Normally when a non-studio Ice Cube album is released, there is a theme to the album that justifies spending the money to purchase it. "Bootlegs & B-Sides" was full of (then) unreleased remixes & extra songs not available on his albums, "Featuring Ice Cube" was full of his famous & best collaborations at that time, "Greatest Hits" & "Best Of Westside Connection" explains themselves, and "In The Movies" was songs that were featured in hit movies or various soundtracks. However, that's not the case here with "The Essentials" as you would think this is "part two" of his previous "Greatest Hits" album (similar to how Tupac Ressurection was) but these are just randon Ice Cube songs from his past albums put together with the only thing special here is a live performance audio track of "Why We Thugs/Smoke Some Weed" from his "Laugh Now, Cry Later" album. Various tracks from his previous "themed" albums are also released once again on this such as Today Was A Good Day (Greatest Hits), Ghetto Vet & Wrong N' To F' With (In The Movies). While some tracks on here are legendary Ice Cube songs (like "Dead Homies" & the original versions of "Check Yo Self" & "What Can I Do?"), most of these tracks aren't "essential" than the other songs that have been more important to Cube's career that have still yet to make their way to a "best of" album such as "Who's The Mack?", "True To The Game", "Wicked", "Really Doe" and a personal favorite of mine that is heavily slept on in "Until We Rich" with Krayzie Bone. Don't get me wrong, these aren't Cube's worst songs as they are good but I can't say with a straight face that these songs were "essential" when it came to the success of Ice Cube's career & were better choices than the songs they left off.
I recommended "Greatest Hits" for those who only knew & wanted Ice Cube's famous chart topping hits...I recommended "Best Of Westside Connection" for that same reason but also for those who wanted all (except one) of their collaborations together that weren't on the two group albums...I recommended "In The Movies" for those who wanted to get their hands on Ice Cube songs from rare & out of print soundtracks...however, I just can't recommend "The Essentials" for any of those same reasons. I can only recommend it for people who don't have enough money or don't want to take the time to go & buy Ice Cube's studio albums that have these same songs along with others that were better quality in production, lyricism, getting his message across, and were just bigger hits that were left off his previous "Greatest Hits" album that "The Essentials" decided to leave out in favor of just random songs. Again, I can only recommend this if you don't have the money or time to get all of Ice Cube's previous solo albums.