Death Certificate (album)

Death Certificate (album)
This is the article about Ice Cube's album. For the document concerning a person's death, see Death certificate.
Death Certificate
Studio album by Ice Cube
Released October 29, 1991
Recorded 1991
Genre West Coast hip hop, gangsta rap, hardcore rap, political hip hop
Length 61:08
Label Priority/EMI Records
0499 2 57155 2 7

7243 5 43341 2 2
P2-43341 (2003 remaster)

50999 6 42635 2 6
P2-42635 (2010 remaster)
Producer Sir Jinx
Ice Cube
Ice Cube chronology
Kill at Will
Death Certificate
The Predator
Singles from Death Certificate
  1. "Steady Mobbin'"
    Released: December 9, 1991
  2. "True to the Game"
    Released: September 14, 1992

Death Certificate is the second studio album by American rapper Ice Cube, released October 29, 1991 on Priority Records. Highly anticipated with over one million advanced orders,[1] the album was certified platinum in sales on December 20, 1991.[2] The album sold 105,000 copies in its first week an debuted on the Billboard 200 chart at #2, and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart at #1, while it eventually went on to sell 1,600,134 copies.[3][4] Due to some of its racially charged content, and Ice Cube's acerbic statements on drug dealing, racial profiling, and the right to keep and bear arms, Death Certificate was the source of much controversy upon its release.

In 2003, Priority Records re-released Death Certificate with the bonus track "How to Survive in South Central," which originally appeared on the Boyz n the Hood soundtrack.



The recording and writing for Death Certificate began in early 1991, and carried on throughout most of the year. While making the album, Ice Cube was also heavily involved in several other projects, including Yo-Yo's Make Way for the Motherlode, his younger cousin Del tha Funkee Homosapien's I Wish My Brother George Was Here, and perhaps more importantly, his first film debut, Boyz n the Hood, which he co-starred with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Laurence Fishburne. Similar to AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, Ice Cube was very active in the album's production, though the overall sound differed. Unlike AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, which featured The Bomb Squad's hard edged beats, Death Certificate featured a slightly more West Coast-oriented sound in comparison, with heavy use of 70's Funk, and Soul samples. A number of the tracks also use samples taken from California-based acts such as Zapp, and Fishbone.


While making Death Certificate, Ice Cube was said to be affiliated with the Nation of Islam, which had a large impact on the majority of the album's content, although he has denied being part of the organization. Death Certificate was roughly organized as two thematic elements of a larger whole, and opens with Cube's explanation: "The Death Side: a mirror image of where we are today; The Life Side: a vision of where we need to go." The first half, therefore, is replete with the tales of drug dealing, whore-mongering and violence expected of a gangsta rap album in 1991. The second half provided somewhat of a synthesis between that genre and the type of prescriptive messages more often found from artists wholly divorced from the gangsta image.

Both sides, however, provide a more introspective and encouraging outlook that fits with the common conception of gangsta rap. The Death Side's "A Bird in the Hand" laments a young man's slide into a life of drug-dealing after finding that the best jobs available to him with little education and a jail record simply won't pay the bills.

Do I have to sell me a whole lot of crack
For decent shelter and clothes on my back?
Or should I just wait for help from Bush?
Or Jesse Jackson and Operation PUSH?

There is no shortage of nihilistic or, at least, criminal posturing either, with the Life Side's "Black Korea" threatening rioting and arson alongside Black entrepreneurship as a response to the preponderance of Korean grocery stores in ghettos across the United States. The track was seen as a response to the death of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old African American girl who had been shot by a Korean store owner on March 16, 1991 because the owner erroneously thought Harlins was trying to steal a bottle of orange juice. Considering that the release of the track preceded the Los Angeles Riots, in which many of the people targeted were of Korean descent, Ice Cube was accused of inciting racism by some groups.

The track "Look Who's Burnin'" tells of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases in low income neighborhoods, while "Alive on Arrival" tells the story of a young man caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout who slowly bleeds to death while in a hospital waiting room, being questioned by police. "Color Blind" preaches neutrality and brotherhood between gangs, such as the Bloods and Crips. Although Ice Cube's previous album avoided direct attacks on N.W.A, Death Certificate contained "True to the Game" and most notably "No Vaseline," which were "diss track's" aimed at his former band mates.

Unlike Ice Cube's other albums, Death Certificate was not released in a censored version. The tracks "Steady Mobbin'," "True To The Game," and "Givin' Up The Nappy Dug Out," were, however, recorded with clean lyrics and released for airplay.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[5]
The Austin Chronicle 4/5 stars[6]
Robert Christgau (C+)[7]
Entertainment Weekly (A-)[8]
Los Angeles Times (favorable)[9]
The New York Times (favorable)[10]
Rolling Stone (mixed) (1991)[11]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars (2004)[12]
The Source 4.5/5 stars[13]
The Washington Post (favorable)[14]

Critical response

Allmusic calls Death Certificate "even harder and angrier than AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted... It continues the sharp insights and unflinching looks at contemporary urban lifestyles that his solo debut only hinted at; in short, it's hardcore without any gangsta posturing." They also call it "funkier, noisier, and more musically effective (than AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted)." Initially giving a four-and-a-half out of five "mic" rating,[13] The Source gave the album a five "mic" rating in a retrospective list of "5 Mic Hip-Hop Classics" with its 150th issue.[15]

  • Rating: Recommended "...adrenalin-drenched funk...integrates vitriolic politics with raw street knowledge...achieves an almost George Clinton-esque sense of celebratory freakiness..." - Spin (1/92, p. 72)

Death Certificate received a meager $18,000 promotion budget, and neither of its singles received much airplay, although the album's two singles, "Steady Mobbin'" and "True to the Game," received music video treatment.[16]


  • Ranked #8 in MTV's Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of All Time list in 2005[17]
  • Included in The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums list in 1998[18]
  • Ranked #17 in The Source's The Critic's Top 100 Black Music Album's of All Time list in 2006[19]
  • Ranked #13 in's 100 Greatest Hip-Hip Albums list in 2008[20]
  • Ranked #5 in Ego Trip's Hip Hop's 25 Greatest Albums by Year 1980-98 list in 1999[21]
  • Ranked #20 in Dance De Lux's 25 Best Hip-Hop Records list in 2001[21]
  • Ranked #16 in The Village Voice's Best Albums of the Year list in 1991[21]
  • Ranked #37 in New Music Express's Best Albums of the Year list in 1991[21]
  • Included in Vibe's 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century in 1999[21]
  • Included in Rhapsody's (online music service) list of the top "coke rap" albums of all time in 2010.[22]


In 1992, as a result of the album's controversy, the state of Oregon declared any display of Ice Cube's image in retail stores throughout the state illegal. This ban also included advertisements for St. Ides Malt Liquor, which Ice Cube endorsed at the time.[23] In the September 2006 issue of FHM, Ice Cube stated in an interview that he did not regret the controversial statements made on the album. Regarding the offense caused to Koreans, he said, "If there's still a problem, it's their problem."[citation needed] Due to fear that laws against racial incitement in the United Kingdom could see the album banned, the United Kingdom release removed the tracks "Black Korea" and "No Vaseline." Island Records, the distributor of this version of the album, deleted these tracks with the consent of Priority Records, but not Ice Cube himself.[16] However, these tracks do feature on this album in the present day.

Track listing

  • In the album's liner notes, tracks 1-11 are credited as "The Death Side" and tracks 12-20 are credited as "The Life Side."
  • The Track "How to Survive in South Central" from the motion picture Boyz n the Hood appears as a bonus track on later remastered pressings.
# Title Performer(s) Producer(s) Samples Time
1 "The Funeral" *Intro* Sir Jinx 1:37
2 "The Wrong Nigga to Fuck Wit" Ice Cube Ice Cube,
Sir Jinx
3 "My Summer Vacation" Ice Cube Boogiemen,
Ice Cube
  • "Atomic Dog" by George Clinton
  • "So Ruff, So Tuff" by Zapp & Roger
  • "The Drive-By" by Ice Cube
4 "Steady Mobbin'" Ice Cube Boogiemen,
Ice Cube
5 "Robin Lench" *interlude* Boogiemen,
Sir Jinx
6 "Givin' Up the Nappy Dug Out" Ice Cube Boogiemen,
Ice Cube
7 "Look Who's Burnin'" Ice Cube Ice Cube,
Sir Jinx
8 "A Bird in the Hand" Ice Cube Boogiemen,
Ice Cube
9 "Man's Best Friend" Ice Cube Boogiemen,
Ice Cube
10 "Alive on Arrival" Ice Cube Boogiemen,
Ice Cube
11 "Death" Khalid Muhammad Ice Cube
  • "A Funky Song" by Ripple
12 "The Birth" Khalid Muhammad Ice Cube,
Sir Jinx
13 "I Wanna Kill Sam" Ice Cube Ice Cube,
Sir Jinx
14 "Horny Lil' Devil" Ice Cube Boogiemen,
Ice Cube
15 "Black Korea" Ice Cube Ice Cube,
Sir Jinx
  • Excerpt from the film Do The Right Thing
16 "True to the Game" Ice Cube Ice Cube,
Sir Jinx
17 "Color Blind" Ice Cube,
Deadly Threat,
The Madd Circle,
King Tee,
Ice Cube
18 "Doing Dumb Shit" Ice Cube Boogiemen,
Ice Cube
19 "Us" Ice Cube Ice Cube,
Sir Jinx
  • "Gamin' on Ya!" by Parliament
  • "Synthetic Substitution" by Melvin Bliss
20 "No Vaseline" Ice Cube Ice Cube,
Sir Jinx


  • Ice Cube - performer, producer, executive producer, mixing
  • Khalid Muhammad - performer
  • Deadly Threat - performer
  • Kam - performer
  • The Madd Circle - performer
  • King Tee - performer
  • J-Dee - performer
  • Sir Jinx - producer, mixing
  • Boogie Men - producer
  • Bob Morse - engineer, mixing
  • Frank Macek - engineer, mixing
  • Mr. Stoker (Andy Growcott) - engineer
  • DJ Pooh - mixing
  • Daryll Dobson - mixing
  • Bernie Grundman - mastering
  • Brian Gardner - mastering
  • Mario Castellanos - photography
  • Kevin Hosmann - art direction

Chart positions


Year Album Chart positions
Billboard 200 Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums
1991 Death Certificate #2 #1


Year Song Chart positions
Billboard Hot 100 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks Hot Rap Singles
1991 "Steady Mobbin'" #30 #3

See also

  • List of number-one R&B albums of 1991 (U.S.)


  1. ^ Ice Cube dot org - Ice Cube Lyrics, Pictures and more - Part of the Rapbasement Network
  2. ^ RIAA Searchable Database - Death Certificate. Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved on 2008-08-10.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Jeffries, David. Review: Death Certificate. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2010-03-30.
  6. ^ Coletti, Christopher. Review: Death Certificate. The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved on 2010-03-30.
  7. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Consumer Guide: Death Certificate". The Village Voice: 1991.
  8. ^ Bernard, James. Review: Death Certificate. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2010-03-30.
  9. ^ Hilburn, Robert. Review: Death Certificate. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2010-03-30.
  10. ^ Pareles, Jon. Review: Death Certificate. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2010-03-30.
  11. ^ Fricke, David. Review: Death Certificate. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2010-03-30.
  12. ^ Hoard, Christian. Review: Death Certificate. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2010-04-01.
  13. ^ a b Reef. "Review: Death Certificate". The Source: 85. January 1992.
  14. ^ Griffin, Gil. Review: Death Certificate. The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2010-03-30.
  15. ^ Kazeem (August 4, 2010). The Complete List Of 5 Mic Hip-Hop Classics. The Source. Retrieved on 2010-12-23.
  16. ^ a b "Rock & Rap Archives: Number 94/January 1992". Retrieved June 8, 2007. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b c d e
  22. ^ Album Guide To Coke Rap Referenced 26 July 2010
  23. ^ Ice Cube for St. Ides Malt Liquor - Commercials - SPIKE Powered By IFILM


  • Nathan Brackett, Christian Hoard (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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