Ice Cube - Cold As Ice
Ice Cube may have endured a barren creative patch musically, but with his latest album Raw Footage shows he’s back to his very best, calling life as he sees it. 3D’s Saeed Saeed found out what spurred the rap legend back into action.
When Ice Cube crashed into our collective conscious twenty years ago, American society was a tinderbox of racial tensions, spiralling crime rates and a shaky economy.
The Compton rapper's incendiary raps articulated these frustrations with such force his records were removed from American retail stores. The British Government even considered banning them in fear of inciting racial hatred.
Today you can find Ice Cube records in your local Target. Such was the growth of gangsta rap it became a mainstay of pop culture.
But with the American presidential election rekindling old racial tensions, and popular American radio broadcaster Don Imus blaming hip hop for his racist tirade against African American basketball players, the stage was set for Ice Cube returning to set the record straight.
Ice Cube latest album Raw Footage is his strongest release in over a decade. Lead single Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It shows he is still ready to call things as he sees them.
“People will never stop using hip hop as a scapegoat,” he says. “You had Don Imus blaming the fact that gangsta rappers say, ‘nappy headed hoes’ so he thought it was cool to say it, like he listens to gangsta rap! The Virginia Tech killing, it came on the heels of that, so somehow gangsta rap was the cause of that. It just kind of snowballed into all these different kinds of things.”
'Snowballed' is an apt description for the thirty-nine year-old’s career thus far. You can attach film star, producer and director as tags to this hip hop legend. His film company Cube Vision spawned hit film franchises Friday and Barbershop, and his bankability as an actor gave him top billing in high budget productions XXX: State of the Union and the upcoming remake of The A-Team.
Despite his celluloid success, Ice Cube credits America's uncertain times for reminding him where his heart truly lies.
“We are all feeling the effect of a recession and people now expect everything to be watered down. People are holding themselves back and I was not taught to do that. This record is definitely raw. Lyrically, it's what I'm all about, how I think, what I say and what I do.”
It's also Cube’s most spiritual record, with 12 of the 16 songs making direct reference to God. Cube denies this is due to maturity and parenthood: “I never did that before in any of my other records, so I wanted to talk about it,” he says simply.
As well as exploring new territory, Cube says he is always looking for new twists on old subjects when writing. The best example of this is in the powerful Why Me, where he speaks from the point of view of an innocent bystander killed by random gunfire.
“I wanted people who are into busting on people to think about what they’re doing and how you’re killing innocent bystanders for nothing. I wanted people to think about it and the only way I could do that is from the perspective of the victim,” he says. “We always hear from the shooters. It was an angle that hasn’t really been touched. Those are the easiest songs to write.”
But that creativity has also deserted him in the past. After releasing three consecutive classic albums in as many years, (1990’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, ‘91’s Lethal Injection and ‘92’s The Predator) Cube went through a decade of releasing pale imitations of earlier works, the lowest point being Volume 2 of his failed War and Peace concept albums.
Cube decided to reinvigorate his music career by leaving major record labels.
“When you are on a major you feel like you are obligated to listen to people you don’t want to listen to. People think because of their albums, a lot of good rappers have fallen off. You’d be surprised how many record companies are involved with that process.”
Cube cites the success of previous album, 2006’s Laugh Now Cry Later, down to its release on his own label Lench Mob. “It definitely motivated me. Out of the last ten years, the last two I have never felt this energised.”
This has translated into more time on the road and last year’s successful tour of Australia, his first in 15 years.
“To come back to Australia and after such a long time and get the same reception. Man, that was just incredible! It made me want to go out and do more shows, it was a great time.”
True to his word, Cube is returning this November for a super-sized tour with Snoop Dogg and Bone Thugs N Harmony. Cube is looking forward to touring with his old friend Snoop.
“I remember touring Canada with Snoop last year and we had a ball. People just loved it,” he said. “I am more hardcore and cockier. Snoop is also hardcore but a bit smoother with it. It’s a great combination; kind of like a sweet and sour.”
WHO: Ice Cube
WHAT: Raw Footage through Lench Mob/Inertia
WHEN: Out now