Released in 1989, the album has an uncharacteristically gritty sound, featuring some of the darkest musical scores Ice-T has ever released.
The album's cover, featuring a B-boy with a shotgun shoved in his mouth, and two pistols pressed against each side of his head, reflected Ice-T's experiences with the concept of freedom of speech. "The concept of that picture is, 'Go ahead and say what you want. But here comes the government and here come the parents, and they are ready to destroy you when you open your mouth'".
"The Weapon power has been witnessed upon my page/From Martin Luther's dream, to Hitler's psycho rage."
"You Played Yourself" advises listeners to be smart and not let themselves "be played". "Peel Their Caps Back" is about committing a drive-by to avenge a slain friend. Unlike other songs where violence is a metaphor for the rapper's ability to defeat other rappers lyrically, this song is a stark depiction of what could lead to such an event. However, it contains two surprising elements: in the end, the main character is killed, and the whole event is written off by the media as just another gang killing.
In "The Girl Tried to Kill Me", Ice-T raps about an encounter with a dominatrix:
"Said she wanted to take me home to make love / Now that's the kind of rap that brothers dream of / I said, "Fast, slow, hard or soft, baby?" / She said, "All the above!"
"Black and Decker" starts off with Rhyme Syndicate members complaining about the media's portrayal of their work as meaningless violence. Ice wonders aloud what it would sound like if you drilled into someone's head with a powerdrill. After some gory sound effects, Ice says "Probably sound like that." "Hit the Deck" offers sincere advice to wannabe-MCs:
"But if it's in your heart, get a pen / Don't stop writing til the inkflow ends / Work and work and don't halfstep / Dog the mic every chance you get."
"This One's for Me," offers Ice's take on the rap scene and music industry. "The Hunted Child" is a first-person account of a scared young gang-banger on the run. The busy, multi-layered composition, with its scratched sirens and stactto drums, samples Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise".
"What Ya Wanna Do" is a 9-minute party song featuring several members of the Syndicate, including a young Everlast, who became famous as a member of House of Pain. "Freedom of Speech" was one of the first raps to focus on the First Amendment and in particular attacked Tipper Gore's PMRC with unmistakable venom:
"Hey PMRC, you stupid fuckin' assholes / The sticker on the record is what makes 'em sell gold / Can't you see, you alcoholic idiots / The more you try to suppress us, the larger we get."
The album ends with in "My Word is Bond", featuring Syndicate members telling one exaggerated story after another against a looped sample of Slick Rick saying "Stop lying" from his song "La Di Da Di".
|1||"Shut Up, Be Happy"||2:36||Afrika Islam|
|2||"The Iceberg"||4:22||Johnny (Sleepy John) Rivers||Ice-T||"Do You Like It" by B. T. Express|
|3||"Lethal Weapon"||4:34||Afrika Islam||Ice-T||"Razor Blade" by Little Royal & the Swingmasters|
|4||"You Played Yourself"||4:15||Afrika Islam||Ice-T||"The Boss" by James Brown|
|5||"Peel Their Caps Back"||3:42||Afrika Islam||Ice-T|
|6||"The Girl Tried To Kill Me"||4:08||Afrika Islam||Ice-T|
|7||"Black 'N' Decker"||1:17||Afrika Islam||Ice-T|
|8||"Hit The Deck"||3:46||Afrika Islam||Ice-T||Coonskin|
|9||"This One's For Me"||4:33||Afrika Islam||Ice-T||"Slaughter's Theme" by James Brown|
|10||"The Hunted Child"||4:27||Afrika Islam||Ice-T||"Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy|
|11||"What Ya Wanna Do?"||8:58||Afrika Islam||Ice-T|
|12||"Freedom Of Speech"||4:11||Afrika Islam||Ice-T|
|13||"My Word Is Bond"||5:07||Afrika Islam||Ice-T||"La Di Da Di" by Slick Rick|