Posted June 24, 2013 by Jeff in Tunes

King of the Mic: Ice Cube stays true to himself

Ice Cube
Ice Cube

Actor/rapper Ice Cube is currently in the midst of an extensive tour with old school acts LL Cool J, Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest. He recently phoned to discuss the tour and the legacy he left behind with N.W.A., the controversial rap group that essentially created gangsta rap. Last year, the group was nominated for induction into the Rock and Hall of Fame, but didn’t receive enough votes to be inducted.

You’re currently on the “Kings of the Mic” tour. Do you still tour frequently?
I’ve never stopped. I always tour in between movies. I’ve dropped three records since ‘06. I’ve toured Europe, Japan, Australia…we’ve done Canada and done the States. I do radio shows. I love performing.

What is the legacy of N.W.A.?
The legacy of N.W.A. to me is that we were the world’s most dangerous group for a lot of reasons. We made artists, especially in the music industry, really be themselves and drop the façade. We showed that you can be yourself and say what you want and be just as famous as the popcorn artist who wanted to be squeaky clean. We opened that door and showed that you can be a true artist and be just as influential as anyone.

Do you think the group will one day be inducted?
It’s hard to say because we don’t have a lot of albums. We really only have one album together. I don’t know. It’s just something that being mentioned and having the chance to get in there was very exciting. We had our fingers crossed, but we knew Public Enemy had more history and they’re still together. They’re a hard, hard group to beat.

How’d you develop such a unique sound?
We had a lot of cracks at it. This is back in the day where Weird Al Yankovic could be famous. It was a crazy time where you could flip stuff on its ear and get noticed. Dre wanted us to perform at a place where he was DJing. He just told us, “You have to be funny. You have to be interesting or they gonna throw full cups at your ass. I’ve seen it done.” We was like, “Oh shit, okay.” We had to figure something out. We decided to take “Roxanne, Roxanne” and flip it and make it dirty like Blowfly or Dolemite. [We thought we’d] call it “Diane, Diane” and keep the same flow. The song smashed when we did it at the club. Everybody loved it. We figured that these dirty records get the people going and who knows what we could sell but around here, they were gonna love us. That’s the origin of it. We started to talk about real stuff on mix tapes and people would eat them up. Eazy-E came around and he wanted to do hardcore only. Then, he had a hit with J.J. Fad and I was like, “What the fuck happened to hardcore only?” He put out Supersonic. That was the first Ruthless release. That record went gold. It’s kinda funny.

What’s it been like for you to sustain a solo career?
I had my mind made up when [N.W.A. manager] Jerry Allen had something to hide and I caught him. From the neighborhood I come from, man, it’s better to walk away from that money than take that money when you know you deserve more. When you know you are supposed to get more. When you know someone is doing you dirty and you stay, your manhood is fragile. I was prepared to walk away but I believed in myself and I wasn’t going to stop.

When you know someone is doing you dirty and you stay, your manhood is fragile.

What was it like making the transition to acting?
I was nervous as first because I felt like I wasn’t qualified. [Director] John Singleton asked me to have this major role [in Boyz n the Hood] and I wasn’t an actor. I was like, “Can’t you find somebody else?” I thought I wasn’t qualified. I thought if you didn’t go to school and get trained for it, you couldn’t act. I got the best advice from Laurence Fishburne. He put me in 30 second acting school. His words were this. He said, “Don’t you know people like Doughboy?” I was like, “Yeah. Everywhere.” Then, he was like, “Don’t you know people like Ricky?” I said, “Yeah.” He went through all the characters. He was like, “So, do it.” Once you know a character, it’s really about executing it. That’s the best acting advice. After that, I got comfortable with the transition. I still have moments where I have to work and it ain’t no cakewalk.

How has the tour been going?
The show is dope. Everybody goes through all their hits. If you’re from that era, you’ll love it.


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].