Ice Cube, Cyprus Hill and A.B Original performed at Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney, on Sunday, 26th March.
After 35 years in the game and five years since his last Australian tour, Ice Cube returned to Sydney with a point to prove. Flanked by fellow hip hop heavyweights Cypress Hill, the West Coast legend was on a mission to show us he’s still one the most formidable MCs in the biz.
The show kicked off with Aussie hip hop duo A.B. Original, who filled a slot originally assigned to The Game. The unwavering energy and pure joy on the faces of Briggs and trials told us the A.B. Original boys were ticking an item off their bucket list with this tour. “We grew up listening to N.W.A and Ice Cube,” said trials. They finished the set with the stinging ‘January 26’, puppeteering the crowd into a sea of raised middle fingers.
A.B. Original – ‘January 26’
The crowd were raring to go by the time LA hip hop veterans Cypress Hill hit the stage. MCs B-Real and Sen Dog began with a medley paying homage to Mary Jane, including snippets of ‘Roll It Up, Light It Up, Smoke It Up’, ‘I Wanna Get High’ and ‘Hits From The Bong’. The stage filled with green mist and suspicious puffs of smoke billowed from the crowd.
From there, it was bumper-to-bumper hits, including ‘Hand on the Glock’, ‘(Rock) Superstar’, and ‘How I Could Just Kill A Man’. Sen Dog’s velvety smooth rhymes and B-Real’s nasal raps were as hypnotising as ever. The pair’s hazy energy was complemented by the lightning-fast scratching of DJ Lord and the blurred limbs of percussionist Eric “Bobo” Correa.
The set ended with a mind-melting rendition of ‘Insane In The Brain’, but not before Cypress Hill got the crowd to help them with a special cover. “I need everyone on the floor to squat down. Don’t act too good. We do this around the world,” said B-Real. “Got bad ankles? Sorry. Bad back? Sorry,” he yelled. “High heels? Okay, we’ll accept that,” he added with a cheeky grin.
As everyone crouched down, waiting with bated breath, the distinctive horns from House Of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ blared through the PA. The crowd erupted and did as they were told: fucking jumped.
Cypress Hill – ‘Insane In The Brain’
We had around 30 minutes to catch our breath before the house lights dropped and Ice Cube introduced himself with his iconic “Yay yayee.” Against a backdrop of black and white photos from his career, the MC staunched the stage in an all-black Dickies look, Converse sneakers, a black cap and his upper lip curled into his signature snarl.
Joined by rapper WC, the setlist blasted off with ‘Natural Born Killaz’ and didn’t let up as Cube streamed through back-to-back bangers spanning his 35 year career. “I know what you were thinking when you bought the tickets,” he said. “Can he still get on the mic and do what we like?” He challenged any naysayers. “For anyone who has an inch of doubt, I have one thing to say to your ass: you better ‘Check Yo Self’.”
Cube moved through slower jams like ‘You Know How We Do It’ and club bangers like ‘Why We Thugs’ and ‘Go to Church’, the crowd spitting back every lyric with more vigour than you’d expect to see on a Sunday night. But then again, as Cube said before introducing his 1995 hit, whenever you see Ice Cube in person, it’s motherfuckin’ Friday.
Ice Cube – ‘Friday’
Cube made time for a couple of N.W.A essentials, including ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and ‘Gangsta Gangsta’, followed by a spitfire performance of ‘No Vaseline’. “’No Vaseline’ is the best diss song in the 50 years of hip hop,” Cube boasted, referring to the track’s attacks on his former N.W.A colleagues Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella, and their manager, Jerry Heller. “One motherfucker took down four MCs and the manager,” he said. You can’t argue with that.
Cube dedicated ‘You Can Do It’ to the ladies, and the song had everyone, regardless of gender, bumpin’ n’ grindin’. He closed the show with ‘It Was A Good Day’, leading everyone in the house to rap every word back towards the stage.
The show was not only a testament to Ice Cube’s impressive career but also to the enduring power of hip hop, half a century after the genre’s inception. To answer the question the master MC posed at the start of the gig: can he still get on the mic and do what we like? Yay yayee.