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Westside Connection: Terrorist Threats

Album: Terrorist Threats
Label: Capitol

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Ice Cube revolutionized hip-hop with N.W.A, but by the time he joined forces with WC and Mack 10 for Bow Down, the 1996 debut of the chest-thumping West Coast supergroup Westside Connection, he was already on his way to becoming a Hollywood player and a hip-hop has-been. Eight years later, it's glaringly apparent that Cube's future lies in film rather than rap, and that his days as one of the genre's most important figures lie securely in his past. That makes it fortunate that he has WC and Mack 10 to carry the creative load on Westside Connection's second album, Terrorist Threats. The trio parties like it's 1994, spitting swaggering, retro-gangsta braggadocio over meat-and-potatoes G-funk courtesy of a small army of producers who clearly view The Chronic as an instruction manual. WC and Mack 10 have antithetical but complementary and equally effective styles. Lying back in the cut with a surplus of laconic cool, Mack 10's leisurely flow falls somewhere between shit-talking and rapping: He doesn't have to raise his voice to make himself heard. WC, in contrast, boasts one of the most animated deliveries this side of Busta Rhymes or E-40. His cartoonish vocals slip, slide, and C-walk all over bass-heavy tracks that beg to be blared out of car windows. Ice Cube, meanwhile, splits the difference, gruffly barking out gangsta clichés. Even in a subgenre that favors attitude and charisma over lyrical complexity or innovative rhyme schemes, Cube's lyrics stand out for their simplicity. At the beginning of "Don't Get Outta Pocket," for example, he raps, "We live in L.A., L.A. / We smokin' la la / Fuck with da da / You go bye bye / Nigga ha ha," sounding disturbingly like a thugged-out toddler. Commercially, the trio behind this fun but mercifully brief guilty pleasure might be considered "Ice Cube and two other guys," but creatively, it's more like "WC, Mack 10, and that guy who used to have something to say."