Ice Cube is one of the most enduring,
versatile, controversial and engaging figures
ever to emerge out of hip-hop. At 30, he is one
of this generation's cultural icons. After establishing
himself as a film phenomenon, acclaimed actor,
screenwriter, director and producer, Ice Cube
(born O'Shea Jackson) comes back to his solo music
career with a vengeance. He has spent most of
1999-2000 working at an astonishing rate, completing
not one, but two full-length albums the first
part titled War & Peace - Volume 1 (The War
Disc) followed by the current album, War &
Peace - Vol. 2 (The Peace Disc).
The first volume War was released on November
17, 1998 on Priority Records with Peace following
on March 21, 2000. Just as his classic Death Certificate
presented a "Death Side" and a "Life
Side", Cube explores the war/peace dialectic
in well over 2 hours of new music.
Further fueling rumors of a NWA reunion album,
War & Peace Vol. 2 (The Peace Disc) opens
with the simple greeting "Hell Low",
a Dre produced selection (co-produced by Mel Man)
featuring Dr. Dre and MC Ren; a comedic track
"You Ain't Gotta Lie" featuring Chris
Rock and appearances by Krayzie Bone on the commercial
single "Until We Rich." Other notable
artists featured on the album are Mack 10 and
Jayo Felony with production on several tracks
by Chucky Thompson, Battlecat, and Puffy to name
The War record allowed Cube to throw down the
gauntlet on tracks like "Dr. Frankenstein,"
"Once Upon A Time In the Projects 2"
and on the single "Pushin' Weight,"
Cube raised the stakes for the present day rap
game while reclaiming his legacy. War provided
cutting edge soundscapes with mega-platinum rockers
Korn making a guest appearance on "Fuck Dying."
Cube performed with Korn on their "Family
Values" tour. "To expose Korn fans to
my music is cool, because most of their audience
is only exposed to my movies. It reminded me of
when I went out on Lollapalooza (1992), where
I was the alternative to that alternative show"
says Cube of the experience.
Although Cube keeps it gangsta on the Peace,
LP, Vol. 2 is more dance/club oriented using samples
from popular party anthems crating a lighter mood.
Cube can't say enough about the music. "War
and Peace are my best records in years. The production
on both albums is far superior to anything I've
ever released. Peace is gonna be a different look;
it's a different record than any I have ever done.
Lyrically, War covers a lot of ground-moving from
rap's battlegrounds to the Los Angeles killing
fields." "Ghetto Vet," "Penitentiary"
and the masterful "3 Strikes You In"
are as incisive pieces of social commentary as
he's ever penned. Just as every coin has two sides,
Peace represents the other side of Cube.
Ice Cube caught the rap bug in the ninth grade
when a classmate named Kiddo challenged him in
a typing class. "One day, he asked me if
I ever wrote a rap before. I told him, you write
one, I write on and we'll see which one come out
better and I won," recalls Cube. He went
on to form his first crew, C.I.A., with future
collaborators Sir Jinx and K-Dee, and began hanging
in the burgeoning South Central Club scene. Through
Jinx's cousin, he met Dr. Dre and together they
began rhyming for nightclub patrons over the hits
of the day. "We was doing these dirty raps
strictly for the club audiences," he says.
"When that started catching on, we started
making mix tapes. We would rap on what was going
on in the neighborhood and they were selling.
Eazy-E had a partner named Ron-de-Vu, Dre was
in the World Class Wreckin Crew, and I was in
C.I.A. We were all committed to these groups,
so we figured we'd make an all-star group and
just do dirty records on the side." That
all-star group would become known as Niggaz With
In early 1987, Cube wrote "Boyz-N-The-Hood"
for Eazy-E and "Dopeman" and "8-ball"
for NWA and they went into the studio to record.
He knew he was doing something different, but
wasn't sure about his prospects. "The rap
game wasn't looking too solid at that time, so
I decided to go ahead and go to school."
When he left for The Phoenix Institute of Technology,
the records were just hitting the streets. By
the time he completed his degree a year later,
both Eazy's and NWA's singles had sold hundreds
of thousands of copies. He came back to write
the rhymes for the albums that would be Eazy Duz
It and Straight Outta Compton and the world would
never be quite the same.
NWA's Straight Outta Compton, in retrospect,
was the most influential album since The Sex Pistols'
Never Mind the Bollocks. Straight Outta Compton
didn't break taboos so much as blow them away
with rapid-action scattershot. The excitement
they inspired was proportional to the outrage
they incited. Newsweek dismissed the record as
"The Godfather in gutter language."
FBI Assistant director, Milt Ahlerich, sent a
letter to the label condemning the record as encouraging
"violence against and disrespect for the
law-enforcement officer." Ahlerich warned,
"Advocating violence and assault is wrong
and we in the law enforcement community take exception
to such action." Sales rocked past platinum.
"Straight Outta Compton has had the biggest
impact on rap music than any other album to this
day," says Cube. "We opened the door
where you can say exactly what you really want
to say without having to sugar-coat , without
having to hold back."
But by 1989, things were beginning to sour between
Cube and Jerry Heller, then NWA's manager. Cube
was involved in writing 10 of the 13 tracks on
Straight Outta Compton, including the entirety
of "Dopeman," "8 Ball" and
"Express Yourself" and he felt he was
due more than the $30,000 that he received for
records that had sold 3 million units. "I
was broke before I jumped in that shit, so it
wasn't hard to walk away. I preferred it that
way," Cube recalls. "At the time the
two producers that was worth fucking with was
Dr. Dre and The Bomb Squad. If I couldn't get
Dre, I was going to the Bomb Squad." He broke
east and began collaborating with Public Enemy.
Energized by the rush of liberation and inspired
by the exchange of ideas with Chuck D and the
other members of the Public Enemy camp, he turned
in the stunning Amerikkka's Most Wanted. "Fuck
you, Ice Cube!" went the chorus of "The
Nigga You Love to Hate," and immediately
the hip-hop nation was screaming it. The record
went gold in 10 days, platinum in three months.
"I can never play out," smiles Cube,
"because people are still biting my styles
from that record."
In his book It's Not About A Salary: Rap, Race
and Resistance, Brian Cross wrote of the album's
impact, "Amerikkka's Most Wanted sought to
give a face to (the) criminal underclass and this
face was to be furrow-browed, jheri-curled, beanie-clad
face of Cube himself. Cube to this day is the
foremost hip hop meta-critic, providing listeners
not only with stories, but potential criticism
of his practice from different perspectives."
The follow-up EP Kill At Will went gold just
as quickly. In contrast to the booming "Endangered
Species" remix and the club friendly "Jackin
For Beats," "Dead Homiez" was a
surprise. When it was first released, Cube ran
the risk of the appearing soft, exposing a vulnerable,
sentimental side; instead, audiences embraced
the track. He had correctly measured the depth
of emotion amongst his violence-weary fans. "Dead
Homiez" created an entirely new theme for
gangsta rappers. Cube was thinking seven steps
ahead of the game.
"I was reading a lot of books. I was just
learning about the world, paying attention to
world history, political views. Up to that point,
I was just rolling through life trying to get
money," says Cube. His readings "gave
me my freedom mentally to deal with this world.
The main focus on what I was learning was coming
from Minister Louis Farrakhan and the honorable
Elijah Muhammed. I did a lot of self-studying
knowledge of self, because I'm far from a follower."
On Halloween 1991, Ice Cube's second solo LP,
Death Certificate had advance orders of over a
million copies and debuted at number 2 on the
Billboard Charts. Death Certificate spoke to what
it meant to be a young black male in an increasingly
pressured space, one strained by deindustrialization,
drug economies, state repression, police brutality,
and immigration. Released just months before the
LA riots, it singularly captured the tenor of
the times, the feel of a generation. On April
29 1992, Death Certificate sounded prophetic.
That year, The Predator, debuted at #1 on the
pop and R&B charts simultaneously and went
platinum in four days. The on-the-corner commentaries
of "When Will They Shoot?, "I'm Scared,"
"Now I gotta Wet'cha" and "We had
To Tear This Muthafucka Up" were rounded
out by the hits "Wicked" and "It
Was A Good Day." Cube had arrived as the
chronicler of his generation.
Lethal Injection was his fourth album in four
years, but although it also went platinum on the
hot groove of the George Clinton collaboration
"Bop Gun" and the haunting "Ghetto
Bird," Cube felt the rap game changing subtly.
"At that time, nobody wanted to hear that
kind of rap. The whole (conscious) era had peaked
with the release of the Malcolm X Movie. The G-funk
era was coming in. It was a whole different tone
in the music. People didn't want to take rap that
serious," he says.
"I was doing movies, directing videos, trying
to produce other groups," Cube says. He had
directed dozens of videos (he has done 20 to date)
and his filmmaking career was set to take off.
He had always struck a compelling image in his
own videos, whether the rending "Dead Homiez,"
the pulsing "Steady Mobbin,' or the frantic
"Natural Born Killaz."
Based on his amazing performance in John Singleton's
"Boyz in the Hood," however, he was
in demand. He went on to appear in "Trespass,"
"CB4," Charles Burnett's "The Glass
Shield," Singleton's "Higher Learning,"
Anaconda," and most recently costarred in
"3 Kings" with George Clooney. After
co-screenwriting the script "Friday"
with DJ Pooh - a balancing, hilarious view of
a day in the life of a couple of brothers from
South Central - Ice Cube followed up with "Next
Friday" the successful, top grossing film
which outsold blockbuster films "Stuart Little,"
"The Green Mile," and "The Hurricane"
it its first week becoming the most successful
New Line Film next to the Austin Power's sizzler.
Cube also executive produced and starred in "Dangerous
Ground" and "The Player's Club,"
a film he wrote, co-produced and directed to critical
acclaim. The movie grossed over $25 million in
domestic receipts alone. "People always ask,
"When are you gonna stop doing records? Or
'Do you prefer doing movies or records?"
Cube responds, "If opportunities present
they self, you take them. I think I can do this
from all different sides of entertainment,"
Cube somehow also found the time to oversee the
production of a number of homies. Two of them,
Mack 10 and WC, joined him to become the Westside
Connection, after a few successful outings. "I
was tired of doing solo albums," Cube says.
"I wanted to feel the group thing. With me,
Mack 10 and WC, our chemistry was so tight that
the Westside Connection was born." The group's
allegiance to the West courted controversy. "Our
whole purpose from the beginning was to make sure
that people wasn't gonna just snatch our style
from under us and give us no credit and no props,"
he says. "I'm not really tripping on straight
being from the west coast. But when I was doing
it, I heard a lotta shit being said about the
west coast, so I stood up for the west coast."
With Bow Down's double platinum sales, seems there
must have been a lot of bi-coastal unity after
all. Westside Connection is scheduled to release
another album May 2000.
Finally it became time to return to the solo
spotlight. "When you trying to do records,
write a movie, produce a movie, it's hard to make
good music. I wanted to put all the other stuff
down, be finished with The Player's Club and do
my album, he says, "War & Peace is my
best record since Death Certificate."
Although hip-hop fans are notoriously fickle,
Cube has stayed atop the games for over a decade.
"I still sell the same amount of records.
I still get a big reception," he says. "In
hip hop, people always want new artists, but when
I really get down, nobody puts a record together
better than me. So I'll always be here. Long as
I stay consistent and keep my heart in it, I'm
a be here."
Biography From IceCube.com