Who's Got Bars

Ice Cube vs. Dr. Dre – “Issues” – Who Got Bars?

dr. dre ice cube

On August 7th of 2015, Dr. Dre broke his fifteen year silence and released his first album since 2000’s Chronic 2001 which was appropriately titled Comtpon: A Soundtrack. Giving only a week’s notice as to the release of his at the time upcoming third, and reportedly final, LP the highest grossing producer in Rap gave us arguably the best album of the year.

With the exception of the oddly conventional and rather mainstream second track, “Talk About It” (hindered by routine guest spots from King Mez and Justus), the rest of the massive LP was near flawless in production (no one does it, as the good doctor himself said in the original Chronic album from 1992, like “the mighty, mighty D-R”), real aggressive emceeing and the placement of the songs and how it built a bridge to the 90’s when Gangsta Rap (and doc’s wonderful G-Funk sound) was commonplace will undoubtedly take you back in time. With turns from Eminem on “Medicine Man”, X-Zibit swinging with incredibly verbose force on “Loose Canons” and three ear-perking spots from Kendrick Lamar throughout, we look with mounting anticipation forward to the approaching release of the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton ( directed by F. Gary Gray) at another note-worthy pairing from two of the five original members of the band (this is pre- 1988 before MC Ren joined) that inspired Gray’s upcoming film: Ice Cube and Dr. Dre.

The song is the eighth track from Compton: A Soundtrack and is titled: “Issues”. Included below are both verses from the track (Anderson Paak is included in the song, and gives a nice spoken word-like intro and Dem Joints provides a catchy hook, but is thrown out of the ring for using “Come on” far too many times).

Let’s see who got bars! First up, is Ice Cube…

(Verse 1)
Fuckboys should tighten up a whole lot
I got some niggas with me down for runnin’ up in your spot
And these niggas got hatchets and ratchets
Some of them lethals up under the mattress
And matter of fact this is a chance to show my lifestyle out to the masses
But chances are I might get another negative reaction
Think I’m a fraction, but I fucks ’em up like battery acid
I gives a fuck what you think, nigga? This is my passion
Survive through the time, you know my name, you know my reputation
You know what it is, I don’t need to give no explanation
When you say my fuckin‘ name, add exclamation
Los Angeles king now, make your bitch bring crowns
To me and Dre, you don’t like it, you can lay
Think I’m quiet cause I’m actin’, but my bank account gon’ say
Fuck you! Respected from SoCal out to the Bay
Cashed a lot of checks this mornin’, guess today was a good day”

The combat continues with Dre himself on the second verse of “Issues”…

(Verse 2)
“But this is what the fuck is up, doin’ this for my city
Comp-town, Hub, this my fuckin’ committee
Shout out to Dub C, real nigga be with me
C-Walkin’ on these niggas with a crease in them Dickies
You know how many nights I heard them sparks echo in the park?
Around this time I was spinnin’ records at Eve After Dark
My city crazy, school girls used to play with that chalk
Same chalk police used to outline niggas we lost
You understand what I’m sayin’? Shit is crazy, man
Fuck the money, yo this shit could never change me, man
These new niggas in this bitch could never phase me, man
I know it’s strange but on some real shit it’s plain as day
I’m just havin’ some fuckin‘ fun with this rap shit
Nigga with an attitude, still gettin’ active
Man this industry to me, it feels a little plastic
I ain’t heard nothin’ that I can consider classic
But this is for my niggas who been runnin’ with me
And everybody in this bitch that’s out there gunnin’ for me
And I got love for my people that stay one hundred with me
I’ma keep it A1, been that way since day one”

Dre’s verse has a fair rhyme scheme and a considerable amount of substance. The line: “You know how many nights I heard them sparks echo in the park?” is haunting and speaks from a perspective that is undoubtedly what Hip Hoppers would consider ‘real’. It is also impossible not to be emotionally gripped when he states: “School girls used to play with that chalk/ Same chalk police used to outline …. we lost” and those of us who grew up when Dre and Cube were combining forces in the late 80’s with the early years of N.W.A. will find it impossibly not to nod their heads in agreement when Andre Young declares: ” Man, this industry to me/ It feels a little plastic/ I ain’t heard nothin’ that I can consider classic.” The anti-money status he provokes within his verse is also admirable, and screams of classic N.W.A., where Cube seems to do the opposite and embrace the corruptive ideal.

But, if we are going for bars, as in plays on words, crisp imagery and the stuff that makes English Literature students and professors salivate, Cube comes off as the winner. His verse has little of the substance of Dre’s but with lines like: ” …got hatchets and ratchets/ Some of them lethals up under the mattress”, “I … ’em up like battery acid” , “Survive through time”, “When you say my ….’ name add exclamation” we get a more detailed, meticulous portrait of what Cube is portraying on wax. The final bit, “I guess today was a good day”, is a clever play on the second single from his third album, 1993’s Predator, which was entitled: “Today Was a Good Day”. The trademark vehement demeanor which was displayed so well by the two in their N.W.A. days is felt equally on both spots, and that is a merit that makes the song all the more viable, but Cube sports more skill as a poet even if Dre’s bit does pack more of a sentimental punch.

What do you think? Who are you riding for?

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