Monday, April 23, 2007

The Beat Q & A: IceCube

It's an interesting world we live in when West Coast rapper Ice Cube is making a case for father of the year awards.
But the hip-hop generation's version of Bill Cosby seems to be doing just that with his turn in the movie “Are We Done Yet?,” the sequel to the surprise hit “Are We There Yet?” In the second installment, the man who wrote the song “F--- The Police” plays a newly-married stepfather of two, with a new baby on the way. The family moves to the suburbs and hilarity ensues, with Cube's signature scowl now being used to awkward comic effect.
The 37-year-old South Central Los Angeles representative will perform his gritty gangsta gospel Saturday, April 28 at The Catalyst nightclub in Santa Cruz. Fellow West Side Connection rapper WC will open up.
During his 20-year career, Ice Cube (real name O'Shea Jackson) has stamped his presence as one of the avatars of the gangsta rap music, but his movie career is what helped him become a household name. “Are We Done Yet?” represents his third movie franchise, along with the “Friday” and “Barbershop” series. All of the projects saw Cube take on double duty as lead actor and producer.
Ice Cube took time time out to talk to "The Beat" on the release day of his new film. He spoke about his movies, his music and what he really thinks about journalists who ask him how he went from G-Funk music to G-Rated family movies:

Q: Thank you for taking the time to talk.
A: No problem, no problem.
Q: I wanted to start off with your movie career and move backward into the music. You're on your third movie franchise now with the “Are We There Yet?" series. Is this something that in 1991, when you took your first acting role (in John Singleton's “Boyz N Tha Hood”) that you envisioned for yourself?
A: I knew I liked doing both (acting and rapping), and it was a good experience being in “Boyz N Tha Hood.” I knew I wanted to do more movies. I really didn't start thinking about sequels as much until I did “Friday.” After doing “Friday,” people were constantly asking for another one. I knew Chris Tucker (Ice Cube's co-star, who played the character Smokey) didn't want to do it, so I was a little reluctant. But we got it done with Mike Epps and it kind of started another trend for me.
When “Barbershop” jumped off, it was only natural because people enjoyed the movie enough to do a sequel. The same with (“Are We There Yet?”). People enjoyed the movie, and it's kind of our job to give them more of it.
Q: The way I look at it, the maturation of you, not only as a performer, but as a person, has occurred with each movie. “Friday,” you were in the ’hood. “Barbershop,” you're a young businessman. In “Are We There Yet?” you're a family man. Do you see any parallels between Ice Cube, or O'Shea Jackson, the person, and Ice Cube the movie figure that's being personified on screen.
A: No, not at all. During "Friday," even though, you know, I'm in the ’hood, but at that point I got a family. I got kids. I'm married and I'm running my own business. You know, I don't really parallel that. If I created my real life around my movie life, my movie life would be late.
My kids are grown . . . I mean, not grown, but teenagers, except for my last son that's 6.
I don't really look at it like that. I just play each character as it's supposed to be played. I'm not trying to connect movies with my real life in no way, no how.
Q: Do you get a lot a lot of questions about why you're doing family fair now, and going from being the personification of being a gangsta rapper to doing G-rated family films.
A: I get asked that a lot.
Q: What's your response?
A: You know, people really got the word "gangsta" flipped. If you ask any gangsta what the necessities of life are, they'll answer like anybody else — cars, house, family, you know. For gangstas, it ain't like everybody want to be Scarface, just by yourself with a mound of coke in front of you. That's not the reality. A lot of people that call themselves gangstas still want the American dream like anyone else. I don't even know if you can call it the American dream, just pursue the life dream.
When people ask me those questions, I think they're dumb, because a movie is just a movie. People try to make me be the characters (I play) in the movies, but that ain't it. That's acting right there. Those are made-up people. All I can do is do my best in the part. I ain't really trying to appease to no crowds and I'm not trying to give no images. I I'm just trying to be myself.
Q: The last movie you directed was “Players Club”?
A: Yeah.
Q: You've produced a ton of movies since, but is there any part of you that's itching to get back in the director's seat?
A: Yeah, it is. But when you get into the director's seat, you're kind of locked into one project for a long time. I like to do a lot of different things, so producing allows me the flexibility to be on several different projects a year. As soon as I direct, I'm going to have to put everything aside and just focus on the film from start to finish. Because more than likely I'm going to be directing, producing, writing and probably would have a part in the movie.
Q: Is there any one dream project that would prompt you to jump out and focus on it as a director?
A: I mean, it's a lot of them (laughs). I got a lot of great projects, but we'll see.
Q: Getting back to the music, last year you released “Laugh Now, Cry Later,” your first album in six years.
Q: How much of a transition was it to jump back into the recording process and promote the album, distribute it yourself and go on tour?
A: Seamless . . . I could do that with my eyes closed, really. That's a part of the business. The movies is what you got to work at.
Q: Talk about the Santa Cruz show. You came out here two years ago?
A: Two years ago, I think.
Q: What can the fans expect?
A: They can expect 20 years of hard-core hip-hop, West Coast gangsta music. I'm going to try to run the whole gamut and do a lot of songs . . . I just go through the gamut. People appreciate my show because it's what hip-hop used to be. High energy. It ain't no band, just my DJ, turntables and a mic, doing what we do.
Q: I read a recent article where you had some strong critique of the current hip-hop landscape. Can you elaborate on your viewpoint on the state of hip-hop?
A: Hip-hop has always been threatened by the establishment, even while it looks like hip-hop has become a part of the fabric of America. It still is an outlaw kind of music. I think hip-hop is suffering as well as all music is suffering.
Once they stopped teaching music in schools and you got the downloading, artists losing their careers, music is suffering. It's a lot of technology out there, but will it be anything to play on your iPod other than old stuff, in the future? We have to look at that and make sure our artists are benefiting off of the music they are making, whether it's hip-hop or any other type of music.
Q: You were named in the top 10 list of MTV's greatest MCs of all time. Where do you see yourself in that canon of the all-time greats? What does it feel like when folks break down those type of lists and include your name?
A: It's always fun to see where you're going to land at, but it holds no merit to me on where I think I am, you know. My career ain't over, so I don't know where I am right now. I still got a lot of work to do, I figure.
Q: What have you not done yet musically that you think you can still accomplish?
A: I ain't changed the world yet. Until I do that, I still got work to do.
Q: What to do you think the fans expect of Ice Cube, musically, at this point in your career?
A: I think they expect quality. I think they expect new direction, new concepts, a little bit of something they didn't know. Hard-core West Coast (gangsta rap), always representing it, you know. I just think they look for quality when it comes to me.
Q: You started out more than 20 years ago. You're now playing to what, a third generation of rap music fans? Is it difficult to stay relevant given your veteran status?
A: I do records for my core base. There's still a rap fans out there that are, you know, my age wanting intelligent rap. They don't want the new dance. So I cater to those that's just been down, that still love music, still support music. So to that audience and everybody else that is just basically, you know, on the fence, kind of, that still listen, that's just gravy. Know what I mean? That's just gravy. But I don't consider them hard-core Ice Cube fans, they're just hip-hop fans. I can't bank on what they like and what they think. I just got to deal with people that like my music.
Q: As far as regions are concerned, is the West Coast still prominent in the rap universe?
A: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Q: How so?
A: We still support our own artists. That's more than I can say for New York (rap scene). They ain't even supporting their own artists back there. We still go buy The Game, we'll go buy E-40, we'll go buy Snoop, Dr. Dre, you know. We'll go buy Too $hort, you know what I'm saying, and some of the newer dudes. We'll go buy them, support our own. So the West Coast is alive and kicking. That's how I'm able to come out with WC's album in August. It's called “Guilty By Affiliation.”
Q: Are there any projects you need to plug or anything you want folks to look out for?
A: Of course I just mentioned WC's new record, but then look out for my new album this fall called “Raw Footage.” And then I'm doing a movie next month called “First Sunday.”
Q: What's that about?
A: It's me and Mike Epps. We crazy enough to rob a church.
Q: Ice Cube robbing a church? So you're going back to the gangsta way, but it sounds like a comedy if Mike Epps is in it?
A: It's going to be all of that.

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