Ice Cube: Unappreciated Legend
Taking a hiatus from the silver screen he is ready to unveil his independent album Laugh Now Cry Later which is set to hit streets on June 6th on Cubes own Lench Mob label. Hitting the highways on a promotional tour starting in late April, Cube will always be a rapper before he is an actor.
Having dabbled in TV with his thought provoking racial reality show Black and White currently being shown on FX, Ice Cube is never short of content for his rhymes. Whether the topic is conscious, the subject educational or just something to make you shake your ass Ice Cube will still have your attention with this new project. Its just up to you whether you laugh now or cry later.
Here he talks to HIPHOPDX.COM about his stage presence, taking the independent route and why people dont take life as serious as they should.
After concentrating on the movies was it a relief to get back into the studio to go and work on this project?
Oh yeah it is always fun to do music. You know movies are like a project that kind of has its own components to help in some areas but you are pretty much part of a major team and it is not as kind of fulfilling as rapping. You know I can go in there by myself or with my producers and do it what I am feeling without a whole load of compromising and discussion. It is definitely a relief and I always feel clean after I finish, you like I kind of exorcised demons and got rid of the shit that has built up in my system, so it is always good to get back into it.
How long was the album in the making?
I took about a year. I stopped doing movies as soon as I finished XXX I started working on my record, you know just kind of doing it and having fun kind of at my own pace. But what was so cool this time is that I am putting it out on my own label, so no A&R, no schedules, nothing, just me doing it how I feel it. Sometimes I will spend a whole week in the studio, take off, jump back in you know I really just did it at my own pace for my own reasons.
Being at the point you are in your career after putting in the hours you have it must be nice to take your time on a project that you are in total control of?
Yeah you know it is how you start off in the business having all the time in the world to put together what you want and then when you start to blow up and your career starts to roll you have less time to devote so what really got you out there is the music and you have like your whole life to put together your first album and then a year to put together your second because everyone is rushing you. With this it has been real, real fulfilling.
You made a valid point about getting the balance right on projects; you know covering the club tracks, the joints that send out a message. Do you find that nowadays people arent getting the balance right in albums?
I always want an artist to do it how they feel, thats good enough for me. I figure me those are my most complete records the ones that give you street knowledge; you know thats why this is called Laugh Now Cry Later, some records you just have fun with and some are just serious and there is a way to explain the feel of a record and this is the state we are in right now where everyone is taking everything lightly. No-one is as really as serious as they used to be, there is a price to pay for that.
Why do you think it is that some people have nothing of any real relevance to say in their rhymes? There is so much going on in the world, do you think people are afraid?
People just want a release, in America in particular, we are forever in pursuit of having a good time. You know people want to have a good time when they are at work, people want to have fun, you know you cant just sit at the dentists office you gotta have a palm pilot and play a game, we want to have fun all the time and that is the pursuit, when in the next time I get to have fun? SO when you are pursuing that you dont even want to be serious, you dont have time to be serious, you know take the time to investigate things or things that aint fun in a fun sense.
I know you are going back out on the road to promote the album and then seeing you on stage at the listening party for the album here in NY last month, you have always had that stage presence about you where people listen, do you miss the crowd interaction?
I love it, it is the only time I can get direct feedback. You know during a movie you have to wait so long before you can show it to somebody that it takes forever to see if you really have something good that people will enjoy. On stage performing you get direct feedback and people sing a long and you know your song is a hit when it first comes on and that is something I dont think you can get anywhere else unless you play a sport. It is addictive in a way and it is fun and if you are a true artist and want instant gratitude, then that is basically what it is.
Back in the day were you always good in front of crowds or was this something you had to work on?
When you first start out you are a nervous wreck, you know we used to do contests out in the West or you know you would be rapping out in the school quad at lunch, you know you would wait for lunch to go out and do what we had to do, but once you, well at least me, once I realized that I was doing stuff that people liked, to me my job was to make sure I was good at that and not worrying about some other shit in the back of my mind and I have been doing it so long its like I have been rapping longer than I have been doing anything else in my life and it really does feel right.
But for those that have the stage presence and that can commend the attention of stadiums like you do, do you think that is why you are all so prevalent in the game today?
Yeah it is the love of the art I think that is what it comes down to.
In your track Why we Thugs you shout out Russell Simmons and Sugar Hill, who do you think the Hip-hop generation of now have to look up to as I believe we are still looking up to the likes of Sugar Hill, NWA etc.?
Yeah for real. I mean I dont know as when you really think about it I dont know who they respect in the game enough to follow their lead. The Game gave a lot of respect to what we built, NWA, Compton but who knows I really cant say. I thank God for Russell Simmons and Sugar Hill Records as they made dreams come true for those of us who couldnt quite sing and dance, they made our dreams come true and I think it is only right for us to pay that respect and even if the kids dont really know the history, maybe hearing this record they may finally figure it out.
When you look back over your lengthy career, do you feel that you still have the same writing and recording process that you had back when you first started?
I still write records in the same manner that I always have. I am a better writer at home than I am in the studio, I like to go to the studio prepared in my head with what I am going to do when I get there and anything that comes after that is kind of gravy. I always had the same process, I write my best records by myself, you know thinking it out; there is something about the vibe of the studio and to me I think that is more of a distraction.
We saw Warren G, another west coast icon put out his latest project independently last year and now you are putting yours out independently. What are the majors failing to do?
Just sick of the record company game and now is the time for ownership in this age of music and the computer. There are billions of dollars being made off music but the artist isnt getting that money, so to really be able to cash in on that, everyone who has built an ipod or a music site or thins that and the other they need music to fuel that or their product is worthless and to me now is the time to own so you can make all the deals you can with the ring tones, this and that and cash in on what you create. Music is easier to create at home and in small studios than it ever has been and I just think it is the way of the future for major artists to stop playing the record company game and start working for themselves. Its about one hundred percent ownership.
A lot of artists have been considered to conform to what the American government expected back in the days as Hip-hop was starting to become more widespread, you know you were condemned for making a breakthrough album Death Certificate to then go and make Players Club. Do you feel that you had to conform to move ahead to further the advancement of Hip-hop, get out the messages etc?
You know you have to deliver on the music, music promotes people, for most people it is about getting away, having a release, not thinking about their pains and woes but just being able to release, so that is basically what most people get their music for. Now to inject social commentary into that I think you have to be clever so you dont turn off the same people you are trying to help, you cant just do a record that is socially in tune and musically in tune all the time, it is just hard to do, you know it is a tight rope that is hard to walk. The easier record is the record that is all about release, you know the shake you ass, living life, not giving a fuck, you know thats easy. The harder is trying to inject knowledge into that. We were lucky that in the eighties it was the era for social commentary and that was really what people wanted the records for, people wanted to hear the new knowledge but at a point the nineties which kind of started with the G-Funk era, that social commentary went out of the music and it has taken some time to come back. But it will be back because it really is our own way to comment on what is going on in the neighborhoods and really try to be independent of censorship. Hip-hop goes through its eras and the era of knowledge in rap is coming back.
Your TV show Black and White which is on cable right now tackles race issues; we have watched certain people have their music etc, their ideas shut down for embracing and discussing racial issues by media outlets, was your show welcomed with open arms or did you have problems finding a home for it?
FX was with it from jump, they are just into doing stuff that is cutting edge and it was kind of easy at this point to get a show like that on the network, you know if FX blows up and becomes the new HBO it would probably be harder to get it on there, you know it is kind of like Blue Line Films, you know struggling to try and make a name for themselves it is easy to make movies like Friday but when they establish themselves it is hard to make those kind of movies.
So you got in at the right time?
Yeah we did.
Was the idea for the show yours?
It was collaboration between us, RJ Cutler and guy over at FX. They wanted to do a show that explored race and it was like how can we do that? So we brainstormed and came up with that.
The School of Ethical Culture recently released a report that showed that when it comes to matters of race and change here in the US, it is the younger generations that are more adaptable to change as opposed to the older. Did you find this in the making of the show?
Yeah I mean the young people they wanted to kind of participated or really wanted to dismiss race as a factor in their minds, so in some ways it was easier for them to jump in with both feet, you know one of the kids jumped in with both feet and one of the kids just thought it was stupid. He and his friends didnt see color, either you a cool white guy or you a cool black guy and he thought the whole world was stupid. His parents were really trying to show him that it wasnt something that you have to go looking for, its something that is going to come up and find you one day and you have to be prepared for when it do.
Did the show do what it was supposed to do in your estimations?
It definitely got people talking about race and talking about situations, you have people understanding certain things that happen in this country behind closed doors, it opened eyes and educate that there is a difference, people are treated differently because of their skin color, it is just a fact.