It's hard to believe that Ice Cube is only 34 years old. He's been shaping the culture for nearly half his life, ever since N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton dropped in 1988. That album filled the FBI and white adults full of fear at the same time it enchanted millions of white teenagers. He's never stopped since then, releasing both fantastic gangsta rap and club anthems such as "You Can Do It" alongside a hit-or-miss movie career.
Thirty-four is too young to feel nostalgic, but maybe the spotlight has aged Cube. How else to explain Terrorist Threat, as embarrassing a trip down memory lane as any aging group has put out recently? A supergroup only in the broadest sense of the word (Cube's partners WC and Mack-10 aren't exactly super), the Westside Connection put out its last album in 1996, at the height of the East Coast/West Coast rap wars. Now, instead of fanning the flames of that gutted-out war, the Connection is rallying all the troops to make hip-hop hard again.
Gone are most of the gang's latent radical politics that fueled the best gangsta rap, although Cube gets laughs with one pointed political jibe: "On 9/11, niggas got all patriotic. On 9/12, I was like, 'fuck that shit, where's the chronic?'" Also gone are the rhymed vignettes of street crime that made Cube's earlier work so fascinating. Instead, what we get are the three rappers proclaiming their hardness, exhortations for other rappers to become hard and...well, that's about it. The Connection has chosen a potent target in the new generation of rappers, whose obsession with money and clubs has overwhelmed much of the subject matter that led Chuck D to call rap music "the black CNN." Now it's more like the black Home Shopping Network. But Cube doesn't score any real hits against his targets, and he fails to mention the maybe 50 Cent and the like noticed that "You Can Do It" got a lot of airplay. Terrorist Threat fails as a call to arms, a gangsta revival or a verbal beatdown. In the end, it's just an empty Threat.