Breaking Down Of Of The Greatest Diss Tracks In Hip Hop History: No Vaseline

June 1, 2017 | 1 Comment » | Topics: Music

 

Ice Cube – No Vaseline

 

Got damn I’m glad y’all set it off.
Used to be hard now you’re just wet and soft.

Ice Cube decries N.W.A as a group that was once hardcore, but has now lost their touch. He uses a penis (“hard”) and vagina (“wet and soft”) analogy to describe them.

First you was down with the AK
And now I see you on a video with Michel’le?

After Ice Cube left N.W.A, the remaining members appeared in several music videos by Ruthless Records R&B singer Michel’le, including “Nicety,” “Keep Watchin’,” and “Something In My Heart.” Cube is probably specifically referring to the “Something In My Heart” video, which included scenes where Eazy-E and Dr. Dre wore costumes to fit with the video’s 1920s theme.

Cube is pointing out how ironic it is that a group who touts themselves as hardcore—down with a violent life of AK-47 assault rifles—is now playing dress-up in silly music videos for soft love ballads.

It’s also worth noting that Dr. Dre and Michel’le were a couple for many years, and have a child together – there’s also an implication that Dre is pussy-whipped.

Lookin’ like straight bozos.
I saw it comin’ that’s why I went solo.

While Cube previously said he left N.W.A for financial reasons, here he also claims he left because their soft new image is something he “saw coming.”

And kept on stompin’
When y’all motherfuckers moved straight outta Compton.

Here, Cube flips the line into a diss to his former group. While Cube is still “stompin'”—maintaining his integrity and representing Compton to the world—the remaining members of N.W.A literally moved straight out of their old neighborhood and into the suburbs.

Eazy-E bought a home in Calabasas, a wealthy suburb in the San Fernando Valley, in early 1991.

Livin’ with the whites one big house
And not another nigga in site.

The house—known as “Eazy’s Playhouse”—became an unofficial headquarters for the N.W.A. The group’s manager, Jerry Heller, lived one house away:

By claiming that they are living with “whites” in a “big house,” Cube is also making a subtle reference to slavery. He’s comparing N.W.A to so-called “house niggers” (mentioned explicitly later)—slaves who would work within the plantation household, rather than in the fields. These slaves were often considered sellouts.

I started off with too much cargo,
Dropped four niggas now I’m makin’ all the dough.
White man just rulin’.
The Niggas With Attitudes, who ya foolin’?

N.W.A (a.k.a. Niggaz Wit Attitudes) was managed by music business veteran Jerry Heller, who also co-owned the group’s label, Ruthless Records, with Eazy E.

Cube is pointing out the irony in a group named N.W.A.—a name that implies irreverence towards white power—having their career managed by a white man like Heller.

By saying that Heller is “ruling” them, Cube is also making subtle reference to slavery, implying that Heller is their master. Later in the song, Cube more explicitly calls Heller Eazy’s “massa.”

Y’all niggas just phony,
I put that on my mama and my dead homeys.
Yella Boy’s on your team, so you’re losin’

Cube throws a quick shot at N.W.A’s DJ Yella, implying that he’s such a loser that he’s bringing the group down just by being around.

Ay yo Dre, stick to producin’.
Callin’ me Arnold, but you Bent-a-dick,
Eazy E saw your ass and went in it quick.

Cube is responding to a diss from Dr. Dre on N.W.A’s 1990 track “Real Niggaz”:

We started out wit too much cargo
So I’m glad we got rid of Benedict Arnold

Benedict Arnold was a famous traitor from the American Revolution—Dre was calling Cube a traitor for leaving N.W.A over lack of payment from Ruthless Records owners Jerry Heller and Eazy E.

Here, Cube is turning the diss back around on Dre—he may be a traitor, but at least he’s not getting fucked (out of money) by Eazy like Dre is.

Cube pronounces “Benedict” as “bent-a-dick”—he’s saying that Eazy fucked Dre so quickly (with no Vaseline, of course) that he broke his penis. Therefore, Dre’s ass “bent a dick.” This is one of many times Cube uses rough anal sex as a metaphor for financial exploitation throughout the song.

You got jealous when I got my own company,
But I’m a man, and ain’t nobody humping me

After leaving N.W.A, Cube founded a management company and record label called Street Knowledge with his new business partner, Pat Charbonnet (who was previously N.W.A’s publicist). 

Here, Cube is talking to Dr. Dre, who he claims is jealous of Street Knowledge. Cube left N.W.A because he was getting fucked (or as he says, “humped”) out of the money he believed he was owed by Ruthless Records owners Jerry Heller and Eazy-E. He implies that Dre has the same complaints but isn’t “man” enough to leave.

Tryin’ to sound like Amerikkka’s Most,
You could yell all day but you don’t come close.
’cause you know I’m the one that flown,

Cube is accusing Dr. Dre of trying to sound like him. Amerikkka’s Most Wanted was the title of Cube’s first solo album, after he left N.W.A.
When Cube was in N.W.A, Dr. Dre was known for his relatively laid-back style of rhyming, while Cube was known for a high-intensity bark. But on the 1990 track “100 Miles and Runnin’”—released just months after Cube left the group—Dre put on a more aggressive voice, which Cube describes here as a “yell.” When Cube says “I’m the one that flowed,” he’s reminding Dre that he was the most respected rapper and primary songwriter in N.W.A. He even wrote all the lyrics on Dre’s solo hit “Express Yourself” from Straight Outta Compton.

Ya done run 100 miles, but you still got one to go.
With the L-E-N-C-H M-O-B, and ya’ll disgrace the see-P-T.
’cause you’re gettin’ fucked out your green by a white boy,
With no Vaseline.

Cube is using rough sex as a metaphor to describe how aggressively the remaining members of his former group N.W.A are getting “fucked” out of their money (“green”) by their white manager, Jerry Heller (who was also the co-owner of their label, Ruthless Records). He ends each of the song’s three verses with a variation on this line—this verse is aimed at Dr. Dre, the second is aimed at MC Ren, and the third is aimed at Eazy-E. In late 1989, Cube left the group because—as the group’s frontman and main songwriter—he felt he was not being fairly compensated by Heller and Eazy, who also co-owned Ruthless. Four months after leaving, he told the LA Times: At the end of the day, after everybody stops screaming N.W.A, I had to look at my bank account and I was still putting up gold and platinum records at home … living with my parents. According to a 1990 SPIN investigation into Cube’s departure, N.W.A’s 1989 tour grossed $650,000. Of that amount, Jerry Heller took home $130,000, while Ice Cube took home $23,000. For his work writing and performing on N.W.A albums that sold over 3 million copies, Cube took home only $32,000.

The bigger the cap, the bigger the peelin’,
Who gives a fuck about a punk-ass villain?
You’re gettin’ fucked real quick,
And Eazy’s dick, is smellin’ like MC Ren’s shit.

Ice Cube left N.W.A over a dispute about unpaid royalties after he penned the majority of the group’s sophomore album, Straight Outta Compton. He believed manager Jerry Heller was “shady” because he wouldn’t let Cube see his contract. Cube likens the groups business dispute to anal sex. While Eazy E wasn’t literally “fucking” MC Ren, he was screwing him financially. Eazy E appeared to misunderstand this lyric: The only thing that got me was ‘Eazy’s dick smells like MC Ren’s shit’. How would you know what my dick smells like? I mean shit, how did Cube know, you know? Not unless my nuts was on your chin, and my dick is in your mouth. That’s all I got to say.

Tried to tell you a year ago,
But Willie D told me to let a hoe be a hoe, so
I couldn’t stop you from gettin’ ganked,

When Cube left N.W.A in 1989, he tried to warn Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, MC Ren and Eazy-E of Jerry Heller’s shady business strategy. They didn’t listen. While the group never officially disbanded, Dr. Dre followed in Cube’s footsteps and left the group in 1991, the same year this song was released.

Now let’s play big-bank-take-little-bank.
Tried to dis Ice Cube, it wasn’t worth it
’cause the broomstick fit your ass so perfect.

“No Vaseline” is a response to N.W.A’s diss songs “100 Miles And Runnin’” and “Message to B.A.” On the latter, MC Ren rapped: Yeah, nigga; when we see yo’ ass, we gon’ cut your hair off and fuck you with’ a broomstick! Cube’s “wasn’t worth it” prophecy came true—“No Vaseline” is regarded as one of the greatest diss tracks of all time.

Cut my hair and I’ll cut them balls,
’cause I heard you’re, like, givin’ up the drawers.

In the days of N.W.A, Ice Cube and Eazy-E both sported Jheri curls hairstyles. When Cube he left the group in 1989, he shaved his hair to separate himself. This is Ice Cube’s response to a threat made by MC Ren: Yeah, nigga; when we see yo’ ass, we gon’ cut your hair off

Gang-banged by your manager, fella,
Gettin’ money out your ass, like a motherfuckin’ Ready Teller.
Givin’ up the dollar bills,

In the original version of this song, Cube name checked N.W.A’s manager Jerry Heller in place of “fella” since “Heller” rhymes “Ready Teller,” a cash machine.

While Cube was adamant Heller was a shady businessman, Eazy E never saw it the light until it was too late. It was’t until 1994 (3 years later) that Eazy E fired Heller for stealing millions from the group.

Now they got the Villain with a purse and high-heels.

“The Villain” is an alternate name for N.W.A member MC Ren. Cube implies Ren’s a prostitute who’s being “pimped” by N.W.A management.

So don’t believe what Ren say,
’cause he’s goin’ out like Kunte Kinte,
But I got a whip for ya Toby,

Kunta Kinte is the main character in the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley. A TV mini-series based on the book titled Roots also aired in 1977.

Kinte is a slave on a Virginia plantation and who’s given a new name: “Toby.” He refuses to answer to the name and is beaten with a whip as a result. Here, Cube implies MC Ren is a slave to Jerry Heller and Eazy E. As a student of diss songs, Cube also refers to the classic line from Kool Moe Dee’s “How Ya Like Me Now.” “Who is the best?” And if he don’t say, “Moe Dee,” I’ll take my whip and make him call himself Toby

Used to be my homey, now you act like you don’t know me.
It’s a case of divide-and-conquer,

“Divide and conquer” means to encourage dissent within a group. Members begin to fight amongst themselves, rather than fighting against a mutual enemy. In this case the enemy was N.W.A manager Jerry Heller. Cube believes Heller used this tactic on N.W.A. Dr. Dre said the same thing shortly after he left the group: The split came when Jerry Heller got involved. He played the divide and conquer game. Instead of taking care of everybody, he picked one nigga to take care of and that was Eazy. And Eazy was like, ‘I’m taken care of, so fuck it’.

’cause you let a Jew break up my crew.

Jerry Heller identifies as Jewish and even sought help from the Jewish Defense League when N.W.A broke up. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Los Angeles Jewish human rights organization described this lyric: We’re not asking Ice Cube to mask the reality of the streets. By all means flag the social problems, but don’t exploit them by turning a professional spat between a former manager and an artist into a racial dispute. Cube responded with: It’s wrong for the rabbi to call me anti-Semitic, Cube responded. I respect Jewish people because they’re unified. I wish black people were as unified.

House nigga gotta run and hide,
Yellin’ Compton, but you moved to Riverside.

Cube implies MC Ren is Jerry Heller’s slave. The term “house nigga” describes a slave who typically worked in their masters house, as opposed to a “field nigga,” who worked on a plantation.

Ren moved to Riverside in late 1989, right before Ice Cube left the group. Riverside is a city 60 miles east of Los Angeles that is historically richer and safer than Compton. At the time this song was released, Riverside was 71% White and 7.4% Black, a significantly whiter city then Compton, which was 53.7% Black according to 1990 Census data.

So don’t front, MC Ren, ’cause I remember when you drove a be 2-10.

The Nissan Datsun B210 Sunny is a cheap subcompact car from the 70s. This is the type of car that MC Ren used to drive when he was poor. Ice Cube knows—he knew MC Ren before N.W.A.

Broke as a mothafuckin’ joke.
Let you on the scene to back up the Verse Team.
It ain’t my fault, one nigga got smart,
And they rippin’ your asshole apart.
By takin’ your green, oh yeah,
The Villain does get fucked with no Vaseline.

This last couplet ties the verse together. The majority of the verse is aimed at N.W.A member MC Ren, also known as “The Villain.”

I never have dinner with the President.
I never have dinner with the President.
I never have dinner with the President.
And when I see your ass again, I’ll be hesitant.
Now I think you a snitch,

In March 1991, Eazy-E paid $2500 to get in to a luncheon benefiting the Republican Senatorial Inner Circle hosted by then-President George H. W. Bush. Eazy was invited due to his numerous donations to L.A.-area charities. When he returned, many thought Eazy had sold out. As Eazy explained in It’s Not About A Salary, pp. 202-203 this wasn’t the case:

Hell no [I’m not a Republican], I don’t give a shit really. How could I do a song like ‘Fuck the Police’ and be a Republican? I guess you can really, but I don’t even vote. I just went cause those muthafuckers sent me an invitation. They pulled my name off the computer cause I give a lot of money to charities and stuff. Soon as I got there CBS and other news stations were all there askin’ how you guys gonna let him get in there. It was a whole big mess, on every station. I just wanted to go, see what they was talking about, just to see. I get home, everybody was like “Oh so you’re a Republican, blah blah.” Hell no, I ain’t no Republican. They was talking about the fuckin’ war and how this and how that, it was bullshit."

Throw a house nigga in a ditch.
Half-pint bitch, fuckin’ your homeboys.
You little maggot, Eazy E turned faggot.

Cube sticks with the same metaphor present throughout the song—that in giving himself a bigger slice of the financial pie than the rest of the group, Eazy was screwing his friends out of what they rightfully earned. Eazy stood at 5’5". Although he never hid from this, even making a song called “Niggaz My Height Don’t Fight.”

With your manager, fella,
Fuckin’ MC Ren, Dr. Dre, and Yella.
But if they were smart as me,
Eazy E would be hangin’ from a tree.

On the original demo, Cube said “Jerry Heller” instead of “your manager, fella.” This change was likely made to avoid liability for libel. Similar cases of proper names being removed from songs can be found in the work of Eminem. Sure enough, Dr. Dre left N.W.A shortly after this song was released. Yella stuck around, producing music on Eazy-E’s It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa EP. Shortly before his death, Eazy fired Heller, Heller’s brother, and cousin from Ruthless Records. “Hanging from a tree” refers to lynching, a form of punishment common in the United States during times of slavery.

With no Vaseline, just a match and a little bit of gasoline.
Light ’em up, burn ’em up, flame on,
Till that Jheri curl is gone.
On a permanent vacation, off the Massa plantation.

“Massa” is what slaves called their masters in antebellum America. In this case, the “massa” is N.W.A’s manager Jerry Heller, who Cube accused of financially exploiting N.W.A. In an original demo of the song, the word “massa” was replaced with “Jerry Heller.” A “permanent vacation” is an old phrase used to describe getting fired, retiring, or quitting a job. When Ice Cube burns Eazy-E alive (as he does in the preceding lines), Eazy will no longer be working on Heller’s plantation—he’ll be dead. The word “permanent” could also be a play on “perm,” a hairstyle that connects with the reference to Eazy’s Jheri curl in the previous line.

Heard you both got the same bank account,
Dumb nigga, what you thinkin’ bout?

Eazy-E opened his first bank account in 1988, when he received a six-figure check from Atlantic Records as payment for Ruthless Records’ first hit, “Supersonic” by J.J. Fad. According to a 1990 SPIN article, manager Jerry Heller “took Eazy to the bank and taught him how to open a checking account.” In 2016, former Ruthless Records affiliate DJ Speed also accused Heller of having access to Eazy’s account: Man, fuck you, Jerry. You can say you the closest to Eazy, but if you close to somebody, do you take money out of their bank account every fuckin’ day? Heller wasn’t the only one who may have had access to his accounts. After Eazy’s death in 1995, Michael Klein, the director of business affairs at Ruthless Records, claimed that money was missing from a Ruthless bank account that Eazy’s widow, Tomica Woods, and her lawyer, Ron Sweeney, had access to.

Get rid of that Devil real simple, put a bullet in his temple.

Cube is advising the remaining members of N.W.A to shoot their manager, Jerry Heller, in the head. “Devil” is a word commonly used by members of the Nation of Islam (which Cube was affiliated with at the time) to describe white people. This line cause controversy at the time of the song’s release. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Jewish rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center called the song anti-Semitic, and cited this line as proof that Cube was promoting the murder of Jewish people (Cube refers to Heller as a “Jew” twice elsewhere in the song). In a close-reading of the song in early 1992, SPIN Magazine even speculated that “temple” could be a reference to a Jewish synagogue. Cube responded to the anti-Semitic accusations in another 1992 SPIN article:

The simple fact is this: If Jerry Heller was green or purple, I’d say the same thing. I could care less what his religion is. That’s his business. But don’t act like you can’t have a bad seed in your people, because there’s bad seeds in all people, black, white, Jewish people. So don’t front like it’s impossible. Do they agree with what Jerry Heller did to me? Where was the Wiesenthal Center when this motherfucker was taking my money? So it’s all right for a Jewish man to take a black man to the bank? I’m not trying to advocate nothing against nobody. If the Jewish community would like better relations between blacks and Jews they should hear me, what I’m saying. Words aren’t threatening. If you can’t hear our cries, how can we better things?

’cause you can’t be the Nigga 4 Life crew
With a white Jew tellin’ you what to do.

Reference to the fact that now N.W.A. is not gangster enough to be the Efil4zaggin (or Niggaz 4 Life) crew.

N.W.A at the time was on Ruthless Records, run by Jerry Heller, literally a white Jew.

Pullin’ wools with your scams, now I gotta play the Silence of the Lambs.
With a midget who’s a punk too,

Somebody who’s been fooled is said to have had the “wool pulled over their eyes.”

To stop Eazy from scamming the rest of N.W.A out of their money, Cube is planning to murder (and perhaps eat) him like cannibal serial killer Hannibal Lecter in the 1991 film Silence of the Lambs.

Tryin’ to fuck me, but I’d rather fuck you.

A reference to “I’d Rather Fuck You”, a solo Eazy-E track from N.W.A’s 1991 album Efil4zaggin. On the original song, Eazy was using the phrase to boldly romance a woman. Here, Cube turns it around: he left N.W.A because he refused to get financially “fucked” by Eazy and partner Jerry Heller anymore. He’d rather “fuck” them with this diss song.

Eric Wright, punk, always into somethin’, gettin’ fucked at night.
By Mista Shitpacker, bend over for the gotdamn cracker, no vaseline

A reference to “Alwayz Into Somethin’,” a song from N.W.A’s 1991 album Efil4zaggin that featured a diss to Ice Cube.

The original song was about the members of N.W.A always getting into something—usually trouble—in order to get paid. Here, Cube uses the phrase to say that Eazy-E (real name Eric Wright) is always getting into bed with Jerry Heller.

“Shitpacker” is a derogatory term for homosexual males that refers to anal sex.

Throughout the song, Cube uses sex as metaphor for Jerry Heller “fucking” N.W.A out of money. Here, he seems to be more literally implying that Heller and Eazy were having sex.

 

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