Even though he's best known for family-friendly movies these days, Ice Cube still has one of the most urgent and authoritative rap voices in the game. He's also a master storyteller. When he sets his mind to a worthy topic, like the predatory lenders in the new "Hood Robbin," he paints a richly detailed picture of people done wrong. Ice Cube is in fine rhyming form throughout I Am the West, and the tracks sprinkle just enough variation into the classic West Coast-style production to keep things interesting and familiar. But there are too many underwhelming guests taking up space here, and Cube spends a lot of time dealing with a perceived lack of respect from modern mainstream rappers. The subject is covered early on I Am the West in the throbbing "Life in California," but he harps on the same theme throughout the album, instead of tackling bigger targets in his legendary and gifted manner. — Matthew Wilkening
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