When you’re one of the creators of gangsta rap, there’s always a story to tell. Nearly 25 years into his career, Ice Cube is feeling cocky. And why not? His contributions to hip-hop are mammoth. From his groundbreaking days as a founding member of the worlds most dangerous group N.W.A. to his fire-and-brimstone politically-charged solo statements, Cube is indespensible when dissecting the evolution of rap. Yes, there are critics who will point out that the influential visionary lost his sneering bite during his impressive turn as a major Hollywood player, starring, directing and producing in films like Friday, The Players Club, Are We There Yet?, Barbershop and Lottery Ticket. But the grizzled West Coast vet is not about to put down the mic anytime soon. With a new album, I Am The West, in stores, a defiant Cube breaks down his indelible musical career one song and album at a time. Hes not going anywhere, folks.
“My Posse (1987)C.I.A.
“I first met Dr. Dre in 1983 going into 84. He was the most famous person I knew at that time [laughs]. He was in the World Class Wreckin Cru who just dropped a record called Surgery. Dre was the only person I knew who actually released an album, so I was excited to meet him. When he heard me flow, he took me under his wing. He would be at the house making records and I would help him write whatever I could to just get in where I fit in. Before N.W.A., we were in a group called C.I.A. We were on Epic Records and we had a song called Shes A Scag, which Dre used the Tears For Fears track Shout. It was a cool little song, but it wasnt particularly hot, so we ended getting dropped from the label. Then we got on Crew Cut Records and changed our name to C.I.A., which stood for Criminals In Action. But the label didnt want us having the word criminals on our record [laughs]. So they made us change it to Crew In Action and needless to say we were mad about that shit!
Thats when we came out with My Posse. We recorded that record six or seven days after the Beastie Boys License To Ill came out. And Dre was like, Yall gotta rap like these dudes real loud and screaming and shit. We thought, Man, this style is kind of crazy. Dre had us on My Posse fucking screaming our heads off like we were Adrock because that was the new sound; the new style. We were a little bit out of character on that song [laughs].”
N.W.A. and the Posse (1987)
“Before we even started this album, Eazy-E commissioned the song Boyz-n-the-Hood from me. Dre and me were doing these swap meet mixtapes clowning on those songs and talking about the shit that was happening in the neighborhood. We knew it wasnt going to be a record that would get played on the radio, so we were going all out. But Eazy kept saying, Thats exactly the style that I want! Thats what I want you to write for my group. Thats when I wrote Boyz-n-the-Hood. I knew the song was ill, but it was no iller than Ice Ts 6 In The Mornin. I saw the shit that was going on in the streets. It was an underground hardcore record and I wanted it to be visual. That was N.W.A.s style to be graphic with it.”
Straight Outta Compton (1988)N.W.A.
“Im not going to take all the credit for the gangsta style of Straight Outta Compton. Everybody contributed something. But there are certain moments that stand out. A song like Fuck The Police took N.W.A. from just being a hardcore group from L.A. to the worlds most dangerous group. That one song alone was just as political as anything that had come out before it. I dont know if a song has ever peaked that kind of political vibe all over the world. It hit a chord with people globally who were sick of [unjust] authority. To me, that song is the essence of what the group had become.
To tell you truth, I wasnt shook when the F.B.I. sent us that letter [condemning us for Fuck The Police]. I was naïve. Being that young, I didnt really care about the F.B.I. [laughs]. They didnt mean as much to me as the LAPD. I actually saw the cops in L.A. fuck with people for no reason. They would fuck with me and the homies for just doing nothing; We were used to putting our hands on the hood of a cop car and all that bullshit. That same year Eazy released Eazy-Duz-It. With Eazys record, a lot of people pitched inthe D.O.C., MC Ren, and myself. We all put a lot of effort to get that record done, but at the end of the day writers were not considered producers. No matter what you contributed to the record, style wise, you were not considered a producer unless you did beats. And to me, that was bullshit.
Thats when I started to have issues with the way business was being done. I was the one that told Dr. Dre to go Gangsta, gangsta, thats what they yelling, its not about a salary, its all about reality. Me bringing those records to the studio and telling Dre to use them is producing just as much as Yela rewinding the tape and making sure the drum machine is working. That was my main problem. I thought we should all get paid as producers. And Eazy didnt see it that way.”
AmeriKKKas Most Wanted (1990)Ice Cube
“When I left N.W.A., I got the chance to rap on the Bomb Squads beats. I always loved their work on those Public Enemy records. On AmeriKKKas Most Wanted I thought I was getting the chance to do something that not too many people had done: bridge the gap between the East and West with just one record. These motherfuckers were mad scientist when it came to sampling and layering beats. I was on cloud nine. You had the Eric Sadler on the bottom beats; Chuck D on the scratching and anything that you heard flying in and out; and Hank and Keith Shocklee were just adding and stacking sounds. I knew I was going to have a great record, despite all the shit that the guys from N.W.A. were talking about how my album was going to be trash. All I heard was, You going out to New York to work on your record? Thats dumb! All that shit they hit me with, I was like, Whatever watch this. Me and Sir Jinx put together our preliminary plan and had some songs we took with us to New York. Jinx produced Once Upon A Time In The Projects, You Cant Fade Me, and helped put together those skits. I call Jinx my crazy producer [laughs]. Hes a mad scientist his damn self.
I think The Nigga Ya Love to Hate was the perfect opening song. But originally it caused a huge argument in the studio. The crew thought that I was dissing myself on that track. No rapper had ever told the listener to literally tell them, Fuck you. But I explained to them that because the song is called The Nigga Ya Love to Hate that means it was about the hate I was receiving because of the dope shit I was giving to the [masses]. It was back and forth until I let the guys feel what I was trying to dothey just bit into it totally. Thats how we knew we were making a record that was beyond the boundaries of anything that was done.
And then you have a song like Endangered Species, which was extremely powerful. For one thing, Chuck is rhyming on the track with me, which was just incredible. To me its a straight Public Enemy beat. We had some crazy ass distortion going through that song. It actually pierces your ears. And the end of the song is equally powerful. The whole chase down by the police dogs. Every black person that hears that can feel it in their chromosomes like it was happening to them. It was just a great record.”CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL CLIP!