“It Was A Good Day” dominated the radio and video charts in early 1993, my last months in Detroit before moving to Pittsburgh. I most associate that song with my transition… which speaks to its omnipresence, because even though I had Ice Cube’s The Predator — on cassette, mind you — I rarely let the tape roll beyond the fourth track, “Wicked.” In my mind, the best song solo Cube ever recorded.
I had just been introduced to NWA by my little friend, Jeff, a year or so earlier. And I say “little” not to be somehow dismissive or derogatory, but because Jeff was just a short little Jewish dude, a fact I documented, with some context, in my mini-memoir about Detroit, the Detroit Tigers and whiffleball, Mickey Tettleton. Jeff had an older brother, a slightly less-short Jewish dude, who was in high school and supplied Jeff with all kinds of classic rap all on well-spun cassettes, often without inserts. They were old to him, but brand f’ing new to us. Not only did I first learn about NWA from this apparently endless wellspring but also Johnny Clegg & Savuka. Indispensable musical education, if you ask me. I dubbed Jeff’s inherited NWA tape, Straight Outta Compton, and that dub remains the only copy of that record I ever owned… until I recently picked up a new pressing of the record on vinyl. Modern music consumption has become akin to the snake eating its own tail.
Suffice to say in the time after discovering the pure, explicit awesomeness of Straight Outta Compton, I’d become very familiar with all of the solo records released by the members of NWA and devoured them all… though I never especially understood the appeal of Eazy-E. If I remember correctly I ended up giving that one Eazy-E record to Jeff. The weekend after Ice Cube released The Predator, I encouraged my mother, as only a fourteen-year old could (somehow deluding myself that I’d managed to convince her that the outing was for her own benefit), to take me to the CD store. At this point, most music stores had ceased to carry vinyl. Cassettes and CDs shared space on the floor. CDs lived in the middle of the store while the cassettes lined the exterior walls. I rushed though the near-empty Camelot Music to beat all of people who *weren’t* mobbing the “I” tab in the rap section. “I” tab. No new Ice Cube record. I asked the clerk. I remember this conversation vividly. He said, “No more Cube, kid.” Color me extraordinarily confused. Your job is to stock the music and you’ve somehow overlooked stocking enough of the new Ice Cube record? Then the clerk suggested that I go look for the tape, waving somewhere in the general direction of the back wall.
I was beyond purchasing full albums on cassette. WE HAVE COMPACT DISCS NOW! THE FUTURE IS NIGH!
But I wanted this album. I needed it. So I swallowed my pride. Ice Cube’s The Predator became the last record I ever purchased on cassette tape. I found that tape recently, as I cleared out some old boxes in my basement, in an old plush Denon cassette case, the ones that came with the blank tapes. It had lived, right alongside that dubbed cassette of NWA’s Straight Outta Compton for 20 years. And then there was the cassette singles for “I’m Too Sexy” and “My Name Is Prince.”