Ice Cube: Love The Art, Not The Money

By Monique B.  |  08/20/2008

Ice CubeIt's been over 20 years since NWA & The Posse first echoed through America's ears and busted the door open with a new sound categorized as Gangsta Rap. Since then, the hip-hop genre has evolved with habitual fluctuations of success and disappointments across the globe, but one artist has remained consistent to his craft by pushing the envelope in music, as well as other facets of his career. Who could forget about movies like "Boyz N the Hood," "Friday," "The Player's Club," and "Three Kings," or classic albums such as Straight Outta Compton, Amerikkka's Most Wanted, or his successful 2006 independent release Laugh Now, Cry Later? After nine solo projects, over 20 features in television and film (over 10 he produced himself), and earning 16 nominations and winning three accolades for his work on the big screen, Ice Cube is still continuing to kick in doors while staying true to his roots.

With all his success in film, Ice Cube hasn't lost his ability to deliver attention grabbing lyrical content nor has he turned his attention away from the struggling people who cry for justice. In fact, he continues to use his voice to provoke thought and to raise conscious questions about the culture we live in. His most recent independent release, Raw Footage, is an uncut dosage of truth, familiar to fans who've followed his 20-plus year career. Between starring in the release of Fred Durst's first directorial effort in "The Longshot" and continuing the national leg of his promotional tour for Raw Footage, Ice Cube talks with briefly about his career in music, film, and what Raw Footage means to hip-hop. You were one of the first emcees to get into acting. How has working with John Singleton helped you in your film career with acting, directing, and producing?

Ice Cube: John, he's the whole thing when it comes to me because he's the one who saw something in me that he believed I could do. "Boyz N The Hood," he really pursued me to be in the movie. I was kind of brushing him off the first few years when he was asking me. By doing that movie, [it] kind of opened a door in me. I kind of got bit by the acting bug. He was saying, "Yo, you can write a song, so when are you going to write a script?" That kind of opened me up some more. I was like, "Damn, I can do this!" So I start trying it and I've been able to build a movie career because of John Singleton. Do you think it's hard for some people to see more than one side of you, and not accept the actor side of you? Being that tour films go from family films to comedies when your music is more raw and realistic?

Ice Cube: I mean music to me is real and movies are make believe. I don't know, some people have a hard time wrapping themselves around both careers [and] some people have an easy time with it. You know, I don't see why it's so difficult to picture -- it would be hard to make a hard movie career parallel to your music career and still be successful. I could do a whole bunch of gangsta movies, but to try to get into the A-list actors, you can't go that route. You got to do good movies whenever they are available, no matter what kind they are, and that's what I did with my career. You seem to be balancing a lot on your plate, as far as film and music. What do you think is the best way to stay successful?

Ice Cube: To fall in love with what you do and not fall in love with the money you make off of it. I've had dudes come to me and say "Man give me a deal, man! I'll rap for free!" So, they're in love with the art. Then once the money start coming in, then they start saying, "Damn, if I do this, I can make this amount of money. If I do this, I can make that amount of money." They stop really focusing on the job at hand and focusing on the outcome and the money they are going to get from it. And then the product suffers because of that, so I just keep my eye on the art of it and the money will come if I do that right. If I do what I'm supposed to do, then the money will come. Do feel that the "Black. White." project had its intended effect on the community or not?

Ice Cube: Yeah. I think it was talked about all over America, you know? It was only on for six weeks and I think every week that it came on, that next morning every radio station, talk show, whatever was mentioning "Black. White." and its effect. It was so effective, they were scared to do more. They only did one season of it and it was a hit show, so that tells me it was very effective and for the people at FX, it was too effective. On the brink of the Obama and McCain election, how do you feel about the media being loose-lipped to where they are saying insensitive racial comments in the media?

Ice Cube: I knew that was going to happen if Obama won the nomination. I knew that a lot of America's true colors would come out between now and then. Even McCain's ads are starting to get more and more silly and really petty and, you know. I just think what Obama and his team need to do is, at some point, they have to fight fire with fire. You can't just keep taking it on the chin and expect to be the president, so I hope Obama and them get a little dirty and do what they need to do to win because that's what the Republicans want to do. Raw Footage, out now. Do you feel that Raw Footage is an album that fans that want to hear the Cube from '88-'93?

Ice Cube: I believe so. I believe this is that record. A lot of social records that talked about our situation in these neighborhoods kind of got pushed in the back between '94 and now, but starting of with Kanye's first record I think [had] social commentaries people wanted. It's not just something that just played by the underground heads. It's like everybody in hip-hop is looking for the messages. Where have they gone? And this record is full of them. This is a record I've been waiting to do since Death Certificate. Did you do any collaborations on Raw Footage?

Ice Cube: I got a record with Young Jeezy, Musiq Soulchild ... The Game is on the record. I got Angie Stone singing background, so I think it's a record that's got enough features to do solid. Your entire music career has been respected because you tell the truth. What I want you to tell people is what you want your fans to get out of this entire album.

Ice Cube: Hopefully they'll get inspired by the record. On this record I tried to give advice, I tried to make a spiritual record, I tried to make a record that tell it like it is, so hopefully they'll be able to absorb all of that. Maybe they can sidestep some of these pitfalls that are out here.