Today in Hip Hop History: October 29, 1991
Former N.W.A. member Ice Cube released his second studio album, Death Certificate, through Priority Records and EMI Records in 1991. Death Certificate follows up Cube’s classic debut album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and EP Kill At Will, both of which were released the previous year. Death Certificate was produced by Sir Jinx, Cube, and Boogiemen. He featured Khalid Abdul Muhammad, Kam, The Maad Circle, King Tee and J-Dee on outside vocals.
When compared to his debut, this album featured a heavier West Coast hip hop vibe with its use of samples from old funk and soul songs. It was rumored that while making the album, Cube was significantly involved with the Nation of Islam, which displayed its influence throughout the project. He denied being a part of it though. Regardless, Death Certificate contains heavy usage of political themes mixed with gangster rap and hardcore elements.
Tales of drug dealing, sexually transmitted diseases, low income neighborhoods, Black American-Korean American relations and much more litter the politically charged album. Additionally, Ice Cube created one of, if not the, greatest diss tracks of all time with “No Vaseline.”
The track was a response to his former group, N.W.A., and their comments towards him from 100 Miles and Runnin’ and Efil4zaggin. It features Cube taking shots at each of the members plus their manager, Jerry Heller, over a looped soul sample. Badass.
Death Certificate caused the state of Oregon to ban any display of Ice Cube’s image, in addition to St. Idea Malt Liquor, which was endorsed by Cube himself. Throughout the nation, the album was cited for its controversial and racist elements.
Despite this controversial backlash, Death Certificate received highly favorable critical reviews and commercial success. It peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and #1 on the U.S. Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. It became RIAA Certified Platinum and has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. Death Certificate remains one of the most classic West Coast hip hop albums of all time.