N.W.A. - "Dope Man" (1987)
A year before they released their landmark debut Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A. put a compilation album of Dr. Dre-produced tracks. "Dope Man," in which Ice Cube delivers three verses, Dre samples Ohio Players' "Funky Worm," which Kanye West fans may recognize from the Jay Z documentary "Fade to Black."
N.W.A. - "Fuck tha Police" (1988)
The greatest anti-establishment song in the history of rap music defined N.W.A's career in the long run. In the short run, it nearly torpedoed it. Similar to how Miami cops boycotted Beyonce's most recent concert for her Black Panthers nod during the Super Bowl halftime show, security and police forces mad it difficult for N.W.A. to get gigs across the country. Cops rushed the stage in Detroit when the group started performing "Fuck Tha Police." Milt Ahlerich, the Assistant Director of the FBI, sent their label the following letter:
“Advocating violence and assault is wrong, and we in the law enforcement community take exception to such action. Recordings such as the one from N.W.A. are both discouraging and degrading to these brave, dedicated officers.”
N.W.A. - "Straight Outta Compton" (1988)
Ice Cube had just turned 19 years old when N.W.A. released "Straight Outta Compton" the lead single and title track of their debut. Dr. Dre's percussive, stripped-down production is a clear precursor to Rick Rubin's production on "99 Problems." 28 years later, "Straight Outta Compton" is still one of the golden standards of gangster rap.
"No Vaseline" (1991)
Ice Cube left N.W.A. amidst a financial dispute in 1989. (Dr. Dre would later leave for the same reason.) After N.W.A. called out Ice Cube on numerous tracks, Cube clapped back on his debut album Death Certificate with "No Vaseline," an unrelenting attack on the group and in particular Jerry Heller, whom Cube urges Eazy-E to murder.
"Check Yo Self" (feat. Das EFX) (1992)
"Check Yo Self" is somehow the only Ice Cube single to have gone platinum. And though it is far from the first track fans imagine when they think of Ice Cube, the song spawned a phrase that is still a part of the modern lexicon.
"It Was A Good Day" (1992)
Ice Cube recorded "It Was a Good Day" in the months after the Rodney King riots. "I was at the top of the rap game," he told Blender Magazine. "It was the summer of ’92 and I was in a hotel room, really in a state of euphoria. I had all the money I had dreamed of. I was in a good frame of mind. And I remember thinking, ‘Okay, there’s been the riots, people know I will deal with that. That’s a given. But I rap all this gangsta stuff—what about all the good days I had."
"Ghetto Bird" (1993)
Songs like "Once Upon a Time in the Projects," "Jackin For Beats," & "Bop Gun" were all significantly more popular than "Ghetto Bird." I included it on this list because its core elements still live on in today's Los Angeles rap, from DJ Mustard's big booty bass to to the spare G-funk of YG's Still Brazy.
"You Know How We Do It" (1993)
"You Know How We Do It" is such pure distillation of summer that it is not as rewarding a listen in the colder, grayer months. It is the opposite of Pete Rock's "Play Dis Only At Night."
Ice Cube & Dr. Dre - "Natural Born Killaz" (1994)
Ice Cube and Dr. Dre had reconciled by '84. "Natural Bork Killaz" was recorded for Heltah Skeltah, the Cube-Dre collab album that was never completed. It ultimately appeared on the "Murder Was The Case" soundtrack. Cube fetishizes murder: "It feels like I'm busting a nut, when I open you up."
Fuck, this beat is hot.
"Friday" appeared on the soundtrack of the movie of the same name, which Ice Cube wrote and starred in. The song is a straight-ahead, no frills banger that samples the saxophone from Wreckx-n-Effect's "Rump Shaker" (that would later be sampled in Jay Z's "Show Me What You Got") -- the third greatest sax sample in hip hop history, behind "They Reminisce Over You" and "Let Me Clear My Throat."