The Making of Ice Cube’s “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted”
In 1990 hip-hop ruled the world, at least that’s how it felt to us. For that glorious year Ice Cube’s solo debut Amerikkka’s Most Wanted was the apex of our existence. Bold, complex and crazy funky, the record immortalized a unique collaboration of East and West—bombastic Bomb Squad beats supporting Cube’s searing, raw vocals. Finding a dangerous groove where N.W.A crossed paths with Public Enemy, the album was as exciting as any we’d heard. Its power and influence holds up today.
1990 was the year we launched The Source as a real business in New York City, so there we were—driving down the West Side Highway, bumping the advance cassette, realizing how well-crafted it was, understanding that this brilliant album represented our future. Like Ice Cube, and like hip-hop itself, we were maturing into adulthood, moving forward to take on the real world. But thrilled as we were by the sounds, truth is we had no idea how the magic had happened.
Hip-hop albums always had backstories, the important ones passed on as urban legends and salacious whispers, but in a genre generally lacking liner notes, the stories were rarely official. Thankfully, the rich tapestry of hip-hop’s oral history has been diligently and lovingly documented by Brian Coleman, who uncovered the stories behind many classic albums, as told by the artists themselves, in his books Check The Technique and Rakim Told Me.
Cuepoint is proud to present an exclusive chapter from Mr. Coleman’s newest work Check the Technique Volume 2 (Wax Facts Press), revealing the full story behind Ice Cube & crew’s merger with Strong Island’s sonic masterminds. Here’s how a gangsta’s fairytale became a classic…
“I was making my solo move before a lot of people even realized that I was out of N.W.A. People were pretty surprised when they heard I was working on the record.” ~Ice Cube
“I have always tried to communicate rebellion, and you can’t convey that in a harmonious atmosphere. You have to create an atmosphere that is conducive for agitation.” ~Hank Shocklee
To say that 1989 was both an exciting and chaotic time in the world of rap music would be quite an understatement. Numerous groups throughout the 80s had pushed and pulled the hip-hop artform in different directions, bringing it from the streets of New York City to the world. It had morphed and moved from party-time music to drive-by music, and encompassed every sound and emotion in between. It never stopped moving.
In the same way that the truism “sex sells” works in advertising, you could say—then as now—that “chaos sells” in the world of rap. And as the “Me Decade” inhaled its last breath, music headlines rang out that two of hip-hop’s most popular, bombastic, and talented groups, Public Enemy and N.W.A, were showing signs of internal chaos and potential implosion. Fans buzzed as they waited for the latest updates.
In May of 1989, Public Enemy leader Chuck D expelled group member Professor Griff in the aftermath of anti-Semitic remarks made during an interview with the Washington Times. At the same time, the most infamous band in popular music, Los Angeles’ N.W.A, was slowly coming apart at the seams, with chief lyricist Ice Cube threatening to leave the group. (Producer and rapper Dr. Dre would soon follow.)
After more drama in both camps, later that year two incredibly talented forces of musical nature—Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad; and Ice Cube, with his homie Sir Jinx—came together in New York City to create the first classic hip-hop record of the 1990s: AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. And for all parties involved (including fans), it was nothing but wonderful, beautiful chaos.
Let’s begin with the colorful list of players involved: in the West Coast corner there was Ice Cube [O’Shea Jackson], 19-years-old in 1990; and Cube’s long-time associate, Sir Jinx [Anthony Wheaton], 18. From the East, there was the Bomb Squad: pater familias Hank Shocklee [James Henry Boxley III]; Chuck D [Carlton Ridenhour]; Eric “Vietnam” Sadler; and Keith Shocklee [Keith Boxley].
Cube and Jinx had worked together long before Cube’s N.W.A days, in two different groups: The Stereo Crew and C.I.A. The third member in both groups was K-Dee, aka Kid Disaster. Cube and Jinx first met when Jinx moved two doors down from Cube’s family in the mid-80s, on Van Wick Street, in South Central LA. “Me and K-Dee went to Taft High School in Woodland Hills. We got bused there,” Cube explains. “Jinx went to Washington High, which was right up the street from where we lived.”
“I started DJing before I had come to the area where Cube lived, in fourth or fifth grade,” Jinx says. “Then Cube got into rapping in eighth grade. We just wanted to be entertainers.” Cube recalls, “Jinx had DJ equipment and we was cool. But we wasn’t that close because I was trying to go out with his sister. So I was closer to her. Once I started rapping, we starting hanging out a lot more. He really showed me how to put the skills I had to the beat, and make it flow.”
After making demos in primitive studio situations, the Stereo Crew were actually signed to Epic Records in 1986, and put out one single: “She’s a Skag” [produced by Dr. Dre—Andre Young—and Alonzo “Lonzo” Williams]. At the time, Jinx—who is Dr. Dre’s cousin, five years his junior—rhymed alongside his two partners. They were managed by Lonzo, who also managed, and was a member of, Dre’s first group: the World Class Wreckin’ Cru.
“We didn’t like the label situation with the Stereo Crew,” says Cube, “But everything else to us was positive. We was getting a chance to hang out with Dr. Dre, and we learned with him. We were all trying to figure out what was gonna work.”
The group C.I.A. had the same lineup, but boasted a harder, naughtier edge. Jinx explains, “After the Stereo Crew, ‘La Di Da Di’ [by Doug E Fresh and Slick Rick aka M.C. Ricky D] was big in LA, so we started doing parody raps, with curses. [Run-DMC’s] ‘My Adidas’ became ‘My Rubber.’ ‘Pee Wee Herman’ [Author’s Note: Assuming he means either Joeski Love’s “Pee-Wee’s Dance” or MC Boob’s “Do The Fila And The Peewee Dance”] was ‘VD Sermon’ and [Salt-N-Pepa’s] ‘I’ll Take Your Man,’ became ‘I’ll Fuck Your Friend.’” Cube says, “With C.I.A., it was the same guys, but our content changed. We were starting to do harder music, finding our niche.”
“And then,” Cube adds, “Eazy started coming around.”
C.I.A., like the Stereo Crew, was short-lived. The group put out a three-song, Dre-produced single on Kru-Cut Records in 1987 (the Cru’ In Action! EP), which did have some regional impact. It could, in fact, be argued that the trio’s work led directly into the raunchy, provocative hurricane that N.W.A would soon become.
Local hustler and future rapper and music executive Eazy-E [Eric Wright] entered the picture as C.I.A. was enjoying its brief period of success, plucking Ice Cube for his writing abilities. Their first collaboration was the 1987 Eazy-E single “The Boyz-N-The-Hood,” which christened the Ruthless Records label.
“Boyz” was produced by Dr. Dre and was originally supposed to feature vocals by a group from Riverside, CA, called H.B.O. After that plan fell by the wayside, the tune was recorded with Eazy on vocals and – just like that – the N.W.A era was born. “N.W.A was an all-star group in a lot of ways,” Cube says. “After we started it, we couldn’t have really gone back to what we was doing before, with those previous groups.”
As N.W.A’s popularity continued to rise in 1987 and 1988, Cube became fully ensconced in the group. During this rise, truth be told, Sir Jinx as a rapper, DJ and producer was pushed to the side. Nevertheless, he remained in the mix. “I was on the road with N.W.A in 1988 and 1989, traveling everywhere with those guys,” Jinx says. “It was great. You want to know what I did? Every time you saw an N.W.A show back then, you saw yellow police tape across the front of the stage. That was my job! [laughs]. I knew where all those damn ribbons was, under the bus. I’d carry bags, set up turntables during soundcheck and put up tape. Then, a year later, once Cube came out, I was setting up my own tables for soundcheck.”
Aside from his N.W.A police-tape duties, during 1988 and ’89, Jinx had continued to build his skills as a DJ and producer, working out of a studio in Long Beach owned by Calvin Anderson. There he made demos with MCs including Dazzie Dee, Ice Cube’s cousin Del the Funky Homosapien and Tajai from Souls of Mischief.
By the fall of 1989, as the group was becoming one of the hottest groups in all of music, Cube became agitated with his standing in the N.W.A universe. He felt that group manager Jerry Heller and Eazy-E [who both owned an interest in the group’s label, Ruthless] were short-changing him on royalties, and he wasn’t planning on being quiet about it.
“When you catch someone with their hand in the cookie jar, they can do two things,” Cube explains. “They can say, ‘Yeah, you caught me, let me make it up to you.’ Or they can say, ‘My hand wasn’t in the cookie jar!’ And that [the latter] was their position. If they’d have come clean with me, then they would have had to come clean with everybody in N.W.A, so they took the stance that I was the outsider. I was forced out, in a way.”
He continues, “But I didn’t want to just be gone. I had made a name for myself in the group, so as long as I could get a record company behind me, I knew I’d have a shot. The key factor was Priority’s position [Author’s note: Priority Records distributed N.W.A’s smash 1988 album Straight Outta Compton]. Would they force me to stay in the group by not giving me a solo deal, and not letting me out of my contract? Or was they gonna roll with it and put out both records [the upcoming N.W.A EP, 100 Miles and Runnin’, and Cube’s solo debut]? Luckily, they was smart.”
But, Cube adds, his first choice was not to leave the group. He explains, “I had wanted to work it out with the group, it’s not like I just washed my hands of it and I was gone.” Still, relying on his old crew to help with his solo project wasn’t very likely. “When I left the group, I was still trying to get Dre to produce my album,” Cube recalls. “I didn’t have any hard feelings like that. It was a business decision when I left. But Jerry Heller stepped in and vetoed Dre working with me.”
This left Cube with a tough decision: now that his friend and producer Dre was off-limits, who could produce his solo album? “With N.W.A, we had toured with a lot of East Coast groups: De La Soul, Public Enemy, Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J. So I knew the hot producers,” Cube says. “We was all fans of the Bomb Squad, as you can tell by the samples that we used on Straight Outta Compton.” In addition to being a fan of Public Enemy on the music side, Ice Cube respected Chuck D’s outlook as an elder in the still-young hip-hop game.
Cube explains, “I initially called Chuck because I wanted his advice about me leaving the group. He was actually encouraging me to find a way to stay in N.W.A, because the group was so meaningful to so many people. At the time I never asked him if the Bomb Squad would do my record, I was just talking to him about what I should do next. I had also talked to Lyor Cohen and other people I knew, because if Priority was gonna front on me, I was gonna go to Def Jam.”
“The one thing I definitely remember from those days was trying to stay out of the middle of the N.W.A and Ice Cube beef,” Chuck remembers. “I had just had the Griff thing happen with my group and I had done shows with N.W.A in the summer of ‘89. I didn’t want to get in the middle of that group’s implosion. But Cube kept reaching out to me, he kept saying he wanted the Bomb Squad to at least do a couple tracks with him. He knew that even if Dre was able to do his record, he would keep getting his release date pushed back, because Dre was so busy.”
In January 1990, Cube traveled to New York to meet with Chuck’s first producer recommendation, Sam Sever [producer for 3rd Bass and other artists], at Def Jam’s offices. The meeting with Sever never transpired, but the trip wasn’t a loss. Chuck D happened to stop in the office that day, and invited Cube to a Public Enemy recording session that night at Greene Street Studios in Manhattan for their upcoming Fear Of A Black Planet album. The result of that session was the song “Burn Hollywood Burn,” featuring Big Daddy Kane. And, a last minute addition: Ice Cube.
“That was my foot in the door,”
According to Chuck, the story unfolded like so: “Cube went to Hank [Shocklee] and us and said that he had mentioned to Dre and Eazy that the Bomb Squad might produce his album. And when he did, Eazy had rolled his eyes, and Dre said, ‘Well, then you’ll barely go gold.’ When that was heard, we assembled.” Cube would not confirm or deny who from N.W.A said what. Although, he says, “I think Hank took that as a challenge. Like, ‘They laughin’ at us?!’”
“I was always a fan of N.W.A, but I had never met Cube before,” explains Hank Shocklee. “I remember getting a call at the studio, and the person on the line said he was Ice Cube. He wanted to come and talk to us about doing a record. At first, I didn’t believe it was him on the phone, honestly. And if it was him, I couldn’t believe that he wanted us to do a record. I figured if he was serious, he’d come out [to New York].”
Eric “Vietnam” Sadler recalls, “The first we ever paid attention to any of those West Coast guys was Eazy-E, his first stuff. Except for Darlene [the cover model for Ice-T’s early albums and singles on Sire]. But when Straight Outta Compton came out, I was like, ‘Whoa, this is some great stuff.’ I was definitely surprised when I heard that we might be working with Cube. At the time, though, I had no idea he had left N.W.A.”
“I was shocked that Cube did come out, but he did,” Hank continues. “And I said to him, ‘Before I work with you, I have to see what you’re all about, as an artist. I know your records with N.W.A, but I don’t know you as an artist or as a person.’ I have always believed in tailor-making music. When I first talked to him on the phone, I told him that I didn’t like to do pieces of records. It wouldn’t be worth bringing the Bomb Squad to the table unless we were doing a full album. He knew that from day one.”
Chuck says, “Before we started anything with that album, I told Cube to pick up a notebook and start writing ideas down. We talked about different theories I had, like never doing the same thing twice, and making sure you can back up anything you say. Cube was already there, I was just reassuring him that he was on the right track.” Cube remembers it similarly: “Chuck had me working in a notebook, making notes about what I wanted on the record. We had our antennas up.”
“We wanted to make something that had never been heard before,” Cube says.
Hank has memories of Cube’s notebooks as well, but different ones. “I realized this could be a really good project when Ice Cube showed me six or eight composition books full of rhymes,” he remembers. “And they weren’t the 90-page ones, they were 200 pages, filled up! That was what got me really excited. To me, that’s the mark of an artist—how much material can you bring to the table? I already knew we had an album’s worth, now we had to figure out how to condense it into something cohesive.”
Shocklee adds, “Doing a single artist can be a liability, because you only have a single voice, a single sound repeated over 10 tracks. So, how do you make that interesting to the listener? That’s where an artist’s imagination and material come into play.”
“We knew it had to be the best of both worlds,” Chuck explains. “Cube was the chief writer in N.W.A, so he had to deliver the gangster thing. But he was also going to have to deliver some things that made more sense. [N.W.A’s song] ‘A Bitch Iz A Bitch’ ain’t gonna work, you know? [laughs]. Just be believable. You don’t gotta become conscious overnight, but you also have to grow. And I definitely think he did that.”
Cube’s next move was now in place. To work on his debut, he would trade his sunny Los Angeles homeland for the cold streets of New York City in the dead of winter. Aside from warm socks and a sweater or three, he packed essential personnel: his old pal Sir Jinx, with Cube’s Lench Mob crew members J. Dee and T-Bone in tow for good measure.
“What I really remember is that when we got there, it was snowing and hella cold,” Jinx recalls, with a grin.
“Cube took me to New York to keep an eye on things,” Jinx continues. “I wasn’t there to produce no tracks, because we were thinking about producing other tracks [for the album] when we got back to LA. I was there just to document stuff—who did what, and who needed what credit. When we got to New York for that album, there was no real entourage. I had never been there before. We had an apartment in Manhattan, by the Hudson River.”
“Jinx was kinda in the wings on the N.W.A projects,” Cube admits. “He always felt like, ‘What is my role here?’ And me leaving N.W.A disrupted what Jinx was doing at the time. But there we were, back together, in New York, figuring things out. Jinx was a good producer, but we both needed more work to figure out how to put a whole record together, song by song. Jinx’s role was to hang and keep the record where it was supposed to be, as far as the West Coast influence. We had to make sure we stayed in our element. I would say that he was an overseer on that record, more than an executive producer.”
Arriving in New York in late January, Cube and Jinx didn’t go straight into Greene Street Studios, where final recordings would be done. Instead, they took a two-week trek to Public Enemy’s rehearsal space, pre-production studio and clubhouse at 510 South Franklin Street in Hempstead, NY. Strong Island. “We first went to the basement of that church,” Jinx recalls. “That’s where I first met Busta Rhymes, he was hanging out there.” [Author’s note: 510 South Franklin was actually a commercial building, not a church, with a dentist’s office in the basement].
“They had us come out to Long Island first, we stayed in a hotel out there,” Cube says. “We just sat there for four or five days before we even went to 510 South Franklin, because Public Enemy was doing shows. At 510, they basically had a warehouse full of records. They eventually showed us around and then said, ‘Go find your album.’ They told us to go find what records we wanted to use, and we’d go from there.”
Hank says, “When Cube arrived, he told me that he had come with the one-way ticket [laughs]! I had to applaud him for that. When he got in, I let him get up in 510 South Franklin and go through all my records. He stayed there for days. I wanted to feel where he was coming from, musically. He was into a lot of funk, stuff from the Steve Arrington era. Slave, Con Funk Shun. Mostly, though, he liked a lot of the underground funk, like Betty Davis. He liked a lot of slow stuff. I understood where he was at after that. Cube slept on the floor of 510 going through all those records. He had a hotel, but he was working around the clock.”
Cube says that this approach showed a marked difference from his work with Dr. Dre, right from the jump: “With Dre, it was like, ‘Here’s the sound, I’m gonna do this beat and we’re gonna like it together.’ [laughs] He’s open to ideas, but he’s gotta like ‘em. If he don’t like it, then it’s a bad idea. But with Bomb Squad it was like, ‘We can’t go to the real studio until we fill these two crates up with records that you like.’”
“As a producer, I manage from a different perspective,” Hank explains. “I want to make sure that artists are empowered. I tell people what I don’t want to hear, as opposed to enforcing the things I do want to hear. There has to be a give-and-take when you produce. You have to interact.”
“It took us a week or 10 days to listen to records and find stuff,” Cube says. “Loop that, sample this, listen to some of Jinx’s beats. After those two weeks in Long Island, Eric Sadler was putting ‘bottom beats’ together for us on an 8-Track.”
Sadler, the Bomb Squad’s true secret weapon and musician-in-residence [he plays guitar, bass and keyboards, in addition to being an excellent drum machine programmer], recalls: “Before they got to New York, Chuck had sent Cube a tape of 60 or 70 musical ideas I had put together. Not full songs, just grooves and rhythms. I told him to let Cube know that I wanted them to listen to those ideas, but also that I wanted us to all write together when they were here.”
Sadler also mentions that Cube and his Cali crew weren’t left all alone in Long Island upon their arrival—merely that Sadler was their initial Bomb Squad contact, and Cube wasn’t aware of his central role. He says, with a chuckle, “When I picked them up at the airport, Cube was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ He thought he’d only be working with Hank, Chuck and Terminator X on the album. He didn’t know that I did 99% of our music.”
After their pre-production was completed at 510, operations moved to Greene Street Studios in Manhattan. “Being in New York just gives you an attitude,” says Cube. “I was hanging around some of the most famous rappers of the day there: X-Clan came by and I heard songs from their first album before it came out. Flavor Flav would drop by every now and then. I was meeting hip-hop royalty.” I left N.W.A just when the group was getting embraced, so when people heard about me and the Bomb Squad they were just trying to imagine how crazy that was gonna sound.”
“It fueled anticipation of the record, but it also made us work harder, because we knew that people wanted to see how it would turn out,” Cube says.
As for the division of labor in the sessions, there are many sides to the story. The one indisputable fact is that the Bomb Squad couldn’t have been busier at the time. They were halfway done with recording Public Enemy’s third album, Fear Of A Black Planet; they were working on Cube’s debut; and also putting in production, mixing and remixing work on Bell Biv Devoe’s smash debut Poison [MCA Records, 1990].
Additionally, as Sadler recalls, “There was also some turmoil within the Bomb Squad at that time. Not everyone was talking to one another, although I was talking to everyone. It wasn’t the best time for us. But we always made sure that the work we had on our plate got done.”
“Vietnam would do the bottom beats, the rhythm,” Cube explains. “Keith and Hank would add onto that, like the salt and pepper, to season it. And Chuck would come in with the dessert, saying where we should scratch things in or put samples in different places. Chuck was the master of that. But everyone had their role and no one took credit that they didn’t deserve. I came in-between a lot of things they were doing and I think all the Bomb Squad guys contributed as much to my record as they would have for any Public Enemy record.”
Jinx claims that he and Sadler, along with Cube, did the yeoman’s work on the album, with Hank, Keith and Chuck there, but not as often. “I’m definitely not saying that Hank and them did nothin’,” he states. “But me and Eric put the foundation in. The other guys put in the windows of the house. I was at Greene Street all day, every day. Chuck was in the studio a lot, when he wasn’t on tour.”
“Eric’s job at the time was to be the nuts-and-bolts guy,” Shocklee explains. “He’s not the conceptual guy, he makes sure that the timing is right and those types of things. My thing is to zoom out and see what kind of picture I’m getting. If it wasn’t for Eric and Jinx executing, we would never have gotten that record done so quickly.”
Sadler adds to Hank’s assessment: “I was the chef, giving ingredients and saying what would and wouldn’t work, from a musical perspective. It always has to make musical sense, even if it’s dissonant. Otherwise, it’s just noise.”
“One thing I definitely remember is that I thought the music they picked from the original ideas I gave them, and also from 510 South Franklin, was some very strange shit,” Sadler says. “It wasn’t stuff that I thought was hot. So I was curious to see how we were going to make it all work.”
He adds, “When operations headed to Greene Street, which we locked down for four weeks, we had about 15 songs that we were thinking about.”
As a result of Hank and Chuck not being in the studio all the time, Jinx took advantage of some down-time and was able to spread his wings as a front-line producer for the first time. “Eric and Keith definitely listened to me with production ideas, and that’s something that Dre would never do,” he says. “Eric was kind of like me, he didn’t care about the fame. He cared about making things sound the best that they could. He made a lot of different sounds work.”
“I didn’t know that Jinx was there to enforce the West Coast sound aspect,” Hank says. “When Jinx arrived, it seemed like he was new to being in a studio environment. I knew he was Ice Cube’s guy and Cube was part of our family now, so it was great to have him with us there either way. Jinx was talented.”
“We couldn’t have done AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted without the Bomb Squad, but the record couldn’t have been finished without me,” Jinx adds. “Without me it would have been a much more East Coast record.” Hank disagrees slightly, explaining, “I wasn’t going to let that album go out if it didn’t sound like it could have come from the West Coast. That was in my mind from day one. To me, the artist’s viewpoint is always front-and-center. And that record would have been inauthentic if it sounded like it came from the streets of Queens or the Bronx.”
“We knew that Jinx and the Lench Mob were there to keep the West Coast feel, and we knew that the album couldn’t be straight New York,” Sadler adds. “It had to have LA in there, too. Jinx’s work was especially helpful to keep the Cali sound there. I loved working with him.”
And regarding J. Dee and T-Bone from Cube’s Lench Mob, who Sadler says were in New York for several weeks during pre-production and recording, he recalls: “Those motherfuckers were definitely pretty rough. They were the real deal, real gang-bangers. They’d sleep on the concrete floor, when there was an empty couch right next to them. I had never seen shit like that [laughs].”
“The Bomb Squad would generally only work from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., so sometimes you’d go to sleep, wake up and they’d just be there, still working on shit,” Cube says. “Like, ‘Who did all that? This is dope!’ All of those dudes was mad scientists to me. No one has ever been able to put samples together better than they did back then. It was just all these people around the album like bees, working on one thing. Living, breathing and growing.”
Sadler does remember one moment of conflict during the Greene Street sessions: “As we usually did, me and Keith would lay down the tracks and basic vocals, before Hank and Chuck would come in to deconstruct and re-assemble everything. And we worked pretty fast when we first got to Greene Street. We probably had 14 songs laid down in the first week. Then we were just waiting for Chuck and Hank to come in and do their thing.”
He continues, “But then Cube started to get mad. He wanted us to start finishing stuff. He really wanted to get his shit out as soon as possible, to beat Dre and them [N.W.A]. And he was yelling and cursing at us, even though we were just waiting for the next stage. So me and Keith and Jinx started finalizing more tracks than we usually would. Chuck and Hank started coming in more after that, so Cube stopped yelling at us [laughs].”
With all recordings completed in just over a month’s time, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted was a true triumph in bringing two coasts and six imaginative artists together for one purpose—to let Ice Cube express himself in his own words, with his own voice. It is interesting to note that despite understandable animosity between Cube and his old bandmates, there is not one anti-N.W.A dis on the album. Jinx says, “Me and Cube looked each other in the eye when we did the album and we said that it wasn’t going to have no reflection of N.W.A. We chose not to do a track like ‘No Vaseline’ [the harsh dis track from Cube’s 1991 Death Certificate], and that was beautiful. There was no dissin’. That would be almost impossible now.”
“I didn’t have ‘No Vaseline’ when we was recording the first album,” Cube says. “I never planned on dissin’ N.W.A, there’s no mention of them on the whole first record. I never even talked about dissing them, because I was happy. I had money, I was solo, and I just didn’t care.”
“That was the foundation of the record, for us at least,” Chuck recalls. “When things first started, we said that we wouldn’t have any of that [dissing other members of N.W.A]. We wanted to give Cube an open door to go back to N.W.A if he wanted. We just had all of that chaos with Griff, so I was very experienced with group beefs. After that album, Cube still could have come back to record with them. Even though, behind the scenes, that situation in 1990 was hotter than people knew.”
After the New York recording, mixing and mastering sessions were finalized in late winter—Shocklee says that everything was mixed before the LA crew departed—Cube and Jinx left to go out on tour. “We didn’t even go back to LA,” Jinx says. “Nobody in LA knew what that record was going to do. We were out on tour when it was released.”
AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted hit stores in May of 1990, and was certified gold in three months’ time. A year later, it would officially pass platinum status. Credit for most productions were shared by all six parties involved, with Jinx and Cube sharing co-production on tracks that were led by Bomb Squad, and vice-versa.
“Once I heard the album all finished, I was very confident about how it would do,” says Cube. “We had learned from Dre, who is the master, and we learned from the Bomb Squad. Chuck taught us how to put a record together from start to finish, how to keep it flowing. I knew we had a record that flowed all the way through and stayed interesting. The rhymes was right, and the beats was cutting edge. It was West Coast enough and it was East Coast enough. We just knew we had it.”
“As for East and West, I just wanted to make a great album,” Sadler explains. “I didn’t care about geography, I cared about textures, tempos and sequencing. After working on that album, I learned that Cube and Chuck were the exact same type of person, even though they were different in other ways. But their writing notebooks looked so similar. And they were both so professional. That especially shocked me about Cube, how ‘down to business’ he was. That’s how we were, but I figured he’d be coming into the studio with women and drinking 40s. It wasn’t like that at all. Plus, of course, I learned that he was a lyrical genius.”
“It was actually one of the last times that The Bomb Squad ever came together as a team,” Chuck says, looking back. “That record was all six of us, together. And the important thing was that in the end, Cube was the one who took it into the end zone. We were the foundation, but he built on that and finished it. It was the first step in the rest of his career.”
“I don’t think the East Coast and West Coast have ever been as glued [together] as they were on that album,” Chuck adds. “It tied us together. I really think that record also gave Dre the energy to go into that second or third gear as a producer, leading to [his 1992 solo debut] The Chronic.”
Eric Sadler states, “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted is one of the works that I’m proudest of. You always want something to turn out a certain way, but it rarely does. Cube’s record was about 98% of what I hoped it would be. It couldn’t have gotten much better. It was a joy to be part of it.”
“If Ice Cube didn’t have the material and the vision, I wouldn’t have done the record in the first place,” says Hank Shocklee. “But it was just a pleasure to work with someone who could hold his own. Cube didn’t have any confidence issues going in, but afterwards he knew he could now make a whole record, on his own. And Jinx now knew everything he needed to do to complete an entire product, too. To me, Cube was the underdog, and I always fight for the underdog. That was a challenge, and the fact that we were fighting for him helped form our bond, even though we were only there together for a short time. At that time, everybody was rapping, but only a select few were doing it at a higher level. Cube was young, but he was already there.”
When asked to rank the album against others in his catalog, Cube does not hesitate. “To me, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, that’s the best,” he says. “I woke up one day and that record was a phenomenon that you couldn’t get away from. It’s better than Straight Outta Compton, because that was a shock record. AmeriKKKa’s had more good songs than Compton did.”
Cube continues, “Puffy once told me that he studied AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted before doing Biggie’s first album, and to me that’s a major statement. It shows that AmeriKKKa’s was the blueprint for how records were put together for a long time after that, with the skits and the whole record being one thing. It all sounds like it was made on the same day. It set the tone for a lot of records to come, for probably 10 years after that.”
Here are some tales about the making of this classic, from robbing Son of Bazerk to getting jacked by Mister Rogers.
“Better Off Dead”
Ice Cube: Jinx helped put together so much stuff on the record, including the skits like “Better Off Dead.”
Hank Shocklee: It was important to me that the album had a glue to it. The most underrated part of that album was the skits. I’ve always made albums as mixtapes, starting with It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. Everything should just meld into each other, you can’t let anything die down. Once you’ve got listeners engaged, you want to keep them there. At the same time, skits are just that, they’re skits. And when they become too long, you’re gonna lose the listener. I get bored easily and I know that listeners do, too.
“The Nigga Ya Love To Hate”
Cube: That was originally supposed to be a song for N.W.A [Author’s note: He means lyrically, not the music, which was done by the Bomb Squad]. I felt like mainstream America hated us [N.W.A], like they thought we was the worst thing to come out to America since… Columbus! [laughs] And that fired us up, because it meant that we was being heard. That was the most important thing. I mean, rap is the blues, especially gangsta rap, because you’re hearing our pain, whether you agree with it or like it or not. You’re hearing what we’ve got to say. If not, then you’re voiceless, you’re not even a number to a lot of these… people in high places.
Eric Sadler: I wrote that music originally for a friend of mine named Howard Eady, who also went by “The Baanleader.” He was in bands with me and he was a singer, not a rapper. A James Brown type of cat. That one is a Steve Arrington thing [Author’s note: The song samples Arrington’s 1983 hit “Weak At The Knees”]. Howard got on the beat and had it for a while, just for himself. He didn’t release it. Then Cube heard it at 510 South Franklin and wanted it, so we gave it to him.
Hank: That was done after [the song] “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted,” they were both done early in the sessions. I’m a big Steve Arrington fan, so I loved that one. Back then, very few people would mess with Steve Arrington samples. Even on the West Coast back then, people had their list of people you should sample, and Steve wasn’t on there as much. The Bomb Squad would always take music that wasn’t typical, and make it fit within the genre. With Ice Cube, we got to use a lot of tracks that we wouldn’t use for Public Enemy because they were too melodic. We got to show people that we weren’t always just noisy.
Cube: We had different choruses for that song. One went, “Love, hate” and then other things in there. And we was trying to find stuff that we could scratch in. I thought about it for a long time, like a whole day. And then I came up with, “Fuck you, Ice Cube!,” like people were mad at us for doing hardcore rap. And everyone in the studio thought I was crazy, like, “How you gonna say ‘Fuck yourself’ on your own record?!” We talked about it for a long time and then Chuck said that it was dope, he liked it. So we did it.
Hank: I remember talking about the chorus. When I heard the final version, what it said and the way it was recorded, then I could feel how it worked with the song.
“AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted”
Cube: I stole that track from [Public Enemy extended family member] Son of Bazerk! Originally the Bomb Squad had just the beat, and we put everything else on top of it during the sessions: me, Jinx and Chuck. Chuck put a lot of the—you know—stuff, on top of it. All those beat changes, too. Chuck came in one day and just sliced that song up. When I first heard the beat I just loved it, and I was like, “When is Bazerk’s record coming out?” They didn’t know, so I told them I had to have it. I had been thinking about what the album title should be for a long time. I really liked that one a lot, and it was done pretty early in the album process. So it just grew on me.
Sir Jinx: That was the first single off the album, and me and Cube used to argue about it. I always said that “Once Upon A Time In The Projects” [the single’s B-side] sold that 12-inch, but he thought it was “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.” The single came out before the album. “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” was a Bomb Squad track, I didn’t have nothing to do with it. Maybe I synched up the vocals from the guy from home on there.
Sadler: Way before Cube got to New York, Son of Bazerk heard the music for that at 510 and wanted to use it. Bazerk recorded a version, then Cube heard it and wanted it. Basically, with us, it was whoever gets a deal first can use it [to release]. The Bazerk song did have vocals on it, it was done just as a demo at 510. Once Cube wanted it, I left it up to Hank. He was more the decision maker for stuff like that.
Hank: By the time we hit Greene Street, I knew that the body of work was there, I just needed two lead-off singles that people was gonna get into. At the same time, the album had to have an underground quality. Those two singles were “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” and “The Nigga Ya Love To Hate” [Author’s note: The latter was never released as a single]. They were the pillars; everything else was in the middle. And both of those were done pretty early on. After we finished “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted,” I knew we had something. If we can duplicate the vibration of that one nine more times, then we’re good. As I recall, the lyrics on there were from three different songs that Cube had. I wanted to make sure that they built in intensity. You should be hot at the beginning, but you should be super-hot at the end.
Chuck D: That was the first thing we worked on together. That and “The Nigga Ya Love To Hate.”
“What They Hittin’ Foe?”
Jinx: That one has live musicians on it. Al “Purple” Hayes [says his name in a fond, reminiscing way]. I think he was a New York guy, because the guy I used in LA was Hami Wave [Marquis Dair]. Hami worked on other stuff with us.
Sadler: I had played with [guitarist and bassist] Al Hayes since we were like 14 years old. He grew up listening to Hendrix and Ernie Isley, just like me. We used to play in bands together and Al would slide on his knees and play guitar behind his back, with his teeth. He was from Freeport, NY [Long Island], he grew up down the street from Flavor Flav. Al was my dude.
“You Can’t Fade Me”
Cube: Anything you hear with P-Funk in it, like there on the chorus, me and Jinx brought that in. I got a lot of heat for the lyrics on that one. I didn’t expect any of it, but it didn’t piss me off. I really just thought it was a dope rhyme, so I was cool taking the heat for it. A lot of people liked that track, so it wasn’t all bad. When it came to the “Kick her in the tummy” line, I didn’t do that to upset people, it was just part of the flow. I mean, men just got sick minds, man! [laughs] I’ve heard men say shit like, “That bitch pregnant, I feel like going and kickin’ in her god-damned stomach!” [laughs] It’s just real. Whether they’d do it or not, I doubt it. I’ve never seen nobody do it, but I’ve heard mo’fuckas talk about it. So, for me it wasn’t nothing to put it in a rhyme. I never had any paternity suits back then, fuck no. Man, come on. I mean, I listened to that rhyme called “Jimmy Hat”! [Boogie Down Productions’ “Jimmy”].
Hank: I really liked the way that one came out, musically. Music and vocals have to work together, so the tempo of that one wasn’t important. Once I heard the music and lyrics together, it made sense and really worked.
Sadler: When Cube and his crew arrived, I had just bought a portable DAT player and I just started recording their conversations. All day long, I would just record them. And that’s from one of those. It was important to get that aspect on the album, about how those guys talked and interacted with each other.
Hank: One important thing about the album was when Chuck went to LA and he brought back J. Dee with him. Those cats [in the Lench Mob] helped to bring the experience of the LA lifestyle to the record. Because none of us sound like we’re from LA.
Chuck: I remember editing one of the skits on the album, by one of the Lench Mob brothers who I won’t name. He was talking about something he jacked and he gave the actual street. So we had to take that out, because somebody could get yo ass if you put it on record! [laughs]
“Once Upon A Time In The Projects”
Jinx: That was the first song I produced for the record. Bomb Squad had nothing to do with that [Author’s note: The album’s liners credit Bomb Squad with co-production], the credit is wrong. There’s two sounds on that song—a loop, the bassline, and a guitar, maybe some drum stuff. But I did all that. Cube wrote the words to that one for Eazy, but the music was originally supposed to be for Tajai and Adam [Author’s note: Aside from Tajai, assuming he means Adam “A-Plus” Carter from Souls of Mischief]. They originally rapped on that beat. But when I went to New York, that one just worked for Cube. It was a free beat!
Cube: I can’t remember if I had originally written those lyrics thinking that Eazy would do them. Jinx looped the music for that one. He had the beat, and we did that one day when the Bomb Squad was tired. We just jumped in there and did it. When it came to storytelling, I liked Schoolly-D, and Just-Ice used to tell a lot of stories. Storytelling is always the most-clever form of rhyming. It’s rap at its finest, telling an interesting story. Heavy D, Too $hort, all those guys inspired me. Was any of the stuff in that song true? There’s always true experiences mixed in there, man. But nothing I’m gonna self-snitch about! [laughs]
Hank: That’s my third favorite track on the album. Jinx brought that one to the table and that was really perfect for Cube. That one was done about halfway through the recording. Musically I love it, that’s Betty Davis [“Shoo-B-Doop And Cop Him”], one of the classic underrated funk albums of all time. Back then, no one knew that record.
Sadler: That was Jinx’s song, 100%. We did help with the production on that one, maybe more than with other Jinx songs. That’s why we got co-production credit. But it was Jinx’s song for sure.
“Turn Off The Radio”
Cube: We was just fed up, because we wasn’t gettin’ no love on the radio. It ain’t like how it is now, they wasn’t playing no kinds of records with no kind of gangsta nothin’. It wasn’t until The Chronic that the mainstream media decided to jump on the bandwagon. MTV helped hip-hop more than radio did back then. But there’s always been a tug-of-war with artists and radio. We [N.W.A] never figured we’d get on MTV because at the time they was playin’ [Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s] “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” We never thought much about MTV either way. But radio could play us, and they were still our biggest nemesis in 1990. Then one day they started playing The Chronic and that made it better for what’s called Gangsta Rap. Before then [pauses, exhales], nothin’.
Jinx: Chuck D did that one. He took that on tour and would work on that in different studios, when he could. The radio voice guy on there also did “W-Balls” for Dogg Pound [Author’s note: “W-Balls” from Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle, from 1993], his name is Ricky Harris. He did all the stuff like that for Snoop. That dude got very popular for talking like that, so when Dre went over to Death Row, he had a job.
“Endangered Species (Tales From The Darkside)” featuring Chuck D
Cube: Jinx helped with the concept on that one. I like the Kill At Will [EP released on Priority Records, also 1990] version better, because it’s thicker. But the original there, that was my chance to do a PE kind of song with Chuck. The beat is damn near [pauses], you know, psychotic! [laughs] You know what I’m sayin’? With the feedback and all that shit. I remember putting all those sound effects on the end of the song, and Hank Shocklee running all that shit. For me, the original is more sentimental than the remix, because Chuck wasn’t there when we did the remix.
Chuck: Once we talked about the concept, that song just came into Cube’s head. My job on there was to co-sign and back things up that he believed in.
“A Gangsta’s Fairytale”
Sadler: That’s one of my favorites on the album. We had actually already recorded that with this group we worked with called True Mathematics. But they had done a pretty bad job on it, they stabbed it to death. I had put that music on the tape Chuck sent to Cube before he got to New York, but honestly I never thought he would pick it. It was too goofy. But Cube got on it and I was blown away. It’s always about the combination, music and lyrics.
Jinx: That one was just Eric Sadler. He had that beat and it was incredible. On that song, Mister Rogers tried to sue us! Here’s how you know who the true fans are—the first 200,000 copies of the album have a piece on the beginning of “A Gangsta’s Fairytale” that’s like Mister Rogers [Jinx sings a version of theme song with gangsta drawl… after “Won’t you be my neighbor?” he makes sounds of gunfire]. The second version just starts out with, “And now, in the black part of the city.” If you got the version with the dude singing Mister Rogers then it’s probably worth some money! Ultimately we had to pay Mister Rogers five cents a record, he got paid off of that. After the first 200,000, we took it off. That mean-ass man! [laughs]
Cube: We had that “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” thing in the beginning of the original. Did Mister Rogers sue us? Damn... [pauses, trying to remember] Actually, yeah, I remember. He told us we couldn’t use it, we took the song off the album and he sued us anyways. I think they made us give him damages because we mention his name one time.
Jinx: The reason that we made that album so fast was because Cube had written a lot of his raps already, some of them for Eazy. Half of the tracks on the album, I bet. That album has two colors: the Public Enemy color and the “pure nigga” color. The “pure nigga” shit was the Eazy-E type songs, like “Gangsta’s Fairytale.” Just listen to it, it sounds like the shit that Cube wrote for him. And the reason Cube wanted to do them on his record was so that Eazy wouldn’t put them out. He wanted to pull the rug out from all that.
Cube: Jinx helped me put together that track, as far as concepts go. The lyrics on that one were written initially for Eazy. N.W.A and Eazy never had them, I hadn’t given the lyrics to them. It’s not like I was trying to beat them to the punch or anything. They was just songs I was writin’ while I was still in N.W.A, for the second album. I wrote them while we was on tour in 1989. That little kid on there is one of Keith Shocklee’s girlfriends’ kids. We wanted to get a little bad-ass kid on there, so we brought him in to talk shit. Keith knew he’d be good. The kid wasn’t really that bad-ass, but he sounded like it.
Sadler: That song ended up being brilliant; it’s one of my favorites. I have to say, though, that it did cause me some grief later on. I dealt with a lot of record labels, and dealt with a lot of women at those labels. And some of them stopped talking to me because of the fact that I was involved with records like that one for Cube, and also Bell Biv Devoe. They were pissed. I had to take stock of what I was getting involved with, even if I was just doing the music. I mean, it’s not like I was saying the lyrics. But I rationalized it to myself as if it was a film. It’s just a story. Cube ain’t like that in real life. Overall, though, I was really happy with that song, I’d give it a 94 out of 100 if I was rating it. I do remember listening to the song at home while we were still working on it, after I had just gotten married. And after the part where the kid starts talking about “the kids,” my wife said, “Oh, you’re going to hell for that one!” [laughs] And I said, “Yeah, it kinda feels like that.” [laughs]
“I’m Only Out For One Thang” featuring Flavor Flav
Cube: I wanted to do a song with Flav, and that was one of the last songs we did. It was kinda like a throw-away track, we didn’t think we’d finish it because Flav was hard to track down. But we caught him one day, he was coming in to talk to Hank and Eric on his way to the airport. So I was like, “Flav, what’s up?! You said you was gonna jump on my shit!” So we put the track up and he was running late, so we knew we’d only have one take. When we messed up at the end, we just kept movin’. I had my lyrics written out, and his on there was just a rhyme that he had in his head.
Chuck: I always loved that one. That was where Flavor was at, and that was a place that Cube could get with, too [laughs]. That was definitely an interesting record.
Sadler: I love that one, with Flav. It’s quirky.
Hank: Here’s one thing that nobody seems to understand about Flav—he’s the hype guy, not a main artist. He can come up with something lyrically, but it’ll take him so long. Unless you force him, he’s not going to come to the table with something. That’s why it took him so long to get on that track with Cube. You don’t even understand how long it took us to even get the intros to Public Enemy songs! I don’t think Flav wrote anything out for that song. Cube wrote it out and Flav just said it.
Jinx: That’s one of my beats, it’s a pretty short song. That track was at the end of the recording sessions, we already had 10 great, locked-in-fo-sho tracks at that point, so that was a good one to break up some of the harder songs. Flavor came in for that after they was on tour. At the time, Flav and Griff weren’t getting along and Griff would be in the studio a lot, so that might be why Flavor wasn’t there too much. Flavor was really explosive as a talent, and he’s still like that. He was great to work with, he’s a musical genius. He plays like five different instruments. He actually used to live around the corner from me in LA. If you want to compare people that Cube collaborated with, Flavor wasn’t anything like Eazy-E. Eazy was a gangster, and Flavor was an entertainer. The stuff that people saw from Eazy-E on his records, that was actually the furthest end of his spectrum. Because he wasn’t a rapper or an entertainer, he was a hustler.
Jinx: Each of those in-between [skit] things was supposed to be a part of the album’s story, about why Cube was “America’s Most Wanted.” But the concept got too time-consuming. Those inserts aren’t easy to make—musical versions of visual stuff. We had three of those planned, but “The Drive By” was the only one we used on that album. My voice is on there, but we had to limit a lot of the ad-libs by Eric because he sounded like he was from New York. It was an LA album! You can’t jump out of a 6–4 and yell, “Shoot them niggas, yo!” That don’t work, it made us cringe a bit. So we had to play down his voice.
Sadler: I had no clue what to say on that type of thing [laughs]! That’s why those guys had to step in. I didn’t even know what they were talkin’ about.
Hank: I thought that skit was funny more than anything else. And the production made you feel like you was in it.
Cube: There were other skits we did that didn’t make the album. As I learned from Chuck, it’s all about the flow. If a skit or anything else disrupts the flow, then take it out.
“Rollin’ Wit The Lench Mob”
Cube: We were coming together at that point, and we needed a crew to make it all work. We wanted to give an identity to the new people I was with. People from my neighborhood, not from Compton. I come from South Central and I was always with all these dudes from Compton in N.W.A. So this was a chance for me to put together my own clique of people I hung around with—T-Bone, J. Dee, Shorty. T-Bone came to New York for a couple days when we was recording, but the other dudes didn’t have no money. I came back to LA two times, during weekends, and we’d get a studio out here and do those little parts, like “JD’s Gafflin’.” Then we got back to New York and just put it into the tracks.
Jinx: We didn’t bring no hype man with us to New York, so basically Cube and Chuck flew to LA one weekend and told J. Dee, T-Bone, Shorty and Robin Harris to do some fills on the album, vocal stuff to use in the background. If you listen close, you can hear that none of those are on-beat, because they didn’t do them with the tracks themselves. I still have the tape with all of those vocal parts on there. My job was to put them in the right places.
“Who’s The Mack?”
Jinx: When I first got to New York, that was one of the tracks I ended up doing. That was really one of the Bomb Squad’s songs. But the other guys would get sleepy and leave. Me and Eric are the same, we’re techies. I was excited, I was young and there was a 24-track in front of me. That was the second single off the album. Me and Eric Sadler knocked that one out. I slid that Marvin Gaye on there and there was more live playing on that track, guys from New York. Son of Bazerk is on there, too, I used to just love his fuckin’ voice! If people don’t remember, Bazerk was the original rapper in Public Enemy, when Chuck was still on the radio and Terminator X was just Norm. Bazerk would come to the studio and his voice was so deep, I had to get him on that track.
Sadler: That song was really an idea of Hank’s, then Jinx gave it the feel. But I would say it was more Hank, Keith and Jinx than me. The live flute on there was those guys’ idea. I had some issues with that song, it was a bit clunky, musically. It took a lot of work, but Jinx had the feel on it. We used this piece of equipment called a Publison Infernal Machine 90 to get everything in the right key. It made it so that you could change the speed of a sample, but not the pitch. It would have been a lot easier to do that kind of thing today, with the latest technology, that’s for sure!
Cube: Jinx helped build that track. We wanted to do one of those cool, laid-back kinda songs. Do some storytelling, some preachin’ about what’s going on. Basically trying to make an analogy for a mack as a pimp or a mack as somebody who can get you to do what they want you to do. Just trying to break it down like that. And that beat was just dope. If you remember, Chuck did that Sly & The Family Stone thing on Fear Of A Black Planet [Author’s note: Assuming he means either “Reggie Jax” or “Polywannacracka”] so it was kinda like that, an experimental kind of flavor.
“It’s A Man’s World” featuring Yo-Yo
Cube: Jinx did that track. We were shopping Yo-Yo’s deal before we recorded AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. We had put a demo on her together, just songs we had done in my bedroom with Jinx. But “It’s A Man’s World” was definitely her coming-out party. I don’t think that track was on the original demo we did, although initially we were planning on putting it on her record. She wasn’t signed at that point, but it was getting close. We felt it was good to bring her out attacking me, because I had done “I Ain’t The One” [on Straight Outta Compton] and that was big for me. It was cool to have a girl come back at me. People always liked that song when we did it in our live show. I didn’t mind what she was saying in there at all, I was glad that female fans liked it. I told her to approach it that way, like, “It is a man’s world, you bitches is in the way.” [laughs] And she was like, “What? Aiight…” and that’s all I needed to do. She went to high school with Jinx and we used to go over to their school and rap all the time, on the quad. Jinx would be like, “There are some motherfuckers over here that you guys gotta rap against!” So we’d get our rhymes together and head over.
Jinx: Me and Yo-Yo was rivals, we went to the same high school—Washington High in South Central. That song was supposed to be on Yo-Yo’s album, but we couldn’t come up with anything better for Cube’s record, so we snatched it and put it on Cube’s. Yo-Yo’s record [Make Way For The Motherlode, Atlantic Records, 1991] came out a little while after Cube’s. With the music on there and all the changes, I just love it when music drops out, when you go through a complete roller coaster in three or four minutes. There were so many elements on that song. I made that music because I loved Soul II Soul. That’s how long I had that beat! The DJ on that one at the end was probably Chilly Chill [Derrick Baker]. He lived in Inglewood.
Hank: Yo-Yo came out to New York to cut the vocals on that. I really liked that song, it was something that Cube wanted to do. That was more his creation. Everybody Cube brought in was great, we all got along and they all gave us respect.
Chuck: I always really liked that song.
Cube: Jinx did that track.
Jinx: I produced that one, DJ Chilly Chill did almost all of that beat. He was one of my apprentices and I told him to do one for the album, although he thought Cube would get mad. I was actually supposed to rap on that, but I chose not to. I didn’t want to write to a song that fast. I always told people that Chilly produced it, but that’s just how they did the credits [Author’s note: The album credits do not list Chilly]. There’s a lot of stuff that people didn’t get credit for in that situation, and I think a lot of that was [Ice Cube’s manager at the time] Pat Charbonnet. She was smart as a motherfucker, but she wasn’t smart for me.
Extra Credit: “Kill At Will” EP
Cube: By the time we got to that EP—after learning from Dre and the Bomb Squad—me and Jinx was like, “We got this, we know what we’re doing.” We did it ourselves, without any help from anyone. EPs were just sellin’ back then. That came after an EP that N.W.A did [100 Miles And Runnin’, 1990]. We had some of those songs left over, songs with longer versions, and we just threw together an EP. Priority was beggin’ us to come back out again, and quick. So we figured it out. We didn’t have anything to prove, we just did it because we could. We knew that “The Product” and “Dead Homiez” were hits. We did all those tracks after AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted was done.
Jinx: That was just supposed to be our remixes, because we already had “Jackin’ For Beats.” So “Jackin’” had to have some friends. I just stayed in the studio on my own to do all of those remixes. And ultimately, I didn’t even get paid for doing those.
Sadler: I have to be honest, at the time I wasn’t really happy with O’Shea [Ice Cube]. I figured that we would also be doing their next album. I was a little bit hurt, because I think we did a great job on AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. But I knew that it came down to money with Cube, and if they did it themselves they could keep more of it. But I kind of turned Kill At Will off in my mind at the time.
“Jackin’ For Beats”
Cube: That was after AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted was done. I had thought of that concept, because at the time so many dope beats had come out. I just wanted to rap over all that shit. Chilly Chill was there when I was thinkin’ about it, in our demo studio, and he started helping me put it together. But Jinx helped him pop the song off, when we got to the big studio. He helped him with all the hooks and stuff. We had all the tracks, the beats, but we didn’t know how the hooks would go. I chose all those tracks to use. I’m not going off on anyone in that song, I just want their beats! I mean, I use a Public Enemy beat in there. D-Nice’s beat was dope! X-Clan and EPMD, too.
Jinx: Cube didn’t always give too much input on production, but he made up the concept for that song. Cube came up with that idea, and me and Chilly made it happen. After we got off tour, we started remixing the records. That new song and the longer version of “Endangered Species” were the beginning of Kill At Will. At the time, I was trying to make up a DJ crew, and one of those guys was Chilly Chill. I wanted a trick DJ to go on the road with Yo-Yo, and Chill knew how to do beats as well. When I went into the studio to do “The Product,” I had Chilly put together “Jackin’.” He did it mix-tape style, but in the end we put it together the right way. Chilly Chill became Yo-Yo’s DJ, he’s the dude standing with his back to the camera on the inside of Make Way For The Motherlode.
Cube: One of the homies in my neighborhood had got killed – a guy named T-Bone. Not the one from Lench Mob. T-Bone from Lench Mob was from another ‘hood, but he went to school with me. With the one who got killed, I was feeling real bad about it, because I was friends with his younger brother, Little T-Bone. It really messed me up, so I wrote the song that night. That song was easy to write just because it was so personal. I think I wrote it in about 90 minutes. I was already writin’ when I heard about his death, so I put what I had been writin’ down and went into that one.
Jinx: It’s not credited on the EP, but I did the music for that track. T-Bone [from Lench Mob] gave me the idea for the loop.
Excerpted from Check The Technique Volume 2: More Liner Notes for Hip-hop Junkies by Brian Coleman. Copyright © 2014 by Brian Coleman. First American Edition 2014. With permission of the publisher, Wax Facts Press. All rights reserved.
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