It Was A Good Day



















Jennifer Thornton

English 103














            It Was A Good Day is a song by Ice Cube that was released in 1993.  This song chronicles a day in the narrator’s life where everything seemed to go his way and he can look at it and feel happy about the occurrences of the day when he lays his head at night.  Historical/biographical, gender and cultural perspectives could be used to analyze the lyrics of It Was A Good Day to understand various issues brought up during the song.

Analyzing this song using a historical/biographical perspective, the lyrics take on a whole new meaning.  Ice Cube was born as O’Shea Jackson on June 15, 1969 in South Central Los Angeles.  Jackson had both parents living in the house, and they worked hard to give him a chance at a better future.  His parents put him in sports like football and basketball to keep him out of trouble.  However, he was still exposed to the same hardships of the inner-city that his peers were exposed to.  Jackson never became a gang member, but, “He became a feared voice of the ghetto at the tender of 16 when he joined the notorious rap group NWA (Niggaz With Attitude)” (McKenna 120), which gave him the opportunity to use his expertise of penning lyrics to speak his mind using the persona Ice Cube as a narrator, as seen in It Was A Good Day.   Jackson was surrounded by gang activity because it was so rampant, and he used those experiences to convey his thoughts in word through his persona, Ice Cube, as evidenced in the first line of the song, “Just waking up in the morning gotta thank God” (Jackson 1), exposing that the reality of these surroundings would always live in his mind.  Along with Jackson, many young men of South Central Los Angeles have experienced a lot of negative influences.  In an article written by Mike Sager featured in Rolling Stone, Sager noted, “Since then, of course,” referring to the 1965 Watts Riot, “the people of South-Central have been fighting another kind of battle, against gangs and drugs.  More than half of the county’s 90,000 gang members live here, yet it is quite a nice place” (Sager 78), stating how prevalent gang activity was in South Central LA.  In an article entitled Dancing between two worlds: a portrait of  the life of a black male teacher in South Central LA, the author, Marvin Lynn, writes of his interview of a teacher who grew up in South Central Los Angeles and stays in that community to teach kids so he can make a difference in the community.  In the article, Kashari Rogers, who is the subject being interviewed, recounts how life was growing up in his neighborhood.   “He immediately began to describe how his neighborhood was ‘divided up’ by gangs.  ‘It was like a faction of five different sets’ of gangs: the ‘Playboys, Hoovers, Schoolyards, Neighborhoods’ and so on” (Lynn 228), showing how the various gangs have control over their ‘hoods.  Jackson understood the dangers of just living and driving within this community.  “Cause just yesterday them fools tried to blast me, Saw the police and they rolled right past me” (Jackson 22-23), Jackson uses the narrator’s voice (Ice Cube) throughout the song to illustrate the potential violence encountered on any particular day.  Citizens of South Central Los Angeles are well-aware of the practice of gangs, as was/is Kashari, “[…], as a young child, he had to be astute enough not to enter into the wrong space at the wrong time” (Lynn 228).  This concept played an enormous role in the lives of young black men.  This was a reality, no matter how much parents tried to keep their children safe.  Jackson calls upon his memories of growing up to chronicle this reality by writing the lyrics, “Thinking will I live, another twenty-fo’” (Jackson 8).  This thought of murder was obviously something that sat strong in his mind, as he added it into his lyrics more than one time, stating, “No helicopter looking for a murder” (Jackson 53).  When Jackson references the helicopter, he is actually talking about the “Ghetto Bird” which is a term used to indicate the police helicopters that are used to find suspects and patrol neighborhoods.  The last and final time he wrote lyrics of killing or guns was towards the very end of the song when he penned, “Today I didn’t even have to use my A.K., I got to say it was a good day” (Jackson 58-59).  The A.K. that is referred to there is the AK-47, which is a type of assault rifle.  Homicide is routine in these neighborhoods; “According to an analysis for The Times by county health officials of homicide data between 1991 and 2002, Latino men ages 20 to 24 were five times more likely than white men the same age to die, and black men were 16 times more likely” (LA Times, The Homicide Report).  It’s unfortunate that black males have to endure these living conditions, but Ice Cube is rapping about this to characterize that day played out so well that it is a great memory. 

Continuing on with biographical/historical perspective, something else young black men had to face daily along with being killed was being arrested.  Lynn states in his article that there are, “Over a million young black men in prison.  A little more than half a million black men are enrolled in institutions that lead to some kind of degree” (Lynn 228), which means that there are more black men in prison than in school.  It’s almost as if a young black male in the inner city ending up in jail is a fact of life.  As if being the underdog likely to end up in prison wasn’t enough, young black males have to live with the fact that they are commonly targeted by police.  The listener can feel the surprise the narrator portrayed when he raps, “Didn’t even see a berry flashing those high beams” (Jackson 52), referring to a police car with the red lights on top, which is said to look like a berry.  Education was not something that was strong in the minds of young black males in South Central.  It was more about sex, drugs and guns.  Jackson is very familiar with both sex and drugs, even at a young age, as evidenced in his lyrics using Ice Cube’s voice, “It’s ironic, I had the blunt, she had the chronic” (Jackson 39), referring not only to drugs but also drug paraphernalia.  A blunt is a cigar that has been hollowed out and refilled with marijuana, and chronic is a high-quality marijuana.  He speaks of drugs right before he describes his sexual encounter with a girl he had interest in trying to “do” for quite some time.  He describes it as, “I felt on the big fat fanny, pulled out the jammy, and killed the punanny” (Jackson 41-42), which is a term used to describe female genitalia.  He further states, “And my dick runs deep, so deep, so deep, put her ass to sleep” (Jackson 43-44), suggesting his sex was more than pleasurable. 

In context of gender criticism, Jackson brings up many points throughout the song of the trials and tribulations young black men endured.  However, even though it’s addressed, it’s done so more in the manner of excitement that the narrator had a day off from the worries of fighting for his life.  He brings up the issue of car jacking with the lyrics, “Had to stop at a red light, Looking in my mirror, not a jacker in sight” (Jackson 11-12), which is a strong point because people, especially those living in South Central Los Angeles, are constantly faced with this concern.  Many times people would be jacked just waiting for the light to turn green.  Lynn in his article writes of Kashari, “Kashari lived with the constant threat of being ‘jacked’ or murdered by gang members, police officers or a host of other entities […]” (Lynn 238), which is a common feeling within the community.  There was fear of being murdered not only by gang members but also police officers.  Police officers in Los Angeles are notorious for racial profiling and practicing police brutality.  In 2009, two men in Athens, California named Jay Johnson and Darrick Collins were standing in the driveway in front of Collins’s house after a night of playing video games.  Suddenly, Los Angeles deputies pulled up and Collins went into the backyard and was killed.  In an interview with ABC News, Johnson stated, “He [the deputy] basically just looking for somebody to mess with, you know, so that's the main reason why I assumed Darrick, you know, went towards the back.  You know, he didn't want to get messed with like that” (Sykes), showing that although this happened in 2009, it is evident that this is and has been a continuing problem for black males in the inner city.  Even if black males weren’t in fear of being murdered by the police, they were well-aware of the chances of being stopped due to “Driving While Black” (Lefevre), referring to the notion of being pulled over because of color.  An article written on stated, “With the growing number of allegations that police are using racial profiles to decide which motorists to pull over, some states are moving to gather statistics to show just who is stopped for alleged traffic violations” (Lefevre), in an effort to try and eradicate this long-time problem.  According to a study prepared in 2008 requested by the American Civil Liberties Union, “Per 10,000 residents, the black stop rate is 3,400 stops higher than the white stop rate, […]” (Ayres 3), identifying that the likelihood of being stopped while driving because one is a young black male is high.  Accordingly, “Relative to stopped whites, stopped blacks are 127% more likely […] to be frisked” (Ayres 3), further giving affirmation to the concept of racial profiling.  Jackson depicts this phenomenon in a different aspect since he has the narrator referring to a good day, however, so he uses the words, “No flexin, didn't even look in a niggaz direction as I ran the intersection” (Jackson 25-26), again referring to it’s a miracle the narrator didn’t get pulled over.  In an interview in Esquire, Jackson states that he and his friends would say, “Police got such and such up there!”  He further stated, “And we’d all go over.  ‘The dude is shot!’  And we’d all head off to find out what that was about” (Fussman 50), recalling instances when police brutality was an issue in his neighborhood.  In a book written by Edward W. Knappman entitled Great American Trials that also incorporated in it work written by Colin Evans, pieces of testimony from the trial of the officers in the Rodney King beating that took place on March 3, 1992 were published.  One important piece of testimony was from an officer with the California Highway Patrol named Melanie Singer who took the stand during trial.  She stated, “He had it in a power swing and he struck the driver right across the top of the cheekbone, splitting his face from the top of his ear to his chin,” (Evans 825), referring to what she saw Officer Laurence Powell do to King.  King himself testified while on the stand that he recollected officers saying to him, “What’s up, nigger?  How do you feel, killer?” (Evans 826).  This is just one more example of the unfortunate events young black males living in South Central Los Angeles experience and/or worry about daily:  Unarmed police killings and police brutality.  However, in the song, the narrator is describing the dream of a good day so it is stated as, “Plus nobody I know got killed in South Central L.A., Today was a good day.” (Jackson 35-36).  The reason that was such an epic event in the narrator’s mind is because of the consequences of police brutality and the fact that it was so common. 

The culture of young black males from the environment Jackson grew up in are faced with a lot of discrimination, crime and hatred.  With that said, they have choices, but most of them feel hopeless and believe they can’t get out of that lifestyle.  Lynn stated in his article, “When he tried to explain why so many of his friends did not become successful, he said, ‘It’s not that they don’t have potential.  It just the environment is just so deterring from anything that is academically focused’” (Lynn 228).  According to Kashari, this is due to South Central Los Angeles’s “ghetto mentality.”  He states, “They living in the projects.  They whole mentality was different.  We out here trying to get paper.  You know, dressin’ fresh and driving low-lows.  [They] all about jackin’ and pimpin’ […]” (Lynn 231).  The concept of getting jacked is further confirmed by the lyrics in Jackson’s song.  As far as Kashari mentioning low-lows (lowriders), the narrator speaks of the same thing.  He says, “I gotta go cause I got me a drop top, And if I hit the switch, I can make the ass drop” (Jackson 9-10), referring to a lowrider he owns.  When he says, “hit the switch” (Jackson 10), he is referring to hydraulics, which is something young black culture admires greatly.  Also being able to do “tricks” in the lowrider was a big deal in this culture.  In the words of the narrator, “Took another sip of the potion, hit the three-wheel motion” (Jackson 48), he raps about driving the car on three wheels rather than the normal four.  Sundays were big on Crenshaw Boulevard, where young black men, along with a mixed group who also enjoyed lowriders, would gather and show off their cars and hang out.  According to Keith N. Dusenberry who wrote Showdown On The Shaw-On The Scene The Uncertain Future Of Lowriding’s Infamous Strip for Lowrider Magazine, he stated Crenshaw Boulevard has been, “Long regarded as one of the most important and symbolic lowrider cruising spots in the country-and the world […]” (Dusenberry), proving lowriders were an important part of the culture.  The narrator also mentions the joys of being looked at as a pimp in this particular line, “Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp, And it read Ice Cube’s a pimp” (Jackson 55-56), sounding proud at the thought.  This is because of the typical things regarded as being cool in these neighborhoods: cars, drugs, sex, guns and the ability to run women.  It strokes a young man’s ego from the ‘hood to have the power to make women feel good.  This idea is evident in the lyric, “Woke her up around one, She didn’t hesitate, to call Ice Cube the top gun” (Jackson 45-46), once again showing the ego of the young black male.

Another aspect of the young black culture is hanging out with friends playing dominos and shooting craps.  In the narrator’s dream of a good day, he says, “What’s the haps on the craps, Shake em up, shake em up, shake em up, shake em, Roll em in a circle of niggaz and watch me break em, With the seven, seven-eleven, seven-eleven, Seven even back do’ little Joe, I picked up the cash flow, Then we played bones, and I’m yellin domino” (Jackson 28-32).  Kashari further verifies this practice during his interview with Lynn, wherein it was stated, “[Buddies] wore baggy clothing and would ‘shoot dice’ and sell drugs at all different times of the day” (Lynn 232).  This type of activity, hanging out in the yard playing dominos and shooting craps, is a typical pastime among young black men.

            Although this song brings up all the negative images of inner-city, Jackson uses his experiences in life and turns it around in a way to portray a wonderful day using the narrator.  This song also teaches listeners about the troubles youth face in South Central and how appreciative they are when they can experience a day or a time when they are not faced with these dangers.  A song like this can be both effective in downplaying gangsta life but also highlight and mislead people into thinking all the negative circumstances are actually cool, depending on the listener’s ideals.  The reality of it all is that having a good day without facing any problem, such as Ice Cube rapped, is merely a fantasy and not likely to happen.  He narrates a perfect day in his eyes and has the listener believing his every word.  However, Ice Cube ends with, “Hey, wait, wait a minute poo, Stop the shit.  What the fuck am I thinking about?” (Jackson 62), indicating it was a dream.


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