Say what you want, Ice Cube is one of rap's pioneer's and definitely one of the best rappers, period. Forget all the sub-genres of rap - Ice Cube is the personification of true rap. His flow, his phrasing, and his lyrics are "ill". Anybody who wants to hear what straight-up rap is supposed to sound like, buy this album or Cube's previous album, LAUGH NOW, CRY LATER. Ice is relevant, despite any accusations made that the "original gangsta" sold out after his family-friendly movies. He is still a gangster - RAW FOOTAGE is the proof of this.
The album opens up with the quirky "What is A Pyroclastic Flow" (an interlude) that makes you wonder where Cube is going to take this thing. We later find that Cube references "Pyroclastic Flow" throughout the album. But really, did Cube have to prove to us his flow is "sick"? Nope, the "proof is in the pudding", as they say. Official opening track "I Got My Locs On" features none other than the second most featured rapper of 2008 (besides Weezy), Young Jeezy. "I Got My Locs On" is a great opener, though even stronger material shows up following it. "It Takes A Nation" is certainly one of RAW FOOTAGE's strongest number, in which Cube confidently states "there are seven known wonders of the world/you're about to witness the eighth motherf*****". Throughout this seminal track, Cube spits nothing but "ether" , as Diddy would say. It clearly shows that ARE WE THERE YET? didn't strip O'Shea Jackson of any of his "gangster-ism". One of the most creative lines might just be when Cube references being on an independent label and in essence, he doesn't care whether this album sells or not. If it doesn't, it is a shame.
"Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It" again showcases Cube's "pyroclastic flow". Cube talks real talk about gangsta rap and justifies the fact that he can say/do whatever the [bleep] he wants. It is a free country. "Hood Mentality" keeps the pace going in which Cube talks about well, having a "hood mentality", but not being "the hood". Call it whatever you want, it is another winning cut from RAW FOOTAGE. "Why Me" features neo-soul standout Musiq Soulchild, at his best as always. The production work continues an incredible strong streak, as does Cube. Real hip-hop ladies and gentlemen. It makes you wonder if Erykah Badu was so off when she compared hip-hop to religion on 2008's "The Healer/Hip-Hop" ("it's bigger than religion hip-hop..."). "Cold Places" is one of my personal favorites, if for nothing else but the sick production work. Aside from the killer beat and undeniably sick synths, Cube's flow is unparalleled here. Cube truly proves he is the embodiment of hip-hop. He is gangsta-rap. What he shows more importantly is that these "studio rappers" don't know anything about "gangsta rap", which he also quotes in his track, "Thank God".
"Jack N The Box", "Do Your Thang", "Thank God", and "Here He Come" (featuring Doughboy) are all top notch. "Thank God" maybe one of the catchiest of the album in which Cube asserts "Thank God the Gangsta's back... and we ain't got to put up with this brainless rap...". Valid? Very. Furthermore, the introduction to "Thank God" makes you reminisce of the days that Ice Cube was one of the most politically/socially charged rappers out there. Agree or disagree, Cube's message is really powerful. "Thank God" might just be my favorite from RAW FOOTAGE. "Get Money, Spend Money" isn't a miss, but it doesn't stand up as strong as the very best. "Get Use To It" features more extraodinary production (Nas could take a tip from Cube about strong production work). "Tommorow" showcases some of the best hip-hop production I've heard in sometime. Independent or not, this album sounds like it could've been produced by major-label producers. "Tommorow" may not shine as brightly as say "Jack N The Box" or "Thank God", but it certainly shines brighter than most of the tracks by most other rappers in 2008. "Stand Tall" features throwback, retro-soul production. Shouldn't Ice Cube sound soft with such a backdrop? Of course not - the clash between the soft texture of the production and the hard-laced Cube plays exceptional well, contrasting wonderfully. "Take Me Away" featuring Butch Cassidy finds Cube referencing his influential hit "Today Was Good Day", which is awesome.
While some of the sheen of RAW FOOTAGE has worn off by this track (track 16), Cube has done more than enough to earn his honors of 4 stars from me. Personally, I'd love to see this album get a Grammy Nomination. However, the west Coast has been ignored by The Grammys in the past. Maybe, this year is the year. Superb album.