Behind The Scenes: Common Vs Ice Cube/Mack 10

July 21, 2011 6 min read

At the time of this beef going down, Ice Cube was in an interesting position. He was still rising in popularity, but at a cost. A lot of people were taking shots at this authenticity, creativity, and even honesty. His tremendous solo success over the last few years with “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted”, “Kill At Will” and “Death Certificate”, had firmly secured him as a legend in the game and proved he could not only survive, but even thrive, without Dr Dre and his former N.W.A crew.

However, by the time he was dropping the “Predator” album in 1993 he had physical confrontations with Above The Law, lingering beef with N.W.A, and accused of biting; Das Efx, King Sun, & Volume 10, with a Cypress Hill biting accusation and beef not far behind.

I think it’s safe to say that Cube was probably on the defensive and was determined to stay on top. As if, his personal dramas weren’t enough, this was in the thick of the “so-called” East Coast/West Coast beef. Ice Cube had fashioned himself the voice of the West Coast and formed a new crew to champion the cause, Westside Connection.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Common Sense was preparing for his sophomore album. His debut “Can I Borrow A Dollar?” had made some noticeable, but not monumental waves on the East Coast and beyond. His last single, “Soul By The Pound” Remix b/w “Can I Bus” showcased noticeable growth in delivery and content. He was in a position to knock the door down if he could deliver a hit single followed by a powerful album…he did just that.

I remember being in New York in the Summer of ’94 and going up to Relativity Records and kicking it with Quality (I think he ran the marketing and promotions department) and I was walking around New York, record shopping, and checking it out. Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R” came on and I found myself only half listening as I figured this is just the single about relationships…it’s cool. I wanted to hear the rawness! Ha. I’ll never forget, I had just randomly passed Buckshot Shortyof Black Moon on the street and I was trying to determine if I should talk to him for a magazine article and then BAM! Common delivered the final punchline, “Who I’m talking bout y’all is Hip Hop”… I had to literally stop in my tracks and figuratively kick myself for almost sleeping on the concept, not to mention completely forgot about Buckshot. I pressed rewind (yes, this is still the walkman days) and stood there and listened closely to every word and was blown away.

There seemed to be universal love in the air for Common, with the exception that a few on the West Coast took “I Used To Love H.E.R” as a diss. On the surface, it’s easy to see where the frustration came from. The West had long been ignored by the East Coast, mainly New York. Eventually, the West Coast could no longer be ignored due to the sales explosion of N.W.A, Too Short, Dr Dre, 2Pac, and others. Still, New York wasn’t ready to accept them into open arms at radio, clubs, etc... Many New York artists blasted back to “reclaim the crown”…a ridiculous idea, but it did make things interesting.

After over a decade of this abuse, the West Coast had just about enough and was definitely sensitive to the issue. Most likely, to many of them, Common was “East Coast” enough (in terms of his sound) and made for the perfect target, being he was touted as the next hot thing from The Underground.

With all that in mind, there I was one day hanging out at Chrewd Marketing (J Bird’s Marketing & Promotion Company in the 90s) and they had just gotten the advance cassette of Mack 10’s Debut album. I’m checking it out and I’m not really all that impressed honestly. Truthfully, I wasn’t a big fan of Mack 10 as a MC and additionally because of the way he came off in the press. There had been multiple interviews where he seemed to make another ridiculous comment that left me shaking my head. He came off like he would just say whatever he thought people wanted to hear to be accepted or at least that’s how I perceived it. Granted, I know that press doesn’t always give the best representation of an artist. Then when I, along with other Chicago media people and retailers, were invited for a luncheon with him at Hardtime Café, he threw a bit of a tantrum that was kind of weird. He started asking questions about how his album sales were and people were all a bit confused and quiet. Mainly because his album wasn’t out yet, this was a luncheon to help get the Chicago market to support the upcoming release. When someone from his label finally told him, “Ah, Mack, the album isn’t out until two weeks”. He got upset and start questioning how come he didn’t know it wasn’t out and why was he out in the market if his album wasn’t available…. It was a bit strange.

Anyway, back to the promo tape, I’m checking it out and about half-way thru the album is “Westside Slaughterhouse” with Ice Cube and WC, which takes some shots and makes some inflated claims, particularly from Cube.

As for Cube’s performance on the song, he does come off focused and determined, it just felt like he was taking it well over the top. I’m not mad at some West Coast pride, Hip Hop beef, or even “gangster rap”, but he was having a hard time convincing me that it was real. It marked the first time that I remember felling he wasn’t being genuine, but rather approaching the game from a marketing standpoint. To me, that was a critical part of Ice Cube, believing in his anger. Even when I didn’t agree with it, I at least believed he meant it. This wasn’t the same. Perhaps he thought or had been criticized that his last album, “Lethal Injection”, was too laid back so he felt the need to up the intensity to the extreme...

W.C.was always a favorite of mine, from the days of Low Profile, M.A.A.D Circle, and even his solo material on Payday Records. He kicked ill styles, dropped raw lyrics and mostly stayed out of the drama.

Admittedly, it is still a pretty solid song. The production is minimalistic but raw, courtesy overseas production unit Madness 4 Real who had a nice run in the 90s. W.C. is nice per always, Mack 10 drops one of his best performances I can remember, and Ice Cube is in top form, even with outrageous claims, such as “Hip Hop started in the West”. The video is a whole different level of ridiculous and reinforces the over-the-top notion. Plus I always wondered if the “Slaughterhouse” title was a reference to Master Ace’s “Slaughterhouse” record, which arguably took some shots at some West Coast characteristics…

I don’t remember if I called him just because of the Mack 10 thing or not, but while I was in the office I hit up Chino XL with a call. I played him the diss and was definitely pro-Common Sense on this one. His comment was something to the effect, “I got something for Cube on my album”. Which I assume became his, “Remember Ice Cube had a jerry curl” line on “Deliver”.

Anyway, later that night I was hanging out at the Cue Club because Tone B Nimble (of All Natural) had a DJ Night there. It just so happens that Common was hanging out. I went up to Common and asked if he knew that Ice Cube had dissed him. He said that he had heard rumors, but wasn’t sure if it was true. I confirmed it. He asked what Cube said about him. I said I didn’t remember it all, as it wasn’t that memorable, except that he did call him a, “pu**y wimp b**ch”. Common just laughed. I told him I had the tape in the car if he wanted to hear it. We headed out to my car and on the way I asked if he was going to diss back. Common replied that it depended on how he felt once he heard it. We kicked it a couple more minutes about the whole situation and instead of playing it for him, I told him he could just keep the tape because I had no plans of listening to it again anyway. That was that…

The next time I saw Common was quite unexpected. I was at the Cubby Bear in Chicago for a De La Soul & Camp Lo show and they were tearing it down. At some point they brought out Commonto debut a new track, which was “The Bizness”. After the track, Common spoke about Ice Cube dissing him and then went on to debut a acapella version “The B**ch In Yoo!”. It was crazy!! The crowd was going insane…

Although I know that Common was going to hear that track regardless. I still feel connected to it all, being I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time to actually put the tape in his hand, which eventually set those things in motion…

Written By Kevin Beacham

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