by: George Palathingal
Why Ice Cube is happy to roll with the Supafest hip-hop tour.
On behalf of all fans of gangsta-rap forefathers NWA (Niggaz With Attitudes), Metro figured the best way to open a conversation with the long-defunct crew’s premier MC was by quoting from their incendiary 1988 jam F— tha Police.
So, Ice Cube, “do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help your black ass”? “Ha ha, you know I’m gonna do that,” says the man born O’Shea Jackson, in the laconic yet authoritative drawl familiar from such memorable moments in hip-hop as NWA’s Express Yourself and Cube’s solo It Was a Good Day.
The rapper-producer’s latest visit to Australia is as a performer halfway down the bill of the star-studded Supafest 3 tour (see breakout), which some might consider a surprising move. After all, Cube’s ego could probably do without the torment and his lucrative sideline as a movie star means he certainly doesn’t need the money. (At present, he can be seen stealing scenes from Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street.)
The 42-year-old Los Angeles native makes his reasons for joining Supafest clear, however, when he describes hip-hop, in passing, as “my love”. “When I got in it, I never thought I was gonna make no money. I’m not in it for the money, I’m in it for the creative freedom and movies don’t give you that.
“Music can be a collaboration but it don’t have to be; movies have to be. I like doing my music and, y’know, saying what I wanna say, being who I wanna be.”
Hip-hop has been his outlet ever since NWA’s brutal, exhilarating Straight Outta Compton album ram-raided the music scene 24 years ago. Cube left the crew over a royalty dispute a year later but quickly returned on his own with the comparably uncompromising AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted album.
He has since made eight more solo albums brimming with fire and funk, the most recent being 2010’s I Am the West.
Parallel to his music, in 1991 Cube made his acting debut in the drama Boyz n the Hood, playing to type as a gun-toting gang member. Before long he successfully branched out as a leading man in comedies (he wrote and starred in Friday and Next Friday and has a third instalment, Last Friday, on the way), action flicks (taking the lead role from Vin Diesel in the xXx sequel) and, perhaps most surprisingly, family movies (Are We There Yet? and Are We Done Yet?).
In 21 Jump Street he’s at the other end of the NWA spectrum, playing a police captain. Indeed, there’s a surreal montage featuring Cube’s character as Straight Outta Compton plays in the background. (One can only presume the filmmakers thought F— tha Police would have been too blatant.)
“I didn’t know they was gonna do it,” Cube says. “When I saw it in there I kind of tripped; I thought it was [temporary] music. It just makes the movie cooler. Anything you add NWA to makes it cooler.
“A lot of people love my music, don’t like my movies. And then it’s the other way around. I love ’em both, so I do ’em both.”
He’s excited to be soon combining the two disciplines on his own terms with forthcoming NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton, having long resolved his differences with fellow members including Dr Dre and MC Ren. “We don’t talk a lot but we talk enough to, y’know, maintain our legacy,” Cube says.
“Hopefully we’ll talk more once we start doing this NWA movie.”
With respect to the crew’s late Eazy-E, who died from AIDS in 1995, might this lead to a reunion tour? “I hope so,” Cube says, tantalisingly. “I wouldn’t mind at all.”
Elliott is a true hip-hop great thanks to her skills as a producer as well as an MC. She puts on quite the live spectacular, too, as many saw at Parklife a couple of years ago.
When he isn’t hosting flash parties or plugging his fashion line, Sean “Diddy” Combs has been known to make records. He’s still charismatic, confident and crowd-pleasing.
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges hasn’t really bothered the charts here but in his native US he has had as many No.1 hits (five) as Diddy. He goes to fewer parties, though.
April 15, noon, ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park.
TICKETS supafest.com.au, 13 28 49, from $89.
TRAVEL Train to Olympic Park. There are half a dozen multi-storey car parks there but they’ll be especially busy during the last weekend of the Easter Show.
LIVE Ice Cube brings the funk with his beats and righteous attitude and soulful sensitivity with his rhymes.
BEST TRACK Solo, It Was a Good Day; with NWA, Straight Outta Compton.