This ‘Ice Cube’ article was written by ‘Jack Press’, a GIGsoup contributor
In 1988, six anti-hero’s changed the world in ways they would of never thought possible when they dropped their debut record Straight Outta Compton – ushering in the beginning of Gangsta Rap, causing riots in every city they went, and speaking the truth no matter what. Fast forward 27 years and you’ll find that the legendary leaders of all things honest are now down to four – Eazy E passed away from Aids and Arabian Prince left NWA shortly after SOC was dropped – yet their legacy lives on, even more so now with the arrival of their biopic Straight Outta Compton. The film – which was carefully watched over by original NWA members Ice Cube and Dr Dre – details the rise and fall of the first band to ever be plastered with a parental advisory sticker.
Today though, Ice Cube – joined by his son O’Shea Jackson and actor Jason Mitchell (who play Cube and Eazy respectively) – is sitting high up in Twitter UK’s offices on a sofa spilling his most intimate thoughts on everything from the film, to singing Fuck The Police, to why NWA are the reason we have South Park. It isn’t the forum you might of associated Ice Cube with back in the day, but right now he seems as comfortable as ever, working the exclusive and inordinately intimate crowd like a clown at a children’s party – flawlessly.
Saying that though, Ice Cube has been practising since he was fourteen years old when he wrote his first ever verse – “my name is Ice Cube, I want you to know, I’m not Run-DMC or Curtis Blow” – in a notebook he’s still got today. “I got every notebook, I’ve got everything. I’ve got all the lines I’ve ever written” – it’s clear to see that he’s proud of what he’s done, or at least where he is now compared to where he was then. “No, no, you don’t wanna hear that, we won’t be revisiting them, that stuff’s not good” – that’s all he can say at the mere mention, the mere thought of releasing his original material, but every great poet, every great rapper, hell, every great legend must start somewhere, right?
Straight Outta Compton doesn’t just tell a stereotypical rags to riches story, it tells the tale of a collective, a collective who rose from the very bottom of the rock to the top of the highest mountain – only to fall back down it when the air got tight. After contractual agreements went in a completely opposite direction to where they should have been heading, Ice Cube climbed down from the mountain that was NWA – jumping ship in 1989. “I didn’t cuss them, I didn’t want that animosity, but then they cussed me, they made it very personal and so I retaliated, and that’s why No Vaseline is so aggressive, because I decided not to hold back” – at 19 years of age, Ice Cube was a man without a plan, a band, or his brothers from the hood, and yet he still went on.
The animosity, angst, and anger between Ice Cube and Eazy-E weathered the storm and came out calmer than ever before – “I met up with Eazy, we spoke about doing a new NWA record”. For a minute, close your eyes and open your ears – what do you hear? What do you see? “I think it would have been the greatest gangsta rap record ever made – we would have had Dr Dre producing us in his prime, and it would have been so huge, people wouldn’t of seen it coming”.
Ice Cube acknowledges the legacy he’s built, the pillars he’s laid down for future generations, and yet he’s still nostalgic for his fallen friend, for his brother in arms – “I miss his sense of humour – he has a dark, dark sense of humour – but he was the smartest dude from the hood. Him and Dre would challenge each other on damn near everything – Dre would get 12 inch speakers in his car, Eazy wanted 14 inch woofers, and they’d take them back and forth to the audio-stereo dude and they weren’t even driving them! He always had the pot stirring, you know? Dre would tell us we ain’t on the record unless we dope, and Eazy took that as a threat and he came out dope each time” – that’s a respect unlike any other for a brother from another mother, for a man who quite frankly founded the group that broke about every boundary in the book, and then some.
That’s where Straight Outta Compton becomes more of a film, more of a way to make money from almost three decades worth of fandom – it’s the tale of five brothers from the hood who came from nothing, got everything, and took on the world. It’s another part of their on-going legacy, a legacy that Jason Mitchell acknowledges – “They still changing lives, they changed my life – the legacy still lives on”
Whilst Jason is a star-struck twenty-seven year old whose childhood – and now adulthood – has been inexplicably influenced by NWA, and by Gangsta Rap, Ice Cube knows exactly what’s going on with NWA’s legacy. “we made it okay for artists to be themselves, we let the world know you could be just as famous doing it hard, and rough, and taboo, and dirty, and you can be just as big as the squeaky clean fake guy who puts on the mask and tries to show the world he does no wrong”. Ice Cube and his crew made it so we didn’t have to listen to eighty carbon copies of Ed Sheeran day-in, day-out – “NWA made that possible because we were ourselves, we were honest – we didn’t care how big we got, we just wanted to be ourselves. That opened up a door for artists like Eminem, for people to produce stuff like South Park – raw and edgy – it started changing TV, over in America – here they’ve always been cussing on TV”.
The legacy Ice Cube and the NWA have created isn’t just something they want to cement in the annals of history for generations to come – no, it’s something his son is all-too engrossed in. “They kept saying they want authenticity, and that they want to do this right, and that’s why I kept pushing for this role. I wasn’t given in it, I spent two years auditioning to be Ice Cube”. Why you ask? Why would O’Shea Jr Jackson bother with a film about his father? Simple – it’s his legacy too, he’s grown up with the man and it means a lot to him. It’s not only O’Shea getting into the role though, Jason Mitchell is making sure he’s the perfect role for Eazy. “I’ve had people come up to me, and they say ‘man you see that dude Jason, he thinks he’s Eazy-E for real!’ and I’m like ‘He’s supposed to mother-fucka, we’re shooting a movie’, man, it must have been his fake curls” – even Ice Cube is starting to see just how real their legacy is becoming with the movie taking over the lives of its actors.
But, hasn’t it always? The NWA have always been present in our lives, right? They put parental advisory records on the map – the first victim of Tipper Gore’s greatest (or worst) triumph. They were like Robin Hood, their music stole from the rich and gave to the poor. NWA took on the police, a feat no band had done before. “It was an incredible moment to see how far they would go to use us, to intimidate us and control us. Coming from LA, we’d never been on tour, it was all New York groups back then. So here we come, a major tour, all these cities, dream come true – and they told us we could do it but we couldn’t perform Fuck The Police – and we signed off on that and eat that, and we just got tired of being controlled, and we were like ‘we happy to be on tour, but we not being ourselves’ so the minute we did it, they rushed us” – the police turned out a concert of 20,000 people in Detroit at the Joe Lewis arena because a band played a song, a song that is so poetically beautiful yet agonisingly aggressive in its delivery – a masterpiece if there ever was one – and they shut it down because they were afraid of the repercussions of their ways.
That’s what Cube wants though, he wants each and every one of you to walk away from Straight Outta Compton knowing that you can stand up and shout, that you do have a voice, and that you can be heard – whether you’re a painter, or a sportsman, or whatever, you will be heard if you choose to raise your voice.
Whilst all we have right now is a movie, it’s just one more piece of evidence to add to the hall of fame the NWA have built, a hub for history – the annals continuously growing day by day.