Exclusive interview with Cube here at Complex.com
Real Name: O’Shea Jackson
D.O.B: June 15, 1969 South Central LA, California
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 gangsta 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. As a young O’Shea he would be influenced by tender moments watching the news on TV with his father as he commented on current affairs and broke it down for his impressionable ears where upon he learned to appreciate politics and social commentary the news provided. 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. Attending William Howard Taft High School with a friend, Tony ‘Sir Jinx’ Wheatob they made a partnership calling themselves ‘CIA’ (Criminals In Action) with Darrel ‘K-Dee’ Johnson performing at local parties held by Sir Jinx’s cousin Andre Young(Dr. Dre). Young Cube was fourteen years old when he met Dre, nineteen. 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.