"Anything you wanted to know about the riot was in the records before the riot. All you had to do was go to the Ice Cube library and pick a record."
— Ice Cube, "Fuck 'Em"
As is often the case with HipHop far too many people, especially in the mainstream, get so caught up in the language that they miss the message.
Death Certificate presented one of the most clear cut examples of this phenomenon. Prior to Death Certificate, rappers received admonishment from various conservative quarters for their lyrics and were slapped with the "Parental Advisory" sticker (Ice-T's 1987 album Rhyme Pays was the first to receive this honor). 2Live Crew's infamous 1989 album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, was initially deemed obscene and eventually led to a court case where the charges were dropped.
In general, as long as rappers stayed in their lanes and it was young Black men glorifying social pathology, misogyny, casual violence, etc. toward other Black people, everything was fine as far as the general public was concerned. Well, that is until the Life Side of Death Certificate, in particular a brief, 45-second song entitled Black Korea.
To call the song politically and racially insensitive is to put things extremely mildly. To call it an accurate reflection of the mood and tension between Korean merchants and the Black community would be extremely accurate.
Every time I wanna go get a fuckin' brew,
I gotta go down to the store with the two
Oriental one-penny-counting motherfuckas;
They make a nigga mad enough to cause a little ruckus.
Thinking every Brother in the world's out to take,
So they watch every damn move that I make.
They hope I don’t pull out a gat, try to rob
Their funky little store but, bitch, I got a job.
So Don't follow me up and down your market
Or your little chop suey ass will be a target
Of a nationwide boycott
Juice with the people, that's what the boy got
So pay respect to the Black fist
Or we'll burn your store right down to a crisp.
And then we'll see ya…
'Cuz you can't turn the ghetto into Black Korea
The reactions to the song and the album were extreme and widespread, far beyond HipHop circles.