AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted

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AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (Ice Cube).jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 16, 1990
RecordedDecember 1989–March 1990[1]
StudioGreene Street Studios
(New York City)
Ice Cube chronology
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
Kill at Will
Singles from AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
  1. "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted"
    Released: April 17, 1990
  2. "Who's the Mack? (promo single)"
    Released: July 5, 1990

AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted is the debut studio album by American rapper Ice Cube, released on May 16, 1990, by Priority Records.[5][6] It was his first solo album, after an acrimonious split from his former group N.W.A. The album was primarily produced by Public Enemy's production team The Bomb Squad. A critical and commercial success, it remains one of the defining hip hop albums of the 1990s.[7][8]



After departing from Ruthless Records and the West Coast–based group N.W.A, Ice Cube immediately moved to record his own album. Cube maintains that originally, he and N.W.A producer Dr. Dre still wanted to collaborate for Cube's debut solo, but the move was nixed by label powers:

When I went solo, I wanted Dr. Dre to do AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, but Jerry Heller vetoed that...and I'm pretty sure Eazy didn't want Dre to do it. But Dre did want to do it; we gotta put that on record. Dre wanted to do my record, but it was just too crazy with the break-up [of N.W.A].

— Ice Cube, "Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted Retrospective [20 Years Later]", XXL[9]

Linking up with Sir Jinx, Dr. Dre's cousin, Cube made use of pre-written notebooks of songs meant for N.W.A member/Ruthless co-founder Eazy-E.[10] After relocating to New York,[11] they worked on the songs, which included "Once Upon a Time in the Projects", "Get Off My Dick & Tell Yo' Bitch to Come Here" and "Gangsta's Fairytale", among others. Under fire from his former group with the song "100 Miles and Runnin'", from the EP of the same name, he also recorded the song "Jackin' for Beats", using beats allegedly planned for use on the next N.W.A album,[12] though he would use this several months later on the Kill at Will EP.

After contacting Public Enemy's production team The Bomb Squad, they completed the album. The album received a fair share of production credited to various Bomb Squad members, with an appearance by Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, despite Jinx's claims that the only Bomb Squad member fully present was Eric Sadler.[11] Hank Shocklee spoke on meeting and working with Ice Cube in a Cool'eh Magazine interview:

Cube contacted me wanting to know if we could do a few tracks for his solo album after the whole NWA thing came to what it was and I was like, I'll do it if I can do the whole album. And he said, that's what I was hoping you would say…y'know…and when we were in the studio he showed up with notebooks and notebooks full of new rhymes, a bag full of rhymebooks.

— Hank Shocklee, Cool'eh Magazine[13]


With socio-political conscious and gangsta rap content, its songs delve into the issues of ghetto life, drug addiction, racism and poverty. Throughout the album, Ice Cube incessantly attacks institutional racism, as well as social norms which directly or indirectly allowed the oppression of those living in the ghettos of Los Angeles to continue. On "Endangered Species (Tales from the Darkside)," he predicts that his neighborhood would become a flash point for violence before 1992's scandal over the beating of Rodney King,[14] and takes police to task for the policies that would later lead to the L.A. riots that resulted.

Throughout the album, Cube takes some controversial stands, referring to certain types of African-Americans as "Oreo cookies", an epithet implying that they appear black on the outside, but have, internally, negative white tendencies. Arsenio Hall is specifically mentioned as being a "sell-out." Cube also heavily criticizes R&B and hip hop radio stations for watered-down broadcasting. The title song directly parodies the television show, America's Most Wanted, alleging bias and denouncing the glee the program displays in arresting African-American men.

A later skit, "The Drive By," returns to the same theme at the end, with newscaster Tom Brokaw reporting on rioting, stating: "Outside the south central area, few cared about the violence because it didn't affect them." He also addressed gender relations on "It's a Man's World", a duet between Cube and rapper Yo-Yo. Cube and Yo-Yo verbally spar and trade sexist barbs back and forth in an exposé of sexism between men and women. Amidst critics' accusing Ice Cube of sexism, Peter Watrous of The New York Times wrote, in review of a live show at New York's Apollo Theater: one came out ahead; any new sense of cultural violence or sexism promoted by the record had dissolved into a traditional battle of the sexes, no better or no worse.[15]


AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted initially charted without the support of a lead single or video, although the title track would later receive a pressing, and a rare video for "Who's the Mack?" eventually surfaced. It was directed by Alex Winter.[16]


The title track was the first official single from the album - the B-side for the song was "Once Upon a Time in the Projects". "Who's the Mack?" was released as a promo single and music video. A remix of the album track "Endangered Species (Tales From The Darkside)" was later released as a single the EP Kill at Will.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
The Austin Chronicle[18]
Chicago Tribune[19]
Entertainment WeeklyB−[20]
Orlando Sentinel[21]
Rolling Stone[22]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[23]
The Source5/5[24]
The Village VoiceB−[26]

Upon release, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted received critical acclaim, and over the years it has been regarded by many as a hip-hop classic.[27][28] Davis Mills from The Washington Post praised the album for its lyrical dexterity, stating: "Ice Cube has now proven that he was N.W.A's crucial element. He's an unusually gifted rhymer, and his delivery is even more self-assured."[29] Greg Sandow from Entertainment Weekly called it "not necessarily cohesive art", but complimented the album's vivid depictions of urban realities and wrote that Ice Cube "emerges as a rapper most original for his uncompromising tone. He throws ghetto life in our faces and dares us to draw our own conclusions".[20]

Rolling Stone originally gave the album 2½ out of 5 stars in 1990, with Alan Light commenting; "The relentless profanity grows wearisome, the Bomb Squad beats lose steam, and Cube's attitudes toward women are simply despicable." He also declared the album as "a disappointment."[22] (Light wrote the liner notes for the 2003 CD reissue of the album, that also included the Kill at Will EP.) Rolling Stone, however, raised the rating to 3½ stars in 1992 and to 5 stars in 2004, and praised the album for its production, and lyrics.[23] In a retrospective review, David Jeffries from AllMusic stated: "This street knowledge venom with ultra fast funk works splendidly throughout the album, with every track hitting home [...] AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted is a timeless, riveting exercise in anger, honesty, and the sociopolitical possibilities of hip-hop."[17]


  • The information regarding accolades is adapted from[7] except for lists that are sourced otherwise.
  • (*) signifies unordered lists
Publication Country Accolade Year Rank United States 100 Greatest Hip Hop Albums[27] 2008 33
Best Rap Albums of 1990[30] 2008 2
Robert Dimery 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die 2005 *
Ego Trip Hip Hop's 25 Greatest Albums by Year 1980–98 1999 1
The Guardian United Kingdom 1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die 2007 *
Mixmag The 100 Best Dance Albums of All Time 1996 24
New Musical Express Albums of the Year 1990 41
Chris Rock United States Top 25 Hip-Hop Albums[31] 2005 17
Rock De Lux Spain Albums of the Year 1990 46
Rolling Stone United States The Essential Recordings of the 90s 1999 *
The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time[32] 2020 187
The Source The 100 Best Rap Albums of All Time 1998 *
Spin Top 100 (+5) Albums of the Last 20 Years 2005 33
Albums of the Year 1990 1
Top 90 Albums of the 90s 1999 80
Tom Moon 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die 2008 *
Village Voice Albums of the Year 1990 6


Ice Cube's social, and political commentary, delivered in an incisive manner, has influenced numerous rappers since Amerikkka's Most Wanted, particularly in the gangsta rap and political rap subgenres. Focusing on the hardships of life in South Central, Los Angeles, as well as criticizing the American Justice System and race relations in the United States, Cube became an outspoken voice of U.S. injustice against young Black Americans.

Although Ice Cube's popularity among mainstream listeners has lessened since the 2000s, and his sound may be considered distinctively old school to modern ears, many notable rappers themselves have been influenced by AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. His style of rapping about real life sentiment and socio-political awareness influenced the music of West Coast rappers, including that of Tupac Shakur, Ras Kass, and Xzibit, as well as East Coast rappers Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., and more recently, Saigon, JPEGMafia and Southern rapper Young Jeezy. East Coast rapper Redman also covered "Once Upon a Time in the Projects" on his album Doc's Da Name 2000, with the song "Jersey Yo!".

Commercial performance[edit]

AmeriKKKas Most Wanted debuted at number 19 on the US Billboard 200 chart. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) two weeks after it was released for sales of over 500,000 copies. The album was eventually certified platinum four months later on September 16, 1990.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Producer(s) Samples[33] Length
1 "Better Off Dead" Ice Cube, Sir Jinx 1:03
2 "The Nigga Ya Love to Hate" The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.) 3:13
3 "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.) 4:08
4 "What They Hittin' Foe?" The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.) 1:22
5 "You Can't Fade Me / JD's Gaffilin'" The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.)
  • "Rumpofsteelskin" by Parliament
  • "Pneumonia (Live)" by Kool & the Gang
  • "Synthetic Substitution" by Melvin Bliss
6 "Once Upon a Time in the Projects" Sir Jinx, The Bomb Squad (co.) 3:41
7 "Turn Off the Radio" The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.) 2:37
8 "Endangered Species (Tales from the Darkside)"

(featuring Chuck D)

The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.)
  • "Standing on the Verge of Getting It On" by Funkadelic
  • "Long Red" by Mountain
  • "Bop Gun (Endangered Species)" by Parliament
  • "Fuck Tha Police" by N.W.A
  • "2001" by The Cecil Holmes Soulful Sounds
9 "A Gangsta's Fairytale" (featuring Lil Russ) Ice Cube, Sir Jinx, The Bomb Squad (co.) 3:16
10 "I'm Only Out for One Thang" (featuring Flavor Flav) Ice Cube, Sir Jinx, The Bomb Squad (co.) 2:10
11 "Get Off My Dick and Tell Yo Bitch to Come Here" The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.) 0:56
12 "The Drive-By" Sir Jinx 1:01
13 "Rollin' Wit the Lench Mob" The Bomb Squad, Ice Cube (co.), Sir Jinx (co.) 3:43
14 "Who's the Mack?" Sir Jinx, The Bomb Squad 4:35
15 "It's a Man's World" (featuring Yo-Yo) Sir Jinx, Ice Cube 5:26
16 "The Bomb" Sir Jinx, The Bomb Squad (co.) 3:25




Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[40] Silver 60,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[41] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


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  3. ^ Rabin, Nathan. "In 1990, Hammer, Vanilla Ice, A Tribe Called Quest, and Ice Cube reflected the splintering of the hip-hop nation". AV Club. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  4. ^ Harling, Danielle (May 15, 2015). "Ice Cube Speaks On "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted's" Social & Political Relevance". Hip Hop DX. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
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  12. ^ Ro 2007, p. 17
  13. ^ Tsomondo, Dzana (July 10, 2007). "Bum Rush The Show". Cool'eh Magazine. Archived from the original on February 18, 2012. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
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  15. ^ Watrous, Peter (September 16, 1990), "Review/Pop; Ice Cube's Hip-Hop Warms up the Apollo", The New York Times, retrieved April 23, 2010
  16. ^ Ice Cube [@icecube] (May 15, 2020). "Fun fact: The WHO'S THE MACK video was directed by this guy. Alex Winter" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  17. ^ a b Jeffries, David. "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted – Ice Cube". AllMusic. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
  18. ^ Coletti, Christopher (April 4, 2003). "Ice Cube". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
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  32. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time - Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. September 22, 2020. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
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External links[edit]