Ice Cube: True To The Game

posted August 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM CDT | 33 comments

Its Friday night and the young New York working class has milled into a small venue on the Lower East Side. The crowd is a cultural mix of young and old Hip Hoppers. The scene isnt fancy or friendly. Everyone seems like theyre in the mood for some gangsta shit. The local deejay takes a break from spinning the top 100 and introduces the man of the hour: west coast boss of all bosses, Ice Cube. Fans cheer and rush the stage as he and long-time friend and partner-in-rhyme, WC, rip through recent cuts off of Laugh Now, Cry Later and his latest album Raw Footage.

Cube aggressively commands the stage and electrifies his audience. As he surfs farther back in time through his catalog of classics, the wave of the crowd grows into a frenzied tsunami. The venue quakes as fans flow word-for-word with Cube on Today Was a Good Day and finally erupts with Straight Outta Compton. Thats where it all started. 1980s. N.W.A. Los Angeles. Thats the Cube they first loved and the primary reason they ride for him to this day.

Note: The crunching noise is coming from a child eating chips in Cube's entourage. And who asks anybody from Cube's camp to please be quiet?

HipHopDX catches up with the rap icon, fresh off an international promo-tour earlier that morning. He talks about flexing his independent muscle in the rap game and why the music aint to blame for the worlds ills.

HipHopDX: What was the statement you were trying to make with the music video "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It" [click to view] ?
Ice Cube:
I wanted to make a video that was raw and uncensored. It was strange 'cause I had done so many videos over my career and you always gotta censor yourself and you always gotta try and think about "Will they play this?" and it was cool just to do a video where I didn't have to worry about that. I used whatever footage I felt should be in there. It was the dirty version. We never did a clean version. Freedom. Man...finally I can do things the way I envisioned instead of doing them the way some programmer likes it.

DX: The video was actually straight raw footage, real life events. Was that the inspiration for this new album Raw Footage?
Ice Cube:
In a way. Not really the events, but the hypocrisy. I wanted to show all the stuff that was going on in the world that didn't have nothing to do with the hood, nothing to do with rap and show that these problems in the world are bigger than gangster rap music. A lot of people want the Crips and Bloods to stop fightin' in South Central, but the Israelis and Palestinians can't stop fighting, so how the Crips and Bloods gon' stop fightin'? If you can't stop it on a big major scale, how you gon' stop it on a small scale?

DX: This is solo album number eight. That's a huge accomplishment to still be relevant today. You made a comment about being "loved by the grandmamas and the babies." How does it feel on the eighth go-round?
Ice Cube:
It feels real good in a lot of ways man because it's an independent record. We had a lot of success with Laugh Now, Cry Later [click to read]. We're excited to get another crack at it and just the fact that I did the record how I wanted to do it and not how people maybe suggest [I] should do it. When you're doing records, you got a lot of people in the mix sometimes - you know from the record companies to the promotion team, to the radio team; everybody got something to say on the kind of records you make. Here at Lench Mob Records, we ain't got all that. We just got our team dedicated to push and promote whatever I do in the studio.

DX: With John Murphy (All About The Benjamins) doing the score and Keith David's (First Sunday) narration, listeners can pick up a more cinematic vibe on Raw Footage...
Ice Cube:
I always want to make the record feel like a complete album and not just a bunch of songs linked together. I want the record to feel like it's telling a story in its sequence and skits in between. I wanted this record to feel big. I knew I wasn't going to do a lot of skits but when I did 'em, I wanted you to feel 'em. Keith David adds that continuity throughout the record. He was a voice that's distinct and powerful. I'm glad I'm able to use him on a record like this. John Murphy is probably one of the most versatile score guys in the business right now.

DX: Tony Draper and I recently had a conversation with respect to Nas' new album. It was originally titled Nigger [click to read]. He had to eventually change it prior to release mainly due to label pressure. The sentiment in the air is that Ice Cube can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Is that due to you presently being an independent artist or because of your history and reputation in the entertainment business?
Ice Cube:
Hopefully, it's a bit of both but being independent allows me to do what I wanna do without having to bow down to any pressure from any label I feel an artist should be able to present his art how he feel it. The record is distributed through EMI, but that's all they do is distribute it. There's nobody that has the power to tell me no. That's a big factor, and it gets political sometimes in this game and it's just a shame. An artist should be able to present his art how he feel it. But it didn't affect the record [Nas' Untitled]. It sold very well - still selling, and Nas is on tour so I think he...even naming it that and getting it snatched away it, might've showed how big Nas and that record is.

DX: Veteran rappers like yourself, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Nas are maturing as men. What is the catalyst behind the recent surge of concept albums with more meaning from our rap icons?
Ice Cube:
I think really it's uh, people are sick of bubble gum pop rap to the point where...especially the older heads, we don't want that. We want something with some substance in it. I just think we're catering to our fan base. I'm pretty sure Nas got a fan base that's similar to mine and he caters to them and that's what we gon' do. We're not gonna cater to the whole Hip Hop universe, we're just gonna cater to our fans and everybody else is gon' have to come on in.

DX: Who are some of the music-men that you worked with on Raw Footage. How did a song like "Cold Places" come about?
Ice Cube:
"Cold Places" is Hallway Productions. They did a few songs on Laugh Now, Cry Later, some young dudes out of Northern California and they're incredible. Emile from New York got down with us and he did "It Takes a Nation of Millions" and "Get Money, Spend Money, No Money" and Pablo Beats is a new dude who did the single "Do Your Thang" and Maestro [click to read] did "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It." We got a few people on there, new heads that's comin' up in the game. I always like using new producers 'cause it aint really about the name it's really about the music.

DX: Recently A Tribe Called Quest reunited. When can fans get an Ice Cube and Sir Jinx reunion? 2009?
Ice Cube:
[Laughs] You never know. Jinx, he's always hangin' around, you know? But you know Jinx is a free-spirit kind of dude with his own personality and flavor so you know, it's hard to catch up with him and keep him under lock and key. But you never know, man.

DX: So there's nothing the way of y'all working together again? There's a history of classic material...
Ice Cube:
No, not at all. Jinx is my homie first. That's Dr. Dre's cousin, and without Jinx, I wouldn't be where I am today. It's always love.

DX: How did the song "Get Used To It" with The Game come about?
Ice Cube:
Well you know, me and The Game [click to read] been down since the start of his career and ya know, we always looking for ways to work together and collaborate...

DX: You're like a mentor in a sense...
Ice Cube:
I hope so. I always try to give him advice on things I see or he asks about. He wanted me to do a hook on his record ["State of Emergency"] and I wanted him to do a verse on mine. "Get Used To It" was the perfect song with me, [The and WC [click to read]. So you know, I think it's hot.

DX: Is there any truth to the rumor that The Game is the newest member of Westside Connection?
Ice Cube:

DX: He went off on "Get Used To It."
Ice Cube:
Yeah. He can rhyme, no doubt.

DX: Have you seen the recent CNN special Black In America?
Ice Cube:
No, I didnt see it.

DX: The series takes a look at black people in America and focuses on the family, as well as independent black men and women. They actually ran a segment disparaging Hip Hop, criticizing the music and message, and they played one of your videos. Did the network reach out to you and give you an opportunity to speak your piece in defense of your music and culture?
Ice Cube:
Not that I know of. Anything that I do goes through [my publicist], and we ain't heard nothing. They ain't contacted us to get on these shows at all.

DX: How do you feel about that? We see it all the time with CNN and other networks throwing stones at Hip Hop, but our artists and real rap leaders aren't given a fair chance at rebuttal...
Ice Cube:
I dont worry no more about people who ain't down with Hip Hop and what they gotta say. I expect them to criticize. If you ain't no B-Boy or B-Girl, you ain't down with it like that, then you ain't gonna understand it. Its foreign to you and prolly gon scare you and all that stuff so, you knowtheir response to the music is expected. All I really care about is the response of Hip Hoppers and B-Boys and people thats in the music, down with the music and understand the music. You dont have to teach them what it is, but all these outsiders with something to saylet em keep bumpin they gums. It dont do no harm, no good. Its just scary people talkin bout something they dont know nothing about.

DX: Briefly, tell us about the new movie that you've got coming out...
Ice Cube:
Yeah, it's a movie called The Long Shots that comes out August 22nd. It's inspired by a true story about a girl named Jasmine Plummer; the first girl to play Quarterback in Pop Warner Football and take her team to the championship. That's kind of the backdrop of the story. I play a dude named Curtis Plummer, her uncle, who is down and out and feels like his best days are behind him. He's an ex-football player that kind of shows her the ropes and through football, they both kind of get their swagger back a little bit. It's a good movie.

DX: Is this an ode to your days of playing football back in the day?
Ice Cube:
Yeah. I've always wanted to make a football movie ever since I got in the game and started producing. And this was the only one that made sense in a lot of ways. I was happy to be able to do it, get out there with the kids, see 'em hittin' and be able to coach 'em.

DX: Any Oakland Raider cameoes?
Ice Cube:
[Laughs] I wish. Nah, no cameos from the Raiders. Hopefully they in training camp doing what they supposed to do.

For a chance to win Ice Cube's entire catalog, autographed, click here

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