Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Music Review: ST. IDES MALT LIQUOR JINGLE (Ice Cube, 1992)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 22 seconds.
Best line: "The S. T. Period. I. D. E. to the S.!"

A lot of prominent rappers performed original songs for St. Ides commercials in the early 90's. According to a September 27, 1994 Entertainment Weekly article,

"The St. Ides brand has made use of celebrity endorsements in the past. Ice Cube was one rapper who was almost certainly compensated by St. Ides; he had an endorsement deal with the company and even wrote and performed several rhymes for St. Ides commercials. Other rappers who performed original songs for St. Ides commercials include 2Pac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Nate Dogg, MC Eiht, Scarface, Wu-Tang Clan, Project Pat, King Tee, DJ Pooh, The Notorious B.I.G., Eric B & Rakim, EPMD, Method Man & Redman, Cypress Hill, RBL Posse, and The Geto Boys. Chuck D appeared in a St. Ides advertisement once, but sued the brand's then-owner, the McKenzie River Brewing Company, for using his voice without his permission; he had long taken a strong stance against malt liquor advertising."

I feel as if, however, this particular contribution to the genre by Ice Cube manages to plumb some very specific heights and depths of not only malt liquor advertising jingles, but perhaps music itself, managing (not unlike malt liquor itself) to distill into a mere twenty-two seconds a tremendous amount of moody lyricism, unexpected poignancy, and even some tips and recommendations on how life ought to be lived. Giving the piece some extra weight right off the bat is the fact that the beats used come from Cypress Hill's hit 1991 single "How I Could Just Kill a Man." You don't see Coca-Cola using beats of that magnitude to shill their shanty sugar water. Ice Cube is not a mere huckster here, he's a purveyor of truth- but don't just take my word for it, let me show you.

The song begins with Mr. Cube exiting his car with furrowed brow. He begins: "Once again this song/I'm goin' out the front door/Ice Cube in the glass house headed for the sto'/to get a beer that's better than the rest/ the S. T. Period. I. D. E. to the S!"

Cube begins with a brief window of insight into his life as a celebrity. "Once again this song"- he's always asked to perform the same songs over and over, and it becomes tiring in the sense of existential ennui. He refers to leaving his home, the "glass house" in which there is no refuge from the media, the fans, the masses...and where does he go, but to the sto' (shortened form of 'store'). The sto' is the only place that he can find sanctuary from the demands and stressors of his tortured and all too public life. And the reason the sto' offers respite is because the sto' offers St. Ides Malt Liquor. His joy at obtaining St. Ides is so evident that he sings a little jingle within a jingle in its honor. The exhilaration is so evident that the final 'S' in St. Ides even does a little twisty dance in tune with the undulating beat.

Cube continues: "And it'll put hair on your chest/in the black can/ so whydon'cha grab a six pack and/ Get your girl in the mood quicker/ Get your jimmy thicker/ with St. Ides Malt Liquor." Now I can see already that you're bristling. There are a lot of claims made in that last couplet. I think Cube means it on a more of a theoretical level, as I found no claims on the official or FDA pages that denote St. Ides has the capacity to increase chest hair growth, get your girl in the mood quicker, or make your jimmy thicker, though I feel several of those lines are open to poetic interpretation. Left unexplained are exactly which of your girl's moods will be hastened or to what exactly 'Jimmy' refers.

It is also interesting that Cube recommends the six-pack instead of the classic 40 oz. option, as it is common knowledge that canned St. Ides is far less smooth and more metallic in flavor than its glass-encased brother. Also flummoxing is the fact that Cube gives a less than helpful pointer for finding St. Ides, encouraging the listener to grab 'the black can.' Unfortunately, this could refer to any number of malt liquors from 'Evil Eye' to 'King Cobra.' More helpful might have been 'look for the can or bottle with the crooked "I" and the evocative graphic of windblown grain.'

It is for these slightly misleading statements that the song rates only a 4 out of 5. But consider the fact that in a mere 22 seconds, Ice Cube offers an analysis of his life, fame, and the respite that is St. Ides; and then proceeds to give some pointers on how to obtain it, and the effects that may or may not result from drinking it. In that respect, Cube perfectly fulfills his roles as poet, singer, salesman, and purveyor of cultural observations. Bravo, Mr. Cube. Four stars.

-Sean Gill

Coming soon:
As Junta Juleil continues its exploration of all aspects of relevant culture-
Some bona fide food and beverage reviews!

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