Gangsta rap sold tens of millions of albums in the late 80s and early 90s, but the tales of violence, drugs, and sex were too hot for mainstream airwaves. It took two former members of hardcore rap group NWA to give the music a radio-friendly spin (with cleaned up lyrics): one was Dr. Dre—architect of G-Funk and the man responsible for introducing Snoop Dogg to the world—and the other was Ice Cube.
Cube already had a reputation as a compelling and controversial MC when he sat down to begin his third solo album shortly after the LA Riots in 1992. The riots took place on his own home turf so he knew he’d be writing about the ramifications, but—having previously rapped extensively on the subjects of violence and racism—he decided to go in a different direction for the single “It Was A Good Day,” accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative.
Life wasn’t all guns, murders, and drugs in South Central—even for a gangsta—so Cube decided to imagine one perfect day. His lyrics describe him moving through 17 hours in LA as he cruises the streets in his convertible six-four, plays some basketball, enjoys the company of a young lady, indulges in some recreational herbage, watches Yo! MTV Raps, and wins at dominoes and craps. In addition, he doesn’t get pulled over by the police, none of his friends get shot, and he has no need to use his automatic weapon. Radio embraced the kinder, gentler Cube and “It Was A Good Day” became his biggest hit, going Top 20 in early 1993.
Last year, a blogger named Donovan Strain went so far as to figure out which specific day in Ice Cube’s life he was rapping about. Apparently it was January 20, 1992 — the only day which could possibly meet all the criteria of the lyrics. (As always, the internet has way too much time on its hands. And you know this, man!!)