In addition to being a great actor and filmmaker, Ice Cube is a legendary figure in West Coast hip hop who helped popularize the gangsta rap genre and never shied away from criticism for being honest in his songs. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be looking only at tracks he released as part of his solo career, so don’t get mad when N.W.A. hits aren’t on here.
That out of the way, here are the 15 best songs Ice Cube ever recorded.
1. It Was A Good Day
It Was A Good Day was released from Ice Cube’s The Predator album in 1993 and became his highest-charting single on the Hot 100 at the time of release. It wound up peaking at number seven on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and rose to number 15 on the Hot 100. VH1 named it on their list of the Greatest Songs of the 90s, placing it at number 77 and Rolling Stone ranked it as the 36th best rap song of all time.
Upon release, this was universally acclaimed by critics and fans alike, remaining to this day as not only one of the best songs Ice Cube ever put out as a solo artist but one of the best rap tracks of all time.
2. Check Yo Self
Check Yo Self has several versions, from a censored and shortened radio edit to official remixes that later appeared on Ice Cube’s Greatest Hits album. The music video uses the remixed version, using almost every scene to play out the song lyrics and continuing exactly where the video for It Was A Good Day left off.
When all was said and done, this had reached number one on both the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Rap Songs charts, peaking at number 20 on the Hot 100.
3. Dead Homiez
A common stereotype would be pouring out a bit of liquor for your homies that have already passed on as a way to remember them. This was Ice Cube’s version of that, inspired by one of his neighborhood friends that had been killed.
It was the second single to come from his extended play Kill At Will; it was an unexpected take on the gangsta rap genre that showed grief rather than glory in the violence.
4. Why We Thugs
One of Ice Cube’s later released, Why We Thugs originally appeared on his seventh studio album Laugh Now, Cry Later in 2006. It marked his return from the silver screen to the recording studio, digging into the rapper’s issues with the government and his belief that the hood is stuck where it is because they’re being held down by them.
5. Steady Mobbin’
Going back to his start, Steady Mobbin’ was released on Ice Cube’s Death Certificate album and was the A-side to No Vaseline, in which he disses all of N.W.A. It was the first single to be released from the album, eventually climbing to number three on the Hot Rap Songs chart and number 30 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
It’s an honest description of a day in the hood according to him, with other artists like Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane picking up the “steady mobbing” quote for their own work.
6. You Know How We Do It
You Know How We Do It is the perfect example of an incredible gangsta funk song. It was released as the second single from his fourth studio album Lethal Injection in 1994, scoring a Hot 100 hit by reaching number 30.
As a whole, the album didn’t perform well, but this one song was hailed as a West Coast classic and stood head and shoulders above the rest of the album. You can hear it featured in the 1993 movie Surf Ninjas and the video games Grand Theft Auto V and Sonic The Hedgehog 2.
7. No Vaseline
Ice Cube didn’t exactly end things with N.W.A. on the best of terms. After putting up with disses aimed at him from the group, he decided to return fire with No Vaseline, producing one of the greatest diss songs of all time by taking each member down individually.
It’s one of the most vicious tracks ever laid down and universally known as one of the greatest rap songs of all time, with some even believing it’s partially responsible for N.W.A. dissolving.
8. Color Blind
Ice Cube used his platform quite often to point out social issues and his music truly helped bring them to light for much of the world that wasn’t aware of them. Color Blind is, for some reason, one of the most underrated tracks on the Death Certificate album, delving into the reality of gang violence with the colors in the title referring to the colors used to represent different gangs.
9. Once Upon A Time In The Projects
Old-school gangsta rap had a storytelling element to it that has gotten a bit lost in modern hip hop hits. It was the first song produced for AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, relaying the time he went to pick up his girl and realized he was meeting her at the neighborhood dope house.
One of the purest forms of rap, Once Upon A Time In The Projects helped make Ice Cube’s debut album one of the all-time classics.
10. True To The Game
True To The Game was Ice Cube’s promise to never stray from his gangsta rap roots and betray the streets the way many other celebrities did. It was a condemnation of the people who sell out to white communities, crossing over into pop or other genres, moving away from the hardcore sound that helped them gain their fame.
The music video for it was great, featuring him kidnapping other artists for their sins, creating one of his most vehement statements to date.
11. Jackin’ For Beats
Jackin’ For Beats was relegated to an extended play instead of an album because of the ridiculous amount of copyright issues it would have posed on a major release. A feature of Kill At Will, it was a huge remix of Ice Cube’s songs from AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted rapped over other artists’ beats.
In total, he pulls beats from seven other tracks by LL Cool J, Public Enemy, James Brown, and others. Stealing beats isn’t a new thing in the music world, but he did it more as an ode to the idea of stealing them, and because of how much he loved the songs, producing a truly great track in the process.
12. Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It
Ice Cube was used to people blaming gangsta rap for societal ills, especially after what he went through as a part of N.W.A. and saw happening around him. It’s obviously a facetious song, with him making fun of all the people who think gangsta rap is the reason for people’s actions or that it’s something bad for society or those who pretend the world was rainbows and butterflies before gangsta rap came on the scene.
The music video was a little too much for some people, but after all the persecution, I would argue that the things it pointed out, and the way it did so, were rather deserved.
13. You Can’t Fade Me
One thing that appears pretty often in Ice Cube’s songs is the importance of condoms. In You Can’t Fade Me, it retells the story of him dealing with a neighborhood girl who claims he impregnated her, fitting right in among his other blunt gangsta rap singles. It expresses a lot of fears but uses them as a lesson for others so they may not have to go through the same thing the singer in the track did.
The first song released from The Predator, Wicked was Ice Cube’s first-ever single to break into the Hot 100, reaching number 55. A classic in hip hop circles, the track has had such a wide influence that it’s been covered by artists well outside the genre such as Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Calla Destra. In the US, the song was certified gold by the RIAA and was an instant hit when it reached the top of the Hot Rap Songs chart.
Ice Cube made his film debut in the early 90s, putting his music career on hold to work as an actor and scriptwriter. He was instrumental in the movie Friday, co-writing the movie and co-starring in it alongside Chris Tucker. Believe me when I say this, this film was one of the funniest movies made in the 90s.
His song Friday was a feature on the soundtrack of the film, but a few lines saw beef start between him and Cypress Hill as they claimed he stole the words for “throw your neighborhood in the air.”
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.