Our Gangstas

Is gangsta rap getting more profound? Well...no.

By most objective standards, Bow Down should seem just as hackneyed as the lamest moments on Tha Doggfather. Throughout it, Ice Cube, who once seemed likely to evolve into South Central's most eloquent and trustworthy chronicler, traffics in virtually the same blather that he's been using for nearly a decade now, with precious little sign of superior insight. On the contrary, he even rips off his younger self: On "Gangsta's Make the World Go Round," he asks, "Kids, when you grow up, who the fuck you wanna be?" His answer? "Like me, ya black superhero."

Yeah, it's stupid. But at least the anti-intellectualism at the heart of Bow Down isn't tempered by capitulations to moms and pops who need reassurances before allowing CDs with a parental advisory sticker into their suburban ranch homes. There are no apologies to the Man on Bow Down. Rather, Ice Cube and his associates gleefully tow the gangsta line on ditties such as "All the Critics in New York," "Do You Like Criminals?," "King of the Hill" and "Time Felons." The result is something like the hardcore equivalent of a Ramones record: It sports a dozen versions of the same song--but it's a pretty good song.

Of course, the lack of imagination that characterizes Bow Down is the very thing that will eventually narrow gangsta rap's appeal; no matter how much someone likes the stuff, he's going to get sick of it in time. Already, the chief gangsta consumers are teens who are more interested in pissing off authority figures than they are in finding music that addresses the issues of the day in a smart or provocative way. In a sense, then, the greatest enemy of Ice Cube and Snoop isn't censorship--it's the passing of time. Eventually, they'll be left to decide between growing up or dying. Given the legacy of Tupac Shakur, it won't be an easy choice.

Westside Connection, with Too Short & the Dangerous Crew, E-40 & the Click, Deuce Mob, Arapahoe Trues and Mo' Cash. 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 26, Denver Coliseum, $34/$47/$62, 830-

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