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Ice Cube stares down life in prison or suicide in “My Summer Vacation” 

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week: For Breaking Bad week, we talk about our favorite songs about troubles with the law.

“I’ma end it like this, ’cause you know what’s up: My life is fucked.” So goes the end of Ice Cube’s “My Summer Vacation,” implying its protagonist is choosing suicide over spending the rest of his life in jail. What kind of “summer vacation” ends with a choice between certain jail time and suicide? The kind that involves a drug war erupting in East St. Louis.

Ice Cube and his crack-slinging crew relocate to the Midwest after their normal spot in South Central gets too hot, with “police lookin’ at niggas through a microscope.” Better to move somewhere the cops aren’t wise to their look or habits, and the local competition goes down easily in a hail of gunfire. Shortly after arriving, the South Central ex-pats have outdone themselves: “And it’s better than slingin’ in the Valley / Triple the profit, makin’ more than I did in Cali.” 

But it doesn’t take long for the locals to adjust. At the 2:16 mark, the beat drops out, and it’s just Cube’s voice: “My homey got shot / He’s a goner, black / St. Louis niggas want they corner back.” The cops, who never had to deal with drive-bys and warring drug gangs before, clamp down hard, busting into Cube’s place at 6 a.m., sending him to jail in his “motherfuckin’ draws.” 

Stuck in an unfamiliar land with no support system, and those triple profits apparently unavailable to fund a scheming lawyer like The Wire’s Maurice Levy, Cube faces nearly six decades in prison (or a “double-life plea bargain”), with “no parole or probation,” “no chance for rehabilitation ’cause look at the motherfuckin’ years that I’m facin’.” The only way out? By his own hand. Now this is a young man’s summer vacation.