Real Name: O’Shea Jackson
D.O.B: June 15, 1969 South LA, Ca.
Label: Lench Mob/Priority Records
Ice Cube is one of the most genuinely gifted and experienced rappers in the music industry today. From the roots of west coast reality rap, O’Shea was sent here to drop sonic disruption through Middle America with abrasive untamed black nationalistic urgency. This new energy was moulded by Ice Cube into what we know to be Gangsta rap music. Cube is a true founding father to the new movement, credited to its development with the aid of his formative group, N.W.A. who exploded out of the side walk to blaze a trail for our future reigning superstars. As the dominant lyrical author of the group, Cube became the face and attitude of Gangsta rap exhaling straight from his last thought. Since this auspicious inception he has continued a highly-successful career n most fields of the entertainment industry. Ice Cube has been there from day one and still rolling twenty years strong. Bow Down to the “Nigga Ya Love To Hate!”
The Early Years
O’Shea Jackson was raised in South Central Los Angeles, California as the youngest of four by his parents, both of whom were employed at U.C.L.A. His mother Doris was a custodian and father, Hosie a groundskeeper. O’Shea would be influenced by watching the news on TV with his father. He learned to appreciate politics and social issues from a very young age. At the ripe age of twelve his older brother mockingly called him Ice Cube, stating he was too cool for himself, to this day the name stuck and seems so natural for him. Also inherent was the ability to play ghetto news reporter through his penned rhymes. His start came from doing what is regarded as being his forte to this day, writing raps.
Jackson attended William Howard Taft High School with a friend, Tony ‘Sir Jinx’ Wheatob. They recorded together as ‘CIA’ (Criminals In Action) with Darrel ‘K-Dee’ Johnson performing at local parties held by Sir Jinx’s cousin Andre Young (Dr. Dre). Jackson was 14 years old when he met Dre, 19. Dre had soon entered the recording industry involved with the World Class Wreckin’ Cru recording records with Grandmaster Alonzo Williams at his studio at the back of his Compton nightspot Eve’s After Dark. Dre saw Cube’s potential as a writer and had him helping Dre in writing Wreckin Cru’s big LA hit track, “Cabbage Patch” as well as joining Cube on a side partnership the duo called Stereo Crew by which they produced a twelve-inch record, “She’s a Skag” which was released in ’86. Dre soon offered a spot to Cube’s CIA group to perform and eventually record several tracks in the back four-track studio under Lonzo’s Kru-Cut Records under CBS.
Dre produced three notable recordings for CIA, “My Posse” and “Ill-legal” which were Beastie Boys blueprints replaced with lyrics detailing cruising in cars along the Crenshaw Boulevard strip and “Just 4 The Cash.” This crew was seemingly owned by Lonzo now and pimped weekly with gifts and weekend spots performing at his clubs. Unimpressed was Cube with being someone’s bitch, with his crew they went to local drug dealer, Eric Wright whom Cube knew from Taft High School and had became a known presence through their early performances at Eve’s. Eric was interested in changing careers to capitalize on the growing trend of rap music taking over LA’s counter-culture and paid Lonzo for studio time with the boys and put together Cube’s lyric ghost-writing with a group Dre knew called HBO backed with some hard-edged east coast beats.
Boyz N’ The Hood
“If NWA didn’t exist, would you have South Park or The Osbournes? Would you have The Sopranos, things like that?” he says. “We kind of made it all right to be yourself, say what you want to say. Artists don’t have limits no more. I think that’s the legacy of NWA, and I’m proud of that.” HBO performed while Dre owed money and time to Lonzo’s World Class Wreckin’ Cru work, continuing the side project with Cube and Eric, the group rapped to Cube’s lyrics only when Cube refused to follow trend of the east coast, he depicted the South Central LA gang-related violent ghetto anthem as described through very violent and misogynist lyrics. HBO refused to perform this rap and walked out. The song was “Boyz n The Hood”. Dre insisted Eric should perform the track, not a natural-born rapper, the manager learned with coaching from both Cube and Dre. Eazy-E was born and by September 1987 the single was released.
By this time, Cube had left for Phoenix leaving Dallas’ The D.O.C. to ghost write the lyrics. Together with Dre’s DJ sidekick from the Wreckin’ Cru, Antoine ‘DJ Yella’ Carraby, local Compton rapper Lorenzo ‘MC Ren’ Patterson and Arabian Prince the most revolutionary rap group ever assembled N.W.A. launched Ice Cube and the others onto the music scene more than ever imaginable. Despite getting their definitive break in the scene, Cube parted with the group in 1987 to pursue his studies for an architectural drafting degree in Phoenix. He returned in time to participate in the N.W.A. second release, Straight Outta Compton becoming the predominant songwriter for the group. The sales of the album exploded going two times platinum and N.W.A. experienced an unprecedented rate of notoriety although not all positive. The group was received with strong animosity from U.S. authorities, government and law enforcement. Namely the track, “Fuck Tha Police” is today, still the most controversial hip-hop song ever written. With lyrics by Ice Cube, a flippant incitement for disrespecting police. Directed at the L.A.P.D. who at the time deployed a strong-arm anti gang unit, formed of hard police officers using any force deemed necessary to combat gang activity and inner city crime called C.R.A.S.H.(Community resources Against Street Hoodlums) The assistant director for the F.B.I. sent down a letter to Ruthless Records and parent company, Priority and kept a vigilant watch on their activities. But as soon to be apparent within hip-hop promotion this only served to boost their image and record sales. The album exploded going two times platinum. Despite this, Cube was handed a mere crumb-snatch $32,700 give-or-take.
Ice Cube came back from a long period touring with N.W.A. across the country ending with near riots he returned to his parents’ house in South Central to his own bedroom he grew up in as a teenager. He was back to daily chores of washing dishes and taking out the trash. His house was the target of mistaken address in a drive-bye shooting and it made him wonder why he was still at home without being paid for his explosive new recording and performing career. With two albums to his credit selling over 3 million copies and a tour that grossed $650,000 Cube approached Jerry Heller to inquire about his cut and other N.W.A. merchandise sold on tour he was told to leave it be and only received $23,000.
“Jerry lives in a half-million dollar house in Westlake and I’m still living at home with my mother. Jerry’s driving a Corvette and Mercedes-Benz and I’ve got a Suzuki Sidekick. Jerry’s making all the money and I’m not. Jerry has no creative input into the group: he just makes all the fucked-up decisions and gets all the fucking money.” - Cube told Frank Owen.
Cube was owed it least a further $120,000 in royalties but never received a cent. He had all good intentions on continuing with the group if the reasonable financial demands were met but in any situation if you are not getting paid for your work, you down-tools and seek employment elsewhere. After a San Diego show in August of ’89 Cube walked away from the super group and left the west coast to shine without him.
Solo with The Bomb Squad
“I just thought at the time there was two producers that was even worth fucking with – Dr. Dre and the Bomb Squad. If I couldn’t get Dre, I was going to the Bomb Squad.”
Ice Cube hired his own layers and accountants and headed off to the east coast with his homeboys from the Lench Mob comprised of South Central locals who grew up around Cube during his formative years in the rap game. He matured from the teen angst of NWA’s purpose and found mentors in Public Enemy’s Chuck D and the S1Ws who gave him inspiring Nation of Islam books to read. Together with this he began listening intently to the speeches of Minister Louis Farrakhan and the militant translations of Khalid Mohammed. This expanded his mind and armed Cube with his most powerful weapon to date, knowledge where upon he would turn his lyrical direction into a vehicle for a highly-motivated political purpose rather than spitting gangsta-fairytales used to locate himself in South Central. This opened up a whole new world for him and his career. He worked with Public Enemy’s production team The Bomb Squad just after they finished work on Fear of a Black Planet. Cube’s first solo project saw him eager to flaunt his flawless natural talent of rhyme and newly-gained comprehension of Farrakhan-like nationalism.
“The Bomb Squad thing was – Bring us the groceries, we’ll cook it.” - Cube told Vibe in September ’06.
This new era came about when Cube was sitting in the Def Jam offices searching for New York producer for Run DMC and 3rd Bass, Sam Sever when he saw Chuck D who was surprised to hear news of Cube splitting from N.W.A. super group. Fate had brought Cube and Chuck’s Bomb Squad together. They instructed Cube to go into their Long Island warehouse filled with crates of records, spending two weeks picking out albums to sample for his new solo ambition. The auspicious east-west union had taken its first steps to inauguration. Cube worked with The Bomb Squad’s Hank Shocklee and Eric Saddler together with his long-time rhyme crew Sir Jinx and the Lench Mob to churn out one of hip-hop’s all-time most celebrated solo projects.
His first album, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted was completed in February 1990. Timed perfectly with the popularity boom in the mainstream scene, it was an instantaneous hit. Guest appearances from Flavor Flav and Chuck-D from Public Enemy furthered the album’s notoriety. Ice Cube opened his controversial writing, turning his focus on ghetto truths and police harassment. Despite this the album was a huge success going triple platinum showing the diverse array of records sampled throughout the album ranging eclectically from the ever-present Parliament funk-bounce, Stevie Wonder, The Honey-Drippers and James Brown cultural anthems to the Average White Band’s more afro-centric flavours, Billy Squier, The Turtles and even a Disney kids track. On the tale ‘Once Upon a Time in the Projects’ Cube narrates over “Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him” by Betty Davis about a naïve brother paying a girl a visit in a public housing apartment, only to find himself in residence of inequity with a mother who has neglected her son to the gang-life, and left the other to run riot in dirty nappies while she cooks crack-cocaine in the kitchen. This openly showcased Cube’s outrageous discontent for the government insulting the weak-minded poor black communities with their substandard handouts. “You Can’t Fade Me/JD’s Gafflin’” kicked off Cube’s misogynist controversial career against the black woman. He depicts the scenario of an unemployed knucklehead drunk impregnating a one-night-stand ‘neighbourhood hussy’ who intends on sticking him with child support with unimaginable solutions to terminating the pregnancy by “kicking the bitch in the tummy” and “going in the closet, looking for the hanger”. It turns out the baby is not his to which he takes great delight in. Ice Cube’s solo performance and accuracy of his weapon of knowledge lead every track to be an unmistakable success. In 1990 The Billboard Top 200 entered the album at number 19 and number 6 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums list. The album-titled, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted track hit the number 1 spot on the Hot Rap Singles.
Together Cube and Bomb Squad soon followed AmeriKKKa’s pinnacle and released the EP, Kill At Will on July 1st, 1990 releasing tracks, “Dead Homiez” a tale describing the irony of black people attending funerals for the generation of destructive youths fallen prey to gang homicide and the track, "Jackin’ for Beats" which served to highlight The Bomb Squad’s aesthetic talent with nineteen mixed-in samples from B.T. Express, Bobby Byrd, Zapp to modern slam-hits of Digital Underground’s Humpty and Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrordome”. “The Product” introduces the issues of street-dealing and cooking up crack-cocaine. Chuck-D and Flavor Flav guest-appear to reinforce the strength of Cube’s east coast partnership.
Boy In Hollyhood
By 1991 Cube had developed a new skill in acting and found himself co-starring alongside Cuba Gooding Jr. in the John Singleton movie, Boyz N The Hood as ‘Doughboy’ a teenager suffering a derision from his mother and common absence of a father-figure a local drug dealing gangster from his own neighbourhood of South Central L.A. During an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show Ice Cube met Arsenio’s intern John Singleton a South Central native who would become a leading black film-maker who spoke to Cube about a movie he was working on and expressed his desire for him to undertake the lead role. However this idea of acting in a movie seemed too distant for the rapper. It wasn’t until a year later when Cube’s manager pointed out a film role he encouraged him to audition for. As he turned up he saw Singleton and realised it was his film. Ice Cube had found a mentor in John Singleton throughout his acting career. He had landed the lead role of Darren ‘Doughboy’ Baker starring alongside Laurence Fishburne and Cube Gooding Jr. who together with Ice Cube began their careers off the success of this film. Boyz N The Hood was incidentally released shortly before the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and was nominated at the 1991 Academy Awards for both Best Director and Original Screenplay. It later claimed the MTV Movie Award in 1992 for Outstanding Motion Picture. Cube shone through the film and earned himself the Chicago Film Critics Award for Most Promising New Actor. Ice Cube provided the track ‘How To Survive In South Central’ for the soundtrack.
Upon return into LA for the filming he frequented the local Islamic mosques in the area where he met Craig ‘Kam’ Miller a reformed gang member-turned Nation of Islam and rapper who was about to become ‘Craig X’ at Compton Mosque #54. Cube soon met Khalid Abdul Muhammed who referred to himself as a “Truth terrorist and knowledge gangster, a black history hit man and an urban guerrilla.” He was an integral part of organizing gang truce in Watts and South Central. Cube found refuge in the Nation of Islam and shaved off his jheri-curl and with a head of new ideas and confidence he was sure his follow-up album would be his masterpiece.
Sign Your Death Certificate
Later that year he put to work his second release, Death Certificate which hit the streets October 31, 1991 as a brand new controversial heavyweight of narration on the unheard voices of black residents in down-trodden LA. The release marked the calm before the storm of April 29, 1992 riots across his home turf. At a very hostile and bubbling hotpot of confusion, Cube expressed the view of his people very blatantly and concisely as perhaps the best conciliator of the youth of South Central since Bunchy Carter left the Slausons street gang for the Black Panther cause. On the album cover Cube stood next to a white body slab on the coroner’s gurney wrapped in the American flag with ‘Uncle Sam’ written on his toe tag. The album had two distinct components to it, clear as black and white, “Niggas are in a state of emergency, the Death Side: Mirror image of where we are today. The Life Side: A vision of where we need to go, so sign your Death Certificate.”
He seemed to be in full consciousness of his position and purpose. On the record sleeve he had aligned himself in the middle to his left his street life sat with the Lench Mob unsure and defensive. To his right the Fruit of Islam soldiers prepped for war reading a copy of The Final Call with headline ‘Unite or Perish’. Inside the words of the tracks seemed to target broadly anyone against his cause, from the NWA days, Jerry Heller, Eazy-E, Ren and Dre to government oppressors of President Bush, the American Army, Darryl Gates, Jesse Jackson, and back to his neighbourhood sighting at gangbangers, drug pushers, Korean shopkeepers and Japanese capitalists. His vision was defined and his hit list was growing.
The start of the Death Side opened with a funeral over a fallen homeboy which opened into “Wrong Nigga to Fuck Wit” showing his emotion of anger against local LAPD authorities pushing their rights. This summed up the album’s energy and showed the power of the Bomb Squad’s devastating effect when dropped. “My Summer Vacation” told the pandemic truths of South Central drug dealers migrating out to St. Louis to embark on an untapped market. With that St. Louis inherited the gang-life, the song resulting in his friend dying at the hand of local bangers. The track closed with police launching a crackdown on the streets. Cube’s message passed onto sexual relations in the hood, on the track “Givin’ Up the Nappy Dugout” depicts him and his Lench Mob turning out daddy’s little Catholic good girl into the neighbourhood hoe and rapping their exploits to her father when greeted at his front door. Following on to “Look Who’s Burnin’” and they pay their price after sitting in a clinic waiting for STD treatment. Inside he bumps into a local girl who turned him down for a clean-cut college boy. “Bird In the Hand” tells the inevitable struggle of a low-level drug pusher trying to make ends meet by dealing for change, however the tale continues on “Alive on Arrival” when Cube’s narration takes pot shots at the shocking conditions of the King-Drew County Hospital after the pusher is shot on the corner in a drug sale and gruesomely bleeding profusely in the waiting room. Typically the victim caught more attention from the LAPD than a doctor, asking whether he was a gangbanger. Cube cites the legendary rhyme “I don’t bang I rock the good rhymes/ and I’m a victim of a neighbourhood crime” The subject dies in the waiting room waiting for treatment. Cube tells of his disgust with the nihilism of drug-dealing and the abandonment of health care. Dr. Khalid Muhammed closes the Death Side with his preach, using the united Crip slogan in context for solidarity of brotherhood.
The Life Side turned the page on a host of new subjects Cube has sided against. “I Wanna Kill Sam” opens up on Americas’ deployment of soldiers in the Persian Gulf comparing conscription-like military recruitment to that of the round-up of slaves from Africa. “True To the Game” condemns black Uncle Toms and House Niggas reflecting on his past business dealings with whites and Jews. On “Colorblind” Cube brought on-board a host of all-stars to help explain the life of a gangbanger from those who were brought up in the life. Kam, Coolio, WC, Threat and King Tee produced by DJ Pooh and the Boogiemen. All depicted their reality of Crip life and Blood lost from it. Cube still held his position strong in the middle. “Doing Dumb Shit” revealed a personal side of Cube’s upbringing, and first time experiencing a woman, “I was ten years old and doing dumb shit.” “Us” admits the ignorant indulgence of materialism and disconnected view of unity in black people in the ghettos. He calls for racial solidarity against Japanese capitalists buying up property in the neighbourhood and putting up stores. “No Vaseline” became the soul-destroying track responsible for breaking up NWA. Ice Cube verbally indicts the remaining members of his crew being pimped by Eazy and a Jewish manager. He proved revenge is a dish best served cold when his first album stayed silent and disassociated with them completely. Now he crept up and knocked them out cold with Dre and Ren realising they were being left fucked from behind with no Vaseline. This ended the album.
It became clearly apparent no rap album had ever been as controversial as Death Certificate. Such an album had sold well in excess of a million copies as soon as it was released but was equally met negatively with misrepresentation through bad press, nationwide boycotts from minority groups. The Economist labelled the album as reactionary as opposed to the trend of hip-hop’s rebellion image. The New Republic expressed the opinion of the album calling it a consumption of racial stereotypes with values held by those young black menaces that kill and rob with such ease as seen in movies, records and streets across the country. Three weeks after the album’s release, Editor Timothy White of Billboard magazine called for record chains to boycott the record “His unabashed espousal of violence against Koreans, Jews and other whites crosses the line that divides art from the advocacy of crime.” This editorial was uncharacteristic and unusual for the inside-trade magazine which makes Death Certificate the only album ever singled out for this brand of denunciation. By November 1 the Simon Wiesenthal Center called for four major retail record companies to boycott the album calling it “a Molotov cocktail” and “real threat” mainly finding ‘No Vaseline’ to be grossly anti-Semitic. However the album grew despite the controversy to selling over several million copies taking it double platinum success and a new line of threat to the government as they were now of the realization of the power of spoken word.
The controversial excerpt track from Death Certificate “Black Korea” focused on South Central’s most aggravating topic of what they see as an Asian-American takeover of their community. Cube speaks of Korean businesses plotting stores on every corner of the black neighbourhoods. Opening with Spike Lee’s, Do The Right Thing scene with Radio Raheem attempting to purchase batteries for his ghetto-blaster. “20 D Energizers …D motherfucker, D learn to speak English!” At the start of Cube’s story his lyrics portray a black man entering the store and being continually hawked by the Korean shop attendant and he bursts out in defence against a female shopkeeper following behind him thinking he is about to steal goods. The scene is similar to the opening scene of the film Menace II Society featuring O’Dogg and Kane in their local corner store buying beer. The songs entirety ends in under a minute with Cube delivering his harsh message bluntly, “Don’t Follow me up and down your crazy little market, or your chop-suey ass will be the target of a nationwide boycott.” Finally he ends his threat with “Pay respect to the black fist or we’ll burn your store right down to a crisp! And then we’ll see ya, ‘cause you can’t turn the ghetto into Black Korea.” Spike Lee’s shopkeeper, Korean Sonny spits in his final assault toward Raheem, “Mother fuck you!” The Korean American Coalition with various other cultural groups’ boycotted stores record stores who sold Cube’s new album. They picketed in New York and LA outside the stores. The real threat the track carried was that Ice Cube did in fact carry the power to incite racial violence toward Korean-Americans and fire-bombings and tension was already apparent through LA. At the time there was a political upheaval in the trial of Korean shopkeeper, Soon Ja Du who murdered black female customer Latasha Harlins over a disagreement, Du was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. As they awaited sentencing to be handed down members of the Korean American Grocers’ Association (KAGRO) feared retaliation and riots through their stores. They boycotted but it failed to decline record sales for Cube. They found a clear shot at hitting him where it hurt most.
By 1987 McKenzie River Corporation of San Francisco introduced a new forty-ounce malt liquor called St. Ides to rival Pabst’s Olde English 800 brand better known as 8-Ball. Their strongest selling point was the alcoholic potency St. Ides had 8 percent compared to 8-Ball’s 6 percent and 3.5 percent in an average can of beer. The demographic market of this product was strongest in the black neighbourhoods of LA. By ’88 McKenzie River had approached KDAY music directors Greg Mack and DJ Pooh to recruit rappers to sponsor their St. Ides product in a sixty second radio commercial. Pooh offered the spot to King-Tee and together they used a Mixmaster Spade track. Tee made $50,000 and an endless supply of St. Ides delivered right to his front door. The spots were hot with east coast rappers joining in to with “Crooked I” spots to endorse McKenzie Rivers sales and listeners were requesting the radio station to continually play them. By 1990 they recruited the controversial and highly acclaimed voice of South Central, Ice Cube. At the time Death Certificate was released St. Ides was the malt liquor choice of the ghettos.
KAGRO represented over 3,500 stores across southern California with over 20,000 members controlling 7 percent of the national market and they demanded that McKenzie River withdraw all promotion and commercial endorsement involving Ice Cube and cut all business relations with him. By November 7, 1991 McKenzie refused to follow their demands stating losing Ice Cube would cripple their small company’s sales. KAGRO sympathised with the business but stated they had picked the wrong rapper to work with. Stores were ordered to pull sales on their product and cease orders. This trend caught on through some 5,000 stores all along the west coast and spread through the east coast market of America. McKenzie River eventually conceded defeat and severed all ties with Ice Cube. Conciliation soon followed three months later in February with Ice Cube met with the KAGRO leadership in a meeting put together by McKenzie River, Cube apologized to the merchants and offered to re-establish a more unified community between Korean and African Americans. The end result of this saw Ice Cube resume his sponsorship deal with St. Ides donating the proceeds of his earnings to charities including a large cash donation to the King-Drew Hospital. KAGRO implemented a ten-point code of ethics for their 3,200 store owners which African and Korean Americans signalled as a breakthrough in improving minority relations. They also conceded that Ice Cube’s gripes were fair and legitimate and hoped the future would help to understand each other’s cultures.
On November 15, Soon Ja Du to just five years probation for her killing of Latasha Harlins at the gavel of Judge Joyce Karlin who in her final statement lectured the African-American community about taking revenge on the streets for her lenient sentencing. The African-American community reacted horrifically at the suggestion of revenge it was something that never crossed their minds. Unfortunately this sat bitterly with the people. The community had moved their attention to waiting for the outcome of a trial involving four officers who had viscously beaten motorist Rodney King on camera. There was a very strong sense from within the ghettos of LA of a disturbing uproar about to take place in the city. At that same period on the cover of the Korean Times, a picture of Ice Cube shaking hands with the Southern California president of KAGRO was printed with the headline “Ice Cube the Peacemaker”. The meeting happened in February but the article was released on May 4th, 1992 right in the peak of the LA Riots. A very ironic reminder of how close conciliations reached at a time when they could not be further apart.
The New Predator
In 1993 continued his acting resume starring alongside fellow L.A. rapper Ice-T in the film, Trespass following writing the title track for the soundtrack with Ice-T. Just as Cube’s name was growing and touring on the Lollapalooza in ’92 to widen his fan base, he converted to the Nation of Islam religion, the controversial extreme black empowerment organization. Late November Ice Cube worked on his most successful project ever in his illustrious career. He released his third album, The Predator by 1993 which débuted at #1 on the Pop and R&B charts, the first album in history to do so. The album saw Cube become extremely infuriated, strongly energised by the political upheaval of the Los Angeles riots that preceded the Predator release, providing him with the social, pro-black commentary with excerpts from the four charged L.A.P.D. officers accused of beating Rodney King, off the tracks “We Had To Tear This Motherfucker Up” and “Say Hi To The Camera”. The album also included powerful excerpts by Islamic minister Farrakhan on the Phil Donahue Show and the singles from this included “It Was A Good Day” and “Check Yo Self” collaborating with Das EFX which had a two-part music video concluding on the start of the video for “It Was A Good Day”. The album superseded his previous releases and became a phenomenal exemplary in the volumes of hip-hop. The Predator sold five times platinum.
After the height of his three top selling albums, Cube brought out his fourth, Lethal Injection which was heavily overshadowed by Dr. Dre’s G-Funk dominance from Death Row Records, namely Snoop Dogg’s, Doggystyle classic. Lethal Injection was underrated at the time, but in years to come the album became a classic among Ice Cube fans. Growing sales made the album a four times platinum hit record. He took a brief hiatus in 1994 to work on his labelmates’ projects, Da Lench Mob’s début album, Guerillas in the Mist and Kam’s Neva Again. During this year Cube reunited with Dr. Dre to co-write the track, “Natural Born Killaz” for the soundtrack to the short film, Murder Was The Case. Late ’94 Cube starred in the movie, Glass Shield as Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department officer, Teddy Woods. By ’95 he had starred in another John Singleton film, Higher Learning as Fudge, a mature-aged university student in the racially inspired film pairing up alongside Laurence Fishburne again, Omar Epps and supermodel Tyra Banks’ first theatrical performance.
Burn Hollywood, Burn
While on tour Ice Cube with DJ Pooh began to formulate ideas of portraying their neighbourhood in a different, less violent light than the Boyz N The Hood, Menace II Society glooms. They wanted to show the way they perceived South Central LA from when they were children. Together they began writing for different characters and came up with a film called ‘Friday’. This was set to become an instantaneous bud smokers’ cult classic. Cube and Pooh completed the script by the end of touring and presented it to New Line Cinema who allowed them everything they needed for the project and total creative control. The film was shot in 20 days with a budget of $3.5million which became the most profitable film that year for New Line. This opened the books for Cube to now write, direct and produce his own movies with the same ease and pleasure of releasing a ghetto-gangsta rap record.
Directed by South Central LA’s F. Gary Gray and produced by Patricia Charbonnet starring comedian Chris Tucker, John Witherspoon and Nia Long, Regina King and Tiny Lister Jr. The film is set on 126th street in South Central between Normandie and Halldale Ave. which remains almost identical today apart from some houses painted differently. The movie depicts an average Friday in the hood, 16 hours of misadventures between two friends Craig Jones (Ice Cube) and Smokey (Chris Tucker). Craig loses his job the day prior and Smokey convinces him to sit around and get high off marijuana while trying to find a solution to paying off Smokey’s local dealer, or else suffer consequences of death for the pair. As well as keeping out of reach of local bully Debo (Tiny Lister Jr.) The comedy rolls through as both get more stoned and ends with a high moralistic teaching. Friday had become a new-age blaxploitation film and received with open arms within the black and rap-fan community. Dr. Dre assisted Cube for the soundtrack production. The film was released April 26th, 1995. The film was nominated at that year’s MTV Movie Awards for Best Breakthrough Performance, and Best Comedic Performance to Chris Tucker as well as Best On-Screen Duo to Ice Cube and Chris Tucker.
After various other musical and film projects in 2000 Cube returned to the ‘hood for the sequel to Friday calling it Next Friday again depicting South Central in a comedic manner. This time Cube invited Steve Carr to direct the film while he wrote and produced it under his new film production company Cubevision for a budget of $9,500 000 released on New Line Cinema on January 12th, 2000. The biggest draw card of Friday Chris Tucker was not available for the follow-up as he had turned into a born-again Christian and chose to star alongside Jackie Chan in Rush Hour. The character Craig explains Smokey has gone away to rehab.
This time Craig moves out of the neighbourhood to live with his lottery-winner Uncle Elroy (Don D.C. Curry) in the suburbs of Rancho Cucamonga in the San Bernardino County 39 miles east outside of Los Angeles. Here Craig pairs up with his less street-smart cousin Day-Day (mike Epps) in a mansion house right next door to a house of Latino gang member brothers. Craig helps Day-Day out with a recurring problem with his pregnant ex-girlfriend and winds up in his own troubles when he dates the Latino brothers’ sister Karla (Lisa Rodriguez) and raises money to prevent Uncle Elroy’s house going up for auction. Again bully, Debo (Tiny Lister Jr) with rapper Sticky Fingaz find their way out of prison to exact revenge on Craig. The ironic tale of leaving the gritty ‘hood of South Central L.A. and it’s troubles for the quieter life in the ‘burbs, Craig finds more trouble in Day-Day’s neighbourhood and decides to finally move back home to the peaceful streets he was raised in. Although the film did not live up to the cult-heights of the original, the film grossed a worldwide figure of $59,827,328.
Two years later Cube opened up the third instalment of the Friday trilogy, Friday After Next with a strong Christmas theme starring alongside Mike Epps and Don D.C. Curry again. The film was directed by Marcus Raboy and directed by Matt Alvarez and Ice Cube for an increased budget of $20 million under Cubevision and Cube’s script writing. This time the pair, Craig and Day-Day live together in an apartment and get up to adventures as they undertake a job at being rent-a-cop security guards at a local shopping mall to raise their own rent money after a house robber disguised as ghetto Santa Claus steals their Christmas presents and rent money. Also in the film was Terry Crews as Damon the landlady’s ex-con son and comedian Katt ‘Slickback’ Williams as Money Mike. The film was released November 22nd, 2002 as a holiday season comedy to a strictly cult-following of the Friday series and no market base was achieved outside of this box. The filmed grossed $32,983,713 at the U.S. Box Office. There is no word of Ice Cube making a fourth and final Friday instalment. However First Sunday, about two petty criminals plot to rip-off their church is scheduled for release in 2008.
After the Friday series was completed Cube starred in another black comedy set in a south side Chicago barbershop as Calvin Palmer Jr. continuing his father’s neighbourhood cornerstone shop business with a cast of up-n-coming stars called Barbershop soon to be followed up with Barbershop 2: Back in Business in 2004. Co-starring with Cube was female rapper Eve and comedian Cedric the Entertainer in a familiar all-black setting with Calvin trying to rev the business up by borrowing money to upgrade the business and results in selling it a notorious loan shark, Lester Wallace (Keith David)who envisions the premises as a strip joint scrapping all wholesome neighbourhood values aside. This becomes the strong moral throughout the movie and sets its main premise as well as Ice Cube’s character having to balance an older more traditional period under Calvin’s father’s management with comparison to today’s in the inner-city black culture in relation to the business. This is apparent on both Barbershop films. In Barbershop 2 the shop is threatened with competition opening up next door called Nappy Cutz headed by Gina, introducing rap star and actress, Queen Latifah which spins off to the third of the Barbershop series called Beauty Shop. The temptation of the new glitzy hair salon begins to detract from the Barbershop and Calvin finds it hard to compete and insists that his traditional barbershop will win over the glitz of Nappy Cutz. Ice Cube had been nominated for awards from Black Reel and Black Entertainment Television for his outstanding acting prowess, proving if rapping comes natural to Cube then acting is second nature.
So much so was the recognition he received, by ’99 he landed a major role in the critically acclaimed Hollywood tale of the Gulf War in Iraq, Three Kings alongside George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. Cube played the character, Staff Sergeant Chief Elgin Set a few days after the official Gulf War ended, the films shows a darker side of the after effects of a conflict with a team of U.S. soldiers scavenging through the desert for Saddam’s personal bunkers of stolen Kuwaiti gold loot and collection of prestige cars parallel to that of Jay Leno’s. For his part in the film, Cube was nominated again with the Theatrical - Best Supporting Actor from Black Reel and Favourite Action Team from the Blockbuster Entertainment Award.
After the heightened threat of war between rival coasts in hip-hop the East v West claimed the life of one of hip-hop’s brightest sons, Tupac Shakur, Ice Cube formed a west coast alliance with his recording protégées and record label mates, Mack 10 and W.C. collectively calling themselves Westside Connection. They released an album on October 22nd, 1996 at a critical moment in the civil war inside the hip-hop community called “Bow Down” claiming a strong allegiance to the west coast and putting out their blatant opinions of the east coast disrespecting the west. The group released two well-received singles, “Bow Down” which claimed the top spot on U.S. Rap Charts and “Gangstas Make the World go Round” hitting number ten on the same charts. The trio reached double-platinum sales and entered the Billboard Album 200 Charts at number two November 9, 1996 and number one on the Hot Rap Tracks. This further launched the careers of Mack 10 and W.C. into commercial status.
By 2003 the three, “Gangsta, the killa and the dope dealer” put out their follow-up album, Terrorist Threats on December 9th with the notable single “Gangsta Nation” with hip-hop’s songbird voice of Nate Dogg opening up on ninth spot on the U.S. Rap Chart and featured the narration of Barbershop co-star Keith David with his government-like national security address, warning American citizens against the perils of Westside Connection. This album went gold and entered the album charts at number sixteen.
By now it was becoming apparent to Cube that his acting career was now propelling him further ahead than his recording career with a growing list of movie credits. During 1997 and 2004 Cube had appeared in thirteen films, co-writing and producing the Friday trilogy. Soon after in 2005 a rift between members divided the group with Mack 10 opting to leave the project citing a feud with Ice Cube over his reluctance to tour with the Connection. Instead Cube leaned further toward continuing his movie career. Cube has not ruled out another Westside Connection album but did state that Mack 10 would not be a part of this. W.C. has stayed by Cube’s side and helped him on various record projects, even guest-appearing on Cube’s latest 2006 album, Laugh Now, Cry Later.
Between Westside Connection releases Cube continued to build on his solo discography, delivering a double-hit package of War & Peace Volumes 1 & 2. The first was released in November 7th, 1998 with track production from Master P and crossing over to rock fusion with the track, “Fuck Dying” collaborating with Rock artists Korn. The first volume hit platinum sales. By March 8th, 2000 the second volume was released hitting the third spot on the Billboard Album Charts in its first week. The album opens with the much-celebrated N.W.A. reunion with Dr. Dre and M.C. Ren on “Hello” which was supposed to be the start of a new N.W.A. project, but never happened due to Dre’s signing of the new era of hip-hop megastars, Eminem and 50 Cent to his Aftermath label. The hit “You Can Do It” with the R&B blend of Ms. Toi was released originally off this album but later re-released in 2004 on the soundtrack to Next Friday and Save The Last Dance. The single was a club classic reaching #2 in the UK Singles Chart. The second volume went certified gold in sales.
Laugh Now, Cry Later
He took a year off Hollywood, locked doors and filled out a pad of paper, scribing nothing but O.G. lyrics, the end result, another slamming piece of west coast history. Ice Cube’s latest solo album release stamped his authority and legendary status on west coast hip-hop when on June 6th, 2006 he brought us Laugh Now, Cry Later. Poignantly titled in reference to rappers today laughing and playing at the expense of the easy-dollar market but some day they will have to pay. This being his first album in six years due to a heavy time frame dominated in the movie side of his fruitful career, the true-school O.G. came back to the studio and brought back his signature Boyz N Tha Hood comeback-stories that made him famous twenty years ago. He unleashed a twenty-track ghetto-commentary picking up where The Predator may have left us, in the smoke-hazed ashes of the race riots of the early ‘90s. Co-produced by Lil’ Jon, mixtape legends Swizz Beats, DJ Green lantern and the underrated touch of Scott Storch, Ice Cube details in a recent interview his thoughts on ironing out this new but distinctively autographed material,
“I didn’t want to make a record that was like a history book,” the O.G. writer explains his purpose of this latest commercial project, “I wanted to make a record that does what all good hip-hop does: It makes you feel good; it kind of pumps you up, but it also shows you a part of life that you might not have been paying attention to or might not even know exists… That’s really the essence of the music…Yeah, its got ego and macho and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, its music that you can learn from.”
Ice Cube aims his political weapon at the ever-infamous President George Bush, today’s mindless material-bling rappers and continues to reinstate his position atop the industry as the Godfather of the west coast movement. He settles any rumours of him falling off the scope of the reality-rap vision he first promoted two decades back. The first hit single off the album, Why We Thugs produced by Scott Storch with cracking hand-clap snares reminiscent of the era when Sir Jinx was behind the boards and keeps us up-to-date with the reality of all ‘hoods across the U.S. in their relatively unchanged cycle of perpetual genocide. The accompanying video shows Cube in several different ghetto neighbourhoods across the country painting the vision of “Every hood’s the same!” starring comedian and co-star Mike Epps. The video closes with Cube and Epps breaking the law and winding up in jail. Ice Cube brings the track to the forefront of modern west coast rap with the chilling lyrics left echoing through our minds,
“I’m from the land of the gang bang
Since I was little, ain’t a god damn thang changed
It’s the same ol same
Bush run shit like Saddam Hussein
I cock and aim, clinically insane
To deal with this bullshit day to day
If I sell some yay or smoke some hay
You bitches wanna throw me up in Pelican’s Bay
Call me an animal up in the system
But who’s the animal that built this prison
Who’s the animal that invented lower living”
“They give us guns and drugs, then wonder why in the fuck we thugs!…”
In “Child Support”. Cube portrays himself as modern hip-hop generation’s father-figure trying to comprehend where he went wrong in raising this art form in the west and what has happened to his children, i.e. The young bastard MCs of today. Shocked but not lost for words at the hedonism of the 50 Cent era hot-stepping through the movement with complete self-gratification and materialism, Ice Cube chops the age-old game through the track trying not to sound Grandpa. In his second verse he warns young rappers to stay alive because record companies will still profit from selling posthumous records, namely shooting off a round in the direction of Interscope Records making money off dead rappers, remaining nameless. But thank God that the gangsta’s back. Cube breaks down his views on how far we have driven today in what he started a generation ago in the rear-view,
– [Ice Cube for The Guardian newspaper, August 06.]
The second released single “Go to Church” produced by Lil’ Jon Cube shares vocals with Lil’ Jon and old-time west promoter Snoop Dogg and flexes his bravado through the clenched-crunk lyrics. Possibly the most volatile berating came on “Nigga Trap” a 1st amendment-exercise system throw-down, hitting out at George Dubya and Governor Terminator of California, also directing his disgust at former label-mate and veteran Flavor Flav from P.E. parading on reality TV and keeping company of a white woman, Brigitte Nielsen. In the vast spectrum of west coast rap, Cube has always been the one to lay down the facts black-white in the same nihilistic fashion of N.W.A. with the anti-apple pie topic of debate taken from a slice of Chuck D’s bean pie. Laugh Now, Cry Later dropped 6-6-6 100% Jackson owned on his own Lench Mob Records label. It’s all about the ownership in his veteran years. Upon its first breath on the street it sold 144,000 units and only a few months later, certified gold.
Ice Cube’s latest venture was a contribution to the growing list of reality television, only with a powerful, enlightening message to Middle America. Playing the race-card advocate again, he named the show, Black, White. A first, Cube experiments with the social and racial topics of debate he has been ranting about over the last twenty years in rap records in living-America. The show premièred on the FX network on March 8th, 2006 and followed one black, the Wurgals (Bruno, Carmen, and daughter Rose) and one white family, the Sparks (Brian, Renee, and son Nick) from Atlanta, Georgia and Santa Monica, California respectively as they switched identities and lifestyles by trading races. They moved them both together in Los Angeles and all participants underwent cosmetic transformation to switch the black family into white and the white family into black. Incidentally the make-up artists won the 2006 Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding make-up for a Series (Non-Prosthetic)’. The following episodes transpired with revelations of racial inequalities as a direct result of their change in skin colour.
The show was produced by Ice Cube, R.J. Cutler and Matt Alvarez who worked previously with Cube on Next Friday with Mr. Cube performing the theme song, ‘Race Card’. Since its inception the series has carried out six episodes of frustrating social situations around peers of their new race identity, struggling to fit in and revealing shocking biased treatment. Ironically in the third episode, Bruno and Carmen experience hostility in a black neighbourhood and white-turned-black son, Nick becomes engrossed in the gangster lifestyle which causes great concern for his parents. Enlightening facts are peeled back about one’s own race within the scope of the television series that only an experiment like this could harbour. The 6th and final episode of the series aired on Wednesday, April 12 at 10 p.m. Eastern.
1990 AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
1990 Kill At Will EP
1991 Death Certificate
1993 The Predator
1994 Lethal Injection
1995 Bootlegs & B-Sides (Compilation)
1997 Featuring Ice Cube (Compilation)
1998 War & Peace [Volume 1 (The War Disc)]
2000 War & Peace [Volume 2 (The Peace Disc)]
2001 Ice Cube - (Greatest Hits)
2006 Laugh Now, Cry Later
2007 Ice Cube In The Movies
2008 Raw Footage
1991 Boyz N the Hood
1994 The Glass Shield
1995 Higher Learning
1998 Dangerous Ground
1998 The Players Club
1998 I Got the Hook Up
1999 Three Kings
1999 Thicker Than Water
2000 Next Friday
2001 Ghosts of Mars
2002 All About the Benjamins
2002 Friday After Next
2004 Barbershop 2: Back in Business
2005 Are We There Yet?
2005 XXX: State of the Union
2007 Are We Done Yet?
2008 First Sunday
2008 The Extractors
1995 Friday (Executive Producer)
1997 Dangerous Ground (Executive Producer)
1998 The Players Club (Director)
2000 Next Friday (Producer)
2002 All About The Benjamins (Producer)
2002 Friday After Next (Producer)
2004 Barbershop 2: Back in Business (Executive Producer)
2005 Barbershop: The Series (Executive Producer)
2005 Are We There Yet? (Producer)
2005 Beauty Shop (Executive Producer)
2006 Black. White. – TV Series (Executive Producer)
2008 First Sunday (Executive Producer)
2008 The Extractors (unreleased)