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I’ve been an Ice Cube fan since I heard the Don Mega’s booming voice during his tenure at Ruthless Records. Now, things have come full circle as he, along with Dr. Dre and many others, produce “Straight Outta Compton,” an already seminal look at the N.W.A.’s rise, crash and resurrection. Director F. Gary Gray presents a masterwork that truly captures about 6 years of world’s most dangerous group and weaves a story in about 2.5 hours. In this brief conversation, I talked to Cube about a lot of matters, including the state of affairs with police, Mike Brown, Meek and Drake, the possibility of a Public Enemy biopic, Obama, Hillary, Jeb and more. Check it out and share your thoughts.
Can you give me your thoughts on it? You were a producer with Dr. Dre and Tomica Woods- Wright – how do you feel about how it’s been received?
I feel great about the move. I think we did the best job we could possibly do with the movie. People love it. They appreciate all the things we tried to do with the movie. It was done in the right way with the right studio. So, I am extremely happy.
What do you want both the younger and older audience to take away from it?
I want the younger audience to be inspired – for the youngsters to be able to change their situations – and for them to be able to creatively deal with their frustrations in a constructive rather than destructive way. As far as the old heads, I want to take them back. Hopefully, they feel a sense of nostalgia and they can understand where the music came from. Everything that we stood for, they get a chance to see what we went through to make it happen. So, I’m proud of that.
Your son played you to a T; how was that for you?
He was incredible; I was proud. I think he did a hell of a job. He’s a great actor. Everything we wanted to achieve with this movie was achieved. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I feel extremely happy that everything turned out the way I wanted it to.
The one thing that was kinda controversial, MC Ren expressed some discontent. He was not happy with is lack of inclusion in the plot lines of Straight Outta Compton. Where do you stand on that?
I don’t think he was upset about his inclusion in the movie. I think he was upset about the way the marketing department handled him in marketing. I sat with him through the movie; and he loved the movie. I just don’t think that he felt that the marketing team included him in everything he should have been included in. So, you know, when it comes to marketing they have their own philosophies and ways of doing stuff. The filmmakers aren’t necessarily listened to. They have their own ways of doing things and he didn’t agree with it. That’s cool. He’s the villain. I didn’t expect him to like everything.
Depending on how you see it, recently in America things have been going haywire; or, it has been business as usual. Considering you guys were pioneers with “F**k The Police,” and songs like that, what’s your take on race relations?
It’s the same old song. Not enough of these officers are being held accountable [for their actions]; so, they continue to do what they do. Now, you just got more social media and more camera phones and things to capture what they’re doing. I don’t think they’ve ramped it up or slowed it down. It’s business as usual.
At this point, do you consider yourself a political Rap pioneer?
I don’t know if that’s for me to say. As an artist I just do what I feel. I’m lucky that I can do what I feel –and I’m not a slave to some A&R or some record company’s philosophy. You’d probably have to ask the fans and people that’s into Hip-Hop—more than just me. I don’t see myself as nothing but an artist trying to have fun with the music and say a little something every now and then.
Recently, based on the ramifications and blowback that comes from doing so, rapper, Meek Mill, expressed that he was afraid to get political on records. What are your thoughts on some of the artists from the younger generation and their lack of political content; or perhaps their inability to do it?
It’s always been the same with me. Each artist got to find it in their heart to do what they feel. They shouldn’t be pressured or coerced into doing music they think they should do. That never comes out right. So, if they don’t feel it in their hearts they shouldn’t do it.
What about the idea of being scared? When I look at Straight Outta Compton I see you guys really rallying. When I hear someone say they’re scared I feel they may want to say something, but they don’t want to deal with the headache of controversy it causes; or, maybe loss of endorsements it might cause—something like that.
Yeah; I know that goes through some artist’s minds. When they do stuff, they think of ‘what’s the ramifications?’ So, I can’t fault him for being scared. It’s definitely a harder road. It’s definitely an uphill battle. You’ll definitely lose money going that route. To me, it’s more satisfying as an individual and you win in the long-run for making those sacrifices.
We’re almost to the one year anniversary of Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO. A year later, do you have any thoughts on that situation?
We got to hold these cops more accountable for what they do. We got to fight to hold them accountable. I think the body cams are a good idea; it should be a felony if they tamper with it. We got to keep shedding light and keep the magnifying glass on and try to get some of these cops indicted.
One of your most famous lyrics was against Eazy-E, and you said, ‘I’ll never have dinner with the President.’ President Obama’s birthday is on August 4; did you ever break bread with Obama?
[chuckles] Yeah, I’ll break bread with Obama, but I want to do it when he’s not the President. I think the conversation will be better.
How do you feel that will play out? Once he doesn’t have to answer to anyone do you think he’ll keep the conversation real?
It seems like we may be coming full circles, do you have any thoughts on Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush running for President? It’s like a little dynasty thing going on.
No matter who’s in there, in the morning I still got to get up and go to work. I really got to see what they’re standing on. To be honest, I don’t really trust neither one of them.
It’s kinda business as usual with them?
Yup, I think it will be. I think Obama will be the best President we’ll see in our lifetime.
Yeah. Another thing that never really sat well with me was you had a line about Arsenio Hall. Did you guys ever peace that out?
Yeah, we peaced that out. I was young and it was a misunderstanding that I took a little too far. But, you know, he’s cool.
Right now, Rap beef is a hot thing. With Meek Mill and Drake, people are coming down on the beef as being pretty soft. Back in the day, you and Common had a pretty serious beef. In general, what are your thoughts on today’s Rap beefs with the contrast of what was going on back then?
Back in the day, me and Common’s beef was also a misunderstanding. It went a little out of hand. I’m glad that Minister Farrakhan stepped in and helped us straighten that out. Beefs in public are dangerous. Because, if someone stepped in and hurt Drake now everybody’s gonan be looking at Meek Mill. If somebody stepped in and hurt Meek Mill everybody’s gonna be looking at Drake.
So, whenever you beef in public you give real enemies – people that might be the enemies of both of y’all – you give them opportunity to do something to you without being blamed. It’s dangerous. Pac didn’t kill Biggie and Biggie didn’t kill Pac, but because of their beef the media has liked them together as killing each other. It didn’t happen like that; because, of their beef was so public everybody thinks they did each other.
You mentioned Farrakhan, the 20 year anniversary of the Million Man March is coming up. This time around it’s called Justice Or Else. I know you have a long standing history with the Nation Of Islam, will you be involved at all; if so, in what capacity?
I don’t know yet. Those details haven’t been worked out.
You guys recently met in Atlanta; was that just to touch base?
Yeah, you know, just to see how each other was doing. We hadn’t talked to or seen each other in a long time. So, it was good to see how he was doing.
1988 was an incredible year for Hip-Hop. To come out of that and to have this sort of impact, with almost 30 years later, what are your overall thoughts on Straight Outta Compton?
It feels great. To me, what we went through is movie-worthy. It’s a slice of American history. We definitely changed the trajectory of not just music, but a lot of entertainment. So, it just feels right. Everything is landing in place. The most important thing is that the movie is great, and I’m ready to take this ride.
I’m a huge Public Enemy fan, since you’re a shot-called in L.A. and Hollywood, would you consider trying to make a Public Enemy movie? It has all the elements.
Of course; definitely.
I’m going to talk to Chuck [D], maybe you can catch Flav out there and get the ball rolling.
Let’s do it.
Click here for “The Unlikely Show,” which further discusses the issues surrounding “Straight Outta Compton,” politics, police, activist/rapper Tef Poe and more.