I heard this song, a song I haven’t heard since I was on the streets of San Andreas years ago. People say that rap is ultimately a form of poetry and I think this song is a clear example of that. I looked for breakdowns of it online to no avail and thus, here we have Ice Cube’s “It was a good day”: The analysis. It shall be split into three parts: The song, the story and it’s conclusion.
We see Ice Cube, the story teller, with a simple premise. What is a good day? By analysing this, I aim to find out if Ice Cube’s definition of a “good day” is an ideal, or a convoluted daydream.
Ten seconds into the song, it’s pretty obvious. The music itself feels calm. It seeps into one ear and out the other. It feels. It draws and pulls back. This, literally, could soundtrack a good day.
Ice Cube is a certified MC. People that judge him off his film career undervalue this tremendously. He wrote half of N.W.A’s seminal Straight Outta Compton. His debut album, after leaving N.W.A, was certified platinum two months in. Snoop Dogg named him in the top three rappers of all time (then again Snoop himself was number three). His skill as a rapper as undeniable.
First, listen to the song. Second, watch the video. Since you probably haven’t done any of these two things, I’ll break down the themes in the song highlighting what, Ice Cube believes, makes a good day.
Peace, in a conventional sense, refers to a state of democracy, financial stability, a lack of war. Ice Cube, at the time of the song, is a young adult. These issues, while being important, do not directly affect his life in South Central Los Angeles. Thus, the peace he refers to is literal. Quiet. Calm. Serenity. A good breakfast.
No barking from the dog, no smog
And Momma cooked a breakfast with no hog
I got my grub on, but didn’t pig out
To Ice Cube, peace also refers to assurance. The life he lives isn’t 8 – 5. There is no distinct start nor distinct finish. His life is an unending game of Russian roulette. Will he be shot today? Or tomorrow? Peace to him is as simple as going back home alive.
Thinkin’, “Will I live another 24?”
This song is the 90’s equivalent of a daily vlog. If Ice Cube was an introvert, he’d shoot videos of his dog and tell us his thoughts on the new Attack on Titan episodes. However, what we can conclude from the song is that he is far from one. To him, meeting with friends is an essential part of a good day. He plays basketball with them, gambles at 12 in the morning, and they watching mindless television.
Called up the homies and I’m askin’ y’all
“Which park are y’all playin’ basketball?”
Get me on the court and I’m trouble
From a personal perspective, I never want to leave home because everything outside it is unfamiliar. Driving to the mall risks panic attacks, forgotten wallets and no money to pay parking. I’m still not one for Cheap Thrills.
From Ice Cube’s perspective, an adrenaline rush is the perfect espresso to start your day with. Being still brings to satisfaction. He drives drunk, runs an intersection, anything to get his blood pumping. Do I condone this? No. But to Ice Cube, this is an important part of a good day.
Drunk as hell, but no throwin’ up
Half way home and my pager still blowin’ up
The underlying theme of this song is pride. Ice Cube never explicitly mentions it but inklings of it can be found throughout the song.
He wins money gambling. The joy doesn’t come from getting paid but besting his friends.
I picked up the cash flow
Then we played bones, and I’m yellin’: “Domino!”
During a vivid, and if I may say articulately, described sexual encounter, Ice Cube makes it pretty clear of what he prides himself in.
Pulled out the jammy and killed the punani
And my dick runs deep, so deep
So deep put her ass to sleep
That night he drives home crossfaded through the clear streets of LA. Be it hallucinatory or his ego projecting through, he sees this in the night sky:
Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp
And it read “Ice Cube’s a Pimp”
Ice Cube is a certified gangsta. Not just a gangster. But a gangsta. He wouldn’t hesitate to kill anyone that got in his way. That’s the life he lives. But underneath all this gang rivalry and false bravado rappers use to reinforce their ego’s, Ice Cube is human. Violence is a necessary evil in his life. Not a source of pride and joy. As much as he prides himself in being the hardcore gangsta that he is, he still craves the normalcy that we all do.
In the briefest yet most iconic line of this song, he says:
Today I didn’t even have to use my AK
I gotta say, it was a good day
The actual date is disputed. People say that Ice Cube’s good day was on January 20 1992, others argue it on November 30 1998. People have analysed this and speculated using every possible detail from the song. From the weather to what time Fatburger closes. But I think we’re missing the point here. The song isn’t supposed to be about some grand public holiday that we as rap fans can appreciate. The song is an ideal. It’s what Ice Cube inspired for a good day to is. In 2015, 23 years later, he tells us that the song isn’t a journal entry. It’s totally fictional. The life Ice Cube lived meant he had to use his AK everyday. Underneath it’s warm tones and catchy lines this is a song about the life Ice Cube wished he could live. And its as simple as hanging with his friends, playing basketball and being intimate with his girlfriend.
Does Ice Cube describe your idea of a good day?
Ps: After writing this I realized that something similar was talked about in the movie “Dope” so this it totally not plagiarism. Great movie, by the way.