Immediately following Kanye West’s heavy-handed headlining set at Bonnaroo on Friday night (June 13), Ice Cube provided a blast of unadulterated coolness with an hour-long set of old-school cuts and playful chest-thumping from the West Coast veteran.
Early on, Ice Cube acknowledged that, in 2014, he’s not known as well for his hip-hop joints as he is for his other ventures. “For all those who think I’m only about movies now!” snarled the “Ride Along” star. “For all those who think I’m only about selling Coors! … We got a little something for you.” The DJ dropped “Check Yo Self,” the first of many early 90’s hits from the rapper who helped define that era of the genre.
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With inflatable hands flanking the stage and flashing the West Side sign to the late-night audience, Ice Cube tore through “Natural Born Killaz,” “You Can Do It,” “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” and “Go To Church,” the G-funk wafting across the Bonnaroo field and pulling in stragglers making their way from Kanye West’s performance. In a touching tribute to deceased West Side legend Nate Dogg, who Cube called a “fallen hero of mine,” the rapper did a call-and-response version of Nate’s “The Next Episode” lyrics before tearing into Westside Connection’s “Gangsta Nation.” “Drop Girl,” his new single featuring 2 Chainz and Redfoo, also entertained when unfurled live.
“It Was a Good Day” naturally dazzled toward the conclusion of the performance, but it was a medley of 80’s hits by various rap titans — LL Cool J, Rakim, Run-DMC — that got the audience moving most vigorously. When Ice Cube punctuated the retrospective with N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton,” a video screen behind him showed the young rapper prowling the streets in the music video, spitting each line with measured intensity. Ice Cube may still be better-known for his filmography — a new movie of his, “22 Jump Street,” was released the same day of his Bonnaroo performance! — than for his recent music, but he demonstrated that his magnetic presence on the mic has not wavered since the “Straight Outta Compton” days.