriol for mixed with production from The Bomb Squad (the curators of Public Enemy’s albums), Ice Cube and Sir Jinx unleashed an album that banged, had a social message (and was understandably problematic in many, many places), that impacted from coast-to-coast.
In May 1990, I lived in a suburb of Frankfurt, Germany—my father was in the Army and stationed there—and coming to the end of my 5th grade year at Frankfurt Elementary School. I was 10, soon to turn 11. Because I lived in Germany, we often got albums and movies later than our friends and family stateside. The exact dates are fuzzy, but I vividly remember seeing this album in the PX (the post exchange, basically picture a really small Target on a military base) probably soon after returning to Frankfurt after summer vacation with my family in Michigan, Alabama and Georgia. For all intents and purposes, let’s assume that I was 11-years-old when I first heard this album.
So, I was 11-years-old when I first heard AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. I’m pretty sure I had no business listening to this album. It’s funny thinking back to how young I was when I first heard explicit and profane music because in my head I wasn’t that little, but I have an 11-year-old now and I can’t imagine her listening to this album, or even an album that I KNOW I had when it came out, DJ Quik’s Quick Is The Name, which came out in January 1991 and has one of the most vulgar opening songs of all time. I remember being on a bus trip to Belgium with a Christian-centric group called Club Beyond, ironically, and listening to “Sweet Black Pussy” and attempting to count the number of profanities in the song. I’m pretty sure we got up into the hundreds. I was probably 12 at that time. I can’t imagine my daughter listening to that song right now. I would clutch my pearls and I don’t own any. What was life?
[Sidenote: I’m also not so naive that I don’t think kids nowadays are listening to today’s version of such vulgar music. I also watch my daughter’s listening habits like a hawk.]
I know how I got a hold of Ice Cube’s album, too. My friend’s Aaron and Mike convinced their mother to buy the album for them. They told her that it was clean music. She was German and didn’t listen to their music and had no reason to believe that the language would be so abrasive. They dubbed me a copy of the tape and I was off the races.
Now that I think about it, when I’d go visit my mother during summers in Michigan, I remember one of my mother’s co-workers had kids my age and an older teenage daughter who would watch us during the day. That teenager introduced me to 2 Live Crew. I can remember, like it was yesterday, driving to Little Caesars to pick up some pizza and hearing “One and One” from the Move Somethin’ album with a group of white teenaged girls who seemed like adults to me at the time. That album came out in 1988 so I was 9 at the time.
Basically, the point I’m making is that I heard A LOT of music I had no business hearing well before I even hit my teen years. I’m slightly amazed that I not only listened to Ice Cube’s album debut album when I was 11, especially because I felt so much older than that, but that I also felt this shit in my bones enough for it (and Ice Cube) to have been one of my favorite rappers for the vast majority of my life. His album Death Certificate is my favorite, and I’m even amazed at my admiration for that because when it was released, I was 12. It is really amazing that at such a young age I could listen, internalize, process and not curse out my parents or anybody else. Maybe I’m not as impressionable as I think.
Either way, I just took nearly 800 words to tell you that I had no business listening to AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted as an 11-year-old, but somehow, that was my life.