Since the first days of Def Poetry Jam, the popularity of Spoken Word has risen significantly over the years. Black Ice represents a strong force in the Spoken Word community, the conscious male perspective of Hip Hop. His mastery of the English language and deft ability to capture the grievances of the Black community in so few words has earned permanent acclaim by critics and appearances with the likes of Pete Rock and Fabolous. Black Ice has become the voice of the Black community and the Death of Willie Lynch is a compilation of what is arguably his best work.
The album was cleverly titled Death of Willie Lynch, coined of the infamous Willie Lynch letter which describes distinct instructions for controlling Black slaves in order to increase plantation productivity and decrease rebellion. In the dark opening piece, "The Path," Black Ice references the letter, stating he's the side effect of the Willie Lynch prescription, staged stereotypically so I always fit the description. His strong introduction prepares the listener for the serious tone of the pre-eminent tracks "The Ugly Show," "Dream Transferred," and "Front Page."
"The Ugly Show" has the most impressive production work of the album. The beat seems to blend with the stanzas of the poem seamlessly. The track is a call of disenfranchisement that criticizes Bush and the American government in accordance with Kanye West's comments on Bush's lack of involvement and concern during Hurricane Katrina for Black Americans. The looped statement "You abandoned me, love don't live here anymore," embedded throughout the track seems to sum up the opinion of the impoverished individuals within the Black and Latino community.
This themes runs over into "Dream Transferred," a vivid track on Black Ice's takeover of the word and "the block" as a response to the famous Langston Hughes poem, "A Dream Deferred," where Hughes ponders the fate of a remanded aspiration or ambition.
For those acquainted with the work of Black Ice and Def Poetry Jam, "Front Page" seemed almost too familiar. The poem used for the track became on of his listeners' favorites after they were first introduced to Black Ice during season one of Def Poetry Jam. "Front Page" is a rebuttal to the stubborn, materialistic Black male macho persona. While the poem had an awkward sting due to the inappropriate blend with the beat of the instrumental, the lyrics were still well received and impressive.
The Death of Willie Lynch does have its softer sides in the loved themed songs "Nice2MeetU" and "TakeYaTime," again using an inspired title, this time from the featured artist Musiq Soulchild, who is notorious for removing the spaces between the words of his song titles.
The addition of music to Black Ice's poetry made the Death of Willie Lynch a hint at Black Ice's desire to crossover into rap. Hopefully, the gangster dominated industry will be accepting of Black Ice's more conscious take on self expression because the Death of Willie Lynch has proved Black Ice to be a lyrical great.