Los Angeles native and gangsta rap pioneer Ice Cube has made many exceptional tracks over the years. Known as one of hip-hop’s great storytellers, the Crenshaw emcee never fails to entice his listeners and immerse them in his world. However, oddly, one of his most aggressive tracks was inspired by The Temptations.
Soul music and Motown music have played an enormous part in shaping the sound of hip-hop. Vocal groups such as The Isley Brothers, The Originals, and The Supremes have been the backbone of rap music since the late-1980s and continue to play a significant role in hip-hop production.
In his prime, Ice Cube was renowned for taking the melodies and cadences of soul music and transforming what were love songs into thug songs. Tracks such as ‘It Was A Good Day’ converted The Isley Brothers’ composition ‘Footsteps In The Dark’ into a West Coast anthem.
However, the same can be said for other Ice Cube tracks, including his 2008 release ‘Hood Mentality’. This particular song is most definitely powerful and lyrically raw. The opening monologue hears a man state, “The hood mentality is a crippling disease that attacks your nervous system. It makes you nervous of the system. Gangstas and hood rats are especially susceptible to this growth-stunting mentality,” and this is before Ice Cube even begins to rap.
But strangely, this dark song was partially influenced by The Temptations. The producer of ‘Hood Mentality’ Teak “Da Beatsmith” Underdue once unveiled how he heard a bass riff that he knew would be perfect for a dark Ice Cube track while listening to the Motown group.
In a 2008 interview with the Worldwide Rap and Hip-Hop Music Lifestyle Network, Underdue explained the bizarre inclusion of The Temptations on the song, disclosing, “I got that sample off of Eddie Kendricks, who used to be from The Temptations. The song is called ‘Can I?’ I had it for a long time, maybe like a year or two. I knew that I wanted to do something with it, but everything is vibe, so I sat on it for a while.”
He continued, “One evening last year, I said, ‘F*ck it,’ and just took the guitar sample, chopped it up and put it in the MPC. I kind of wanted to have a Southern feel to it, but I still wanted it to be gangster.” The producer proceeded to detail how he wanted the bass to creep in and all the various ways he made the instrumental dark. Eddie Kendricks of The Temptations was the driving force behind ‘Hood Mentality’ and Ice Cube, per usual, turned what was a soul classic into a hip-hop smash.
You can listen to ‘Hood Mentality’ in the video below.