The D.O.C.’s No Can Do It Better vs. Ice Cube’s Death Certificate. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” has considered more than 120 albums from the 80s, 90s and 2000s (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. Now that you and your vote have decided the final 32 albums (including Wild Cards), the final rounds begin.
In 1989, The D.O.C. and Ice Cube were rolling tight. Arguably the two best MCs on Ruthless Records, “The Diggy Doc” was a brilliant off-shoot of the brand of authenticity Cube and N.W.A. had built. Both possessed dazzling flows, hard deliveries, and confident pens. While No One Can Do It Better is as good of a solo debut as lyric lovers could ask for, it remains the only LP by The D.O.C. at full vocal capacity. Two years removed from his group, Cube chiseled a block of coldness in Death Certificate, his sophomore solo set. The album was thematic Gangsta Rap, and arguably the most cohesive project in the sub-genre to date. While The D.O.C.’s debut barged past two acclaimed ’80s West Coast works, Ice Cube narrowly escaped a loss at the hands of Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt. These two 1980s label-mates (and associates in the ’90s and 2000s) will presumably clash with resonant fans of each, but only one can survive this match-up. Only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click (Click one then click “vote”).
No One Can Do It Better by The D.O.C.
- Round 2 Winner (against Ice-T’s Rhyme Powers, 84% to 16%)
- Round 1 Winner (against King T’s Act A Fool, 86% to 14%)
After working alongside N.W.A. since 1987, Dallas, Texas native The D.O.C. distinguished himself in debut No One Can Do It Better. Entering the 1990s, arguably the most exciting lyricist in Hip-Hop was from below the Mason-Dixon, thanks to the linguistic gifts of Tracy Curry. The Doc, as he is also known, made an album that maintained the N.W.A. attitude, but brought attention to intricate lyrical displays. “Lend Me An Ear” presented a fast-flowing, energetic MC who pushed rhymes with a raw urgency. “Let The Bass Go” slowed things down a great deal, but showed just how comfortable a technical MC could get inside a wide, melodic Dr. Dre beat.
Before Snoop Dogg three years later, The D.O.C. was the first soloist to completely mesh with Dre’s sound. Produced largely alone (as opposed to DJ Yella co-productions on other Ruthless efforts), this is the album that made Andre Young one of the proven musical auteurs. “D.O.C. & The Doctor” took a Run-D.M.C./Beastie Boys-style routine, and advanced the rhymes, delivery, and the complex, dynamic beat. Listen closely, and The Chronic is rolling up as Dre sequences the Funk into drum-driven Rap tracks. “It’s Funky Enough” does the same, as D.O.C. used all the verbal tools to command attention from the album’s start. “The Grand Finale” was the perfect closer. As Marley Marl and The Juice Crew were flaunting possé cut perfection on their brand of beats, N.W.A. and Doc did the same, with a foul-mouthed lyrical dunk contest. No One Can Do It Better was fearless in its title, and honored its word in execution. Although Dallas has yet to produce another Rap star on D.O.C.’s level, this album is great beyond the geography. A producer sought out a talent and made a musical marriage, which explains their faithful working relationship more than 25 years later.
Album Number: 1
Released: August 1, 1989
Label: Ruthless/Atco/Atlantic Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #20 (certified gold, September 1989; certified platinum April, 1994)
Song Guests: N.W.A. (Eazy E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, DJ Yella), MC Ren, Michel’le, Dr. Dre
Song Producers: (self), Dr. Dre, DJ Yella
Death Certificate by Ice Cube
- Second Round Winner (against Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt, 51% to 49%)
- First Round Winner (against N.W.A.’s Efil4zaggin, 83% to 17%)
For those starving for the Ice Cube they heard on Straight Outta Compton, Death Certificate signed a new lease on life. Following 1990’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, a highly-acclaimed album recorded in New York City with The Bomb Squad at the helm, Ice Cube was back in his element, completely. Three months after Boyz N Tha Hood rocked theaters, Cube presented the audio companion to a cinematic look at life in South Central, California. Already a star, the MC checked his status and wealth at the door. Instead, O’Shea Jackson put himself in the shoes of an out-of-town drug dealer (“My Summer Vacation”), a visitor to the clinic (“Look Who’s Burnin'”), and a disenfranchised youth being followed around the stores he patronized (“Black Korea”). Almost all of Death Certificate is angry, unapologetic, and raw, but it is unarguably honest. Cube was still buckin’ shots at law enforcement and weaving in Rodney King. He criticized Black men with white women (“True To The Game”), and white men misusing Black women (“Horny Lil’ Devil”). Race and society, as perceived between the furrowed brow of the N.W.A. co-founder drove the way.
Without the charged East Coast production as a deliberate concept, Cube and original C.I.A. collaborator Sir Jinx were not out to imitate Dr. Dre’s sound. However, that same genre of ’70s Funk records that N.W.A. was using, were also part of the repertoire of Jinx, DJ Pooh, and Bobcat. These chops, whether throwing up a P-Funk flashlight or working down David Bowie’s “Fame” emphasized the drum, allowing Cube to emphatically make his points. Cube, such a rhythmic and commanding MC, lived between the wide grooves of Funk elements and bass drums. With songs like “A Bird In The Hand” and “Alive On Arrival” so grand, it took big beats to match. In between the bigger points, Cube could still unabashedly make novelty and porno Rap, and do it as well as anybody—including his former band-mates. After not directly addressing N.W.A. on the previous LP, “No Vaseline” would close out Death Certificate as perhaps the most cutthroat diss record not only of its time, but all time. Bottled up feelings reacted to Niggaz4Life in a way where one man appeared to take on four, and come out untouched. For a song that pulled no punches in its imagery of rape, lynching, and antisemitic remarks, no one could say that Ice Cube was not an incredible MC. That’s just it with Death Certificate. Regardless of Cube’s position on race, gender, or survival tactics, he presented himself as such a convincing character. Adamant that he was not trying to be a role-model, the Rap superstar was clearly reaching the mass audience with his emphatic deliveries and strong opinions. Before such terms existed, especially in the Hip-Hop space, Death Certificate showed how deeply Ice Cube understood his brand, and how to best leverage it.
Album Number: 2 (solo)
Released: October 29, 1991
Label: Priority Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #1 (certified gold, October 1991; certified platinum, December 1991)
Song Guests: King T, Kam, Threat, WC & The Maad Circle (TK), J-Dee, Khalil Abdul Muhammad
Song Producers: (self), Sir Jinx, The Boogiemen (DJ Pooh, Bobby “Bobcat” Ervin, & Rashad Coes)
So which is the better album? Make sure you vote above.
Related: Finding The GOAT: The Albums.