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Meaning of ‘Check Yo Self – Remix’ by ‘Ice Cube’ feat. Das EFX

Released: 1994Features: Das EFXIce Cube’s “Check Yo Self” featuring Das EFX is a quintessential part of 90s gangsta rap that hands out an unambiguous message for self-restraint and the perils of recklessness. The lyrics spin a narrative that weighs heavily on the dangers of the streets, the brutality of gang violence, and the harsh realities of life in the American inner-cities.

The song starts with a clear warning – ‘You better check yo self before you wreck yo self’ – a phrase that repeats throughout the song. Here, ‘check yo self’ is street language for ‘think before you act’, and ‘wreck yo self’ implies ‘get yourself into trouble’. No mincing words, Ice Cube gives a vivid depiction of the consequences with ‘droppin’ bombs on ya moms’ and ‘shotgun bullets are bad for your health’ – laying down implications of violent gang retaliation.

There are references to material symbols with ‘Alpine’, a popular car stereo brand of that time, suggesting petty crime he committed for money (‘Sold it for a six-o’, with ‘six-o’ probably referencing to $60). Keeping intact the violent underpinnings, Cube mentions the ‘house of pain’, hinting at not just the rap group but actual trouble, and asserts he’s not a ‘butler’– he won’t serve one’s whims without retaliation.

The middle part of the song shows the flip side of gang bravado with lines like ‘Tricks wanna step to Cube and then they get played… Now your name is just Twan’ – a transformation from being ‘Don Juan’, a ladies’ man, to ‘just Twan’. Cube’s message? Engage in reckless behavior, and you’ll face a downfall. Further using phrases like ‘run a check’ that means ‘watch your actions’ and ‘Big dicks in yo ass is bad for yo health’, which is a metaphor for being in a bad situation, he reinforces this message.

In the latter part of the song, Cube sneers at women engaging in promiscuity with lines such as ‘There goes the neighborhood hooker’. He uses ‘Nappy dugout’, a euphemism for female genitalia, and warns these women to ‘run a check’ — guard their actions or face dire consequences. His final shot is ‘Cause the lynch mob is bad for your health’, implying a violent outcome when one disrespects the norms of the street.

Through the hard-hitting lyrics of “Check Yo Self,” Ice Cube emphasizes the importance of thinking before you act and warns about the grim consequences of mindless bravado and heedlessness in a dangerous inner-city environment.

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