The former NWA rapper on branching out, comedy duos, and getting back to his Compton roots
O'Shea Jackson, or Ice Cube, is sitting in a room in London’s The Dorchester hotel smiling at a joke. Dressed in all black and throwing up gang signs as he poses for pictures, his mood is as jovial as you might expect from someone promoting a comedy film. After all, joking around has become the latest modus operandi for the former NWA rapper who began his formative years in one of the angriest and most politically-charged rap groups of the '80s. Making the transition from the streets to the screen, his performances in cult classics like Friday and Boyz In The Hood secured him a firm following. A slew of family-friendly comedies followed (Are We There Yet?, Barbershop) but Ice Cube hasn’t completely moved on from his rap beginnings. Working on a new NWA biopic and a new album, he talks to Dazed about being funny, being proud of West Coast rap and preserving NWA’s legacy.
ICE CUBE ON BRANCHING OUT
Well you know, with NWA we were still into comedy, it just it came out in the music in different ways. The music is hardcore but there’s also a light tone to some of the stuff that we were talking about. You know, with movies you don’t really have as much control like you do with the records – you have to be part of the team and part of the project. When I decided to get into movies I wanted to make sure that I was in good movies. You can’t let good movies pass you by because you think, “Ah man, I don't wanna play a cop” or “I don’t want to be funny” or “I don’t want to do this”, you have to see what you can contribute to the movie, and see if you can make the movie better.
ICE CUBE ON STREET QUOTES
Once I decided that I wanted to do more than just one movie after Boyz In The Hood, I was really trying to figure out how I was going to map out this career, and then opportunities started to present themselves. One opportunity just led to another – Friday led to Barbershop, which led to another which led to another. People are still shouting out phrases to (Friday) to this day! They yell, ‘You got knocked the fuck out!’ (laughs) I hear that a lot. Anytime there’s a bully around people call him 'Deebo'. There’s little sayings you hear and you know that they got that from the movie, like ‘Bye Felicia!’… just little bitty gems out of the movie that people still quote and love them. It’s dope because I remember growing up with movies like Car Wash and Uptown Saturday Night, which were movies that we quoted, and to have one of those movies is cool.
ICE CUBE ON BUDDY COMEDY
Kevin (Hart) and I's chemistry was instant and you need chemistry to make this kind of movie work. You really need the back and forth and the camaraderie and you have to believe the relationship and care about the people. I think we achieved all that and Kevin is so smart and funny, he’s what you go to the movies for. He’s definitely funnier than me! But I'm maybe a little scarier, I’ll take that one.
Some of my favourite funny duos are Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. They got the comedy right. Bad Boys and Rush Hour and 48 Hours, even Lethal Weapon just got the buddy-comedy dynamic perfect and it’s why people love those movies.
“I still feel like the same Ice Cube, I’m just a little older, and I kind of know the game. Listen, when you broke you real pissed off. I’m not as pissed off as I was… When you broke you just mean!”
ICE CUBE ON HIS ROOTS
Right now we’re working on an NWA movie, so that is our attempt to really let people know what NWA was all about. We’re gonna cover how we formed the group and what broke us up and all kinds of stuff. I’m really excited about it because I just think it's an interesting story. It was surreal to think that our story is going to make it to the big screen. You know when you’re living it, you never think your life is even worth talking about and you look up 25 years after you’ve done it and now they want to make a movie about it. It’s just so cool. I still feel like the same Ice Cube, I’m just a little older, and I kind of know the game. Listen, when you broke you real pissed off. I’m not as pissed off as I was because now I got a little something, I’m not as broke as I was. When you broke you just mean! Producing the NWA movie is gonna take up a lot of time. I also have an album I’m working on thats coming out, called Everything Corrupt which will be out later this year. Oh, and 22 Jump Street will be out in the summer.
ICE CUBE ON YOUNG TALENT
It’s great. It’s good that people are coming out still, you know people that thought the West Coast was buried. After Snoop and Dre and the gang, people thought we really had nothing else to offer, and I knew we had tonnes of people out there. The focus went to the South for a long time. Now it’s so cool that it don’t matter where you from, you see rappers from everywhere. If you’re hot you’ll get played. And that’s how it should be. It shouldn’t be where you’re from. That’s kind of silly.
Ride Along is out now