As much as technology, business and society have changed since the 1980s, one thing has remained constant: Ice Cube has been a premier cultural watchdog, astutely commenting on, examining and detailing the breadth of the American experience in uncompromising terms with an unflinching honesty and a sobering perspective, as well as a deft comedic touch that has endeared him to several generations of fans.
Indeed, growing up in crime and gang-infested South Central Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, Ice Cube learned how to navigate a world where the lines between right and wrong shifted constantly. Equally importantly, the Los Angeles-based entertainment mogul also found a lasting way to present the comedy that exists in the midst of difficult situations.
After penning the most memorable lyrics on N.W.A’s groundbreaking songs “Straight Outta Compton” and “Fuck Tha Police,” Ice Cube left the group at the peak of its popularity because he was not being paid correctly. That move that led to one of the most successful careers in music history. As a solo recording artist, Ice Cube has sold more than 10 million albums while remaining one of rap’s most respected and influential artists.
Ice Cube’s first two albums, 1990’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and 1991’s Death Certificate, are widely considered two of the best rap albums ever released. Cube’s wry wit on such songs as “Once Upon The Time In The Projects” and “A Gangsta’s Fairytale” were masterfully juxtaposed against the searing social commentary on such selections as “I Wanna Kill Sam” and “Black Korea.”
Subsequent singles “It Was A Good Day,” “Check Yo Self,” “Wicked,” and “Bop Gun (One Nation)” solidified Ice Cube’s elite status as an adventurous performer who routinely shifted stylistic, thematic and sonic gears while remaining artistically sharp and at the top of the charts. It’s a trend that continued when the Californian started releasing albums on his own Lench Mob Records in 2006. His Laugh Now, Cry Later album spawned the hits “Why We Thugs,” and “Go To Church,” which featured Snoop Dogg and Lil Jon. Both songs were among the most popular rap songs of the year.
Beyond music, Ice Cube has established himself as one of entertainment’s most reliable, successful and prolific figures. In the film arena, he’s an accomplished producer (Friday, Barbershop 2: Back In Business, Are We There Yet?), writer (Friday, The Players Club, The Janky Promoters) and director (The Players Club) who is best known for his acting.
One of the most bankable actors in cinematic history, his films include the acclaimed Friday, Barbershop and Are We There Yet? franchises, as well as star turns as a conflicted teen in Boyz N The Hood, a greedy soldier in Three Kings and an elite government agent in xXx: State Of The Union. Ice Cube’s ability to bring a natural, everyman aesthetic to any film genre makes his characters compelling and memorable, whether he’s playing a confrontational career college student (Higher Learning) or skeptical football coach (The Longshots).
As a television producer, he took the Barbershop and Are We There Yet? series to successful network runs and also enjoyed success with the controversial Black. White., among other programs.
In 2012, Ice Cube appears in the blockbuster film 21 Jump Street and the independent thriller Rampart. Other film projects in development include a biopic on N.W.A and another Friday film. In addition to his film projects, he will produce and star in the FX series Eye For An Eye, a gritty drama where he portrays a paramedic bent on vengeance. He’s also a pitchman for Coors Light and will be filming several additional commercials for the beverage in the coming months.
“The relationship is really just starting to pick up momentum,” Ice Cube says of his work with Coors Light. “Not only is it a good beer, but it’s cool that they wanted to expand their brand a little bit and go after somebody like me, someone that’s a little different than the normal sports or rock demographic. I think they’re trying to reach all avenues. They’re trying to be where some of the other beers aren’t.”
Fortunately for Coors Light and his television and film partners, Ice Cube is virtually everywhere. He’s already completed an Australian tour in 2012 and will also hit the road domestically this summer, building to his forthcoming album, Everythang’s Corrupt (due January 2013), his eighteenth release as a solo artist or a member of a group (N.W.A, Da Lench Mob, Westside Connection).
On his new LP, Ice Cube highlights the evolution of the United States of America, a land where honesty, love and respect have been replaced by a meaningless, fruitless pursuit of material spoils.
“Everybody’s trying to come up with more than they really need and it’s driving people crazy,” he says of the mentality that inspired the piano-accented selection “One For The Money.” “If they can’t attain it, then they look for escape in another way, whether it’s drinking, drugs, dancing, having sex, whatever. Everybody’s trying to be somebody, which is cool. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you are somebody. You’re somebody before you’re trying to be somebody. I know a lot of famous dudes who aren’t good people. I know a lot of people that aren’t famous that are cool people, who set a good example and do the right thing.”
But doing the right thing seems much more difficult for people whose sole purpose in accumulating money and power. On the ominous “Everythang’s Corrupt,” Ice Cube explains how money is often the answer to questions about why things work the way they do. “You can never let the world puzzle you,” he explains. “All you’ve got to do is follow the money and you’ll see why things don’t get done or things get done. It’s a shame that the dollar has become more important and more precious than life itself to so many.”
So as much of popular rap focuses on trite topics, Ice Cube remains raw and uncompromising. It’s a stance he’s held since the mid-1980s when he broke through as a member of gangster rap pioneers N.W.A. On the funky, “Can I Hit Some Of That West Coast Shit?” Ice Cube dares the new generation of artists to push the genre forward, something he’s been doing throughout his entire career. “It’s basically saying, what you’re about to do, I’ve done it already,” he reveals. “It’s like, ‘C’mon, man.’ Come new. And if you’re new, you’ll stand out.”
To his point, Ice Cube has stood out throughout his remarkable career. His ability to adapt to new trends and styles and put his twist on them without losing his own identity puts him in an elite class of recording artists of any genre. With the bouncy “Sic Them Youngins On ‘Em,” he showcases an undulating delivery that counters his typically stoic, commanding flow.
That type of artistic alchemy also allows Ice Cube to craft a song like “The Big Show,” where he lets the world know that in the real world, he’s going to remain true to himself regardless of whom he’s interacting with. “I just be myself man, and you’ve just got to take it or leave it, whether you’re the homie in the hood or Obama,” he says. “You’ve just got to take me how I am. Where I come from, it makes me real equipped to deal with everybody.”
As a multi-media juggernaut, Ice Cube has built a career that remains robust, if difficult to categorize. “It’s hard to define,” he says. “My brand, if I could put it in a nutshell, is I believe that I’m a solid artist. I always go back to that word solid. Solid like a Harley Davidson is solid. I hope people trust that when I put my name on something that it’s not just garbage. I’m not just throwing it at you. I’m trying to give you an experience.”
And he’s excelled at that, time and time again.