A legend like Ice Cube needs no introduction. For over 20 years, he’s done everything a Hip-Hop artist could hope for. He’s dropped classic albums, engaged in epic battles, and crossed his brand over into film and TV. Back in 2008, Cube was in the midst of promoting his newly released LPRaw Footage. Pay close attention to what Cube says about a potential collaboration album with Nas and Scarface!
Ismael AbduSalaam: Congratulations on a very good album with Raw Footage. There’s a more distinct political edge on this one than Laugh Now, Cry Later. Was that something you planned on being that the presidential election was coming up?
Ice Cube: Thank you. I knew with Laugh Now, Cry Later it was more of a reintroduction. I had to make a record to show I could more or less still rap on that tip. On the next one I could more of that street knowledge that I’ve been known. It was more of a conscious effort The election just fell into place, I wasn’t even thinking about all that when I started the record. I started at the end 2007, so it all just fell into place.
Ismael: A lot of people like the “Why Me” track off the album. Was there any difficulty in translating the power of that song into a visual?
Cube: What I wanted to do was use real people, not a whole bunch of actors. I wanted to show people who were really victims of this kind of violence. So once I knew I was gonna do that I knew the video had the ability to be powerful once we tied it together. We had different scenes of the hood, Somalia, and the Middle East to show it wasn’t a hood issue, but a world problem. And with Benny Boom it would be hard to miss that concept up. [laughs].
Ismael: With Raw Footage you’re set to have you second consecutive #1 independent album. When you look at the Hip-Hop landscape, do you think major labels will eventually get pushed completely out?
Cube: As more people get comfortable with buying off the net and artists developing their sites, it’ll come to a point where you’ll get the music directly from the artist. There’ll be nowhere else to get it. To me that’s the future.
But for now, the majors are gonna deal with the biggest artists with there 360 deals to prolong their life and take money from their shows and sponsorships; pretty much all that external money artists get. The record company are gonna find a way to cut themselves in. And if you don’t have the money to push your shit independent, it’s hard to play ball.
Ismael: Even going back to your first album Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, your music has always had a strong sense of personal accountability. And that’s even with songs now like “Tomorrow” and “Stand Tall.” Why do you think we’re so quick to shift blame to others in our culture?
Cube: Take a show like Oprah Winfrey where every victim of everything gets up there and cries about who’s fault it is that they’re this way. We just became a culture of ‘I don’t have to take responsibility, let me just pass the buck.’ You can do anything in America once you apologize. Just having that attitude eroded the pride in saying “this is my balls and my word.” Men used to say they were going to do something then they’d do it. Now, you don’t know if he’s gonna do it or not. It’s too much TV and looking at other people’s lives and not worrying about their own.
Ismael: You’ve always been willing to work with younger emcees like Game, Killer Mike, and Young Jeezy. Out of the new breed, who impresses you the most?
Cube: You gotta be impressed with Kanye. Even though his style ain’t my style, you can tell he practices his art and puts in the time. 50 and the Game. I always liked Andre 3000, and Luda’s dope. Gotta mention the Roots. There’s people out there that are fire. Out West I like Jayo Felony and Kurupt. I love to hear spitting. I [even] like some Lil Wayne songs, when he’s in MC mode.
Ismael: Lench Mob Record’s last album in the 90′s was Kaushion’s debut before you brought in back in 2006 with Laugh Now, Cry Later. How hard was it to get the infrastructure back together for the label, and what are your future plans with it?
Cube: We’re just gonna cultivate what we got. There’s a few people in the wings but they’re not ready to be mentioned yet. To me you gotta be ready, I can’t show you how to do this. You either have it or you don’t. Until we fidn that we’re going to continue to do our records. I stopped because I felt niggas was ungrateful and didn’t know how to take the ball and run with it. It wasn’t hard to start backup, I just took the five smartest people I knew when it came to independent records. It ain’t no big-ass overhead with a bunch of secretaries running around doing nothing. It’s lean, mean and five smart motherfuckers that put and plan together and executed. And it works so far, but you got to have the music behind it.
Ismael: Everybody knows the classic battle records on your resume. Out of those battles, who would you say was your most formidable opponent? This would be the one that made you really work the pen for.
Cube: Nobody! [laughs] I felt none of those battles I got into, that they should’ve even got into it with me. I pulled punches sometimes just because it was the right thing to do. But I never felt like “aw shit, damn this is gonna be a grueling one.” Because I felt like yo, we’ll do as many songs as we need to back and forth. That’s how I seen LL and Kool Moe Dee do it. So when I get into some shit like that I’m always prepared to do multiple tracks to make it happen. That’s the essence of Hip-hop, until it started getting crazy with entourages and shit that don’t know how to handle it. But for the most part it’s fun.
Ismael: What are you verified movie projects at this time?
Cube: Just finished a funny ass movie with Mike Epps called “Jackin’ Promoters.” Jeezy is in it. We play two shady ass rap promoters who bring acts to town and we ain’t got the money. Definitely funny shit for those in the industry. A lot of people go to shows but don’t know all the work that goes into it.
Ismael: I wanted to commend you on the Ice Cube scholarship you’ve been giving out. What are the requirements with it?
Cube: We’re basically giving out two scholarships. We put the kids in a contest. I give them a bottom beat, hook, and tell them to create a song around it. Whoever creates the best song wins the scholarship. 50-60 kids always enter and we usually end up with the best 10 and pick the best.
Ismael: One last question which will kind of put you on the spot. You worked with Scarface on the “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It Remix” and The Diary. A few days ago he announced he would be retiring and not making any further albums…
Cube: Aw man, for real?
Ismael: Yes but he did give himself an out. He said he would consider coming back for another album, but it woud have to be collaborative album between himself, Nas, and you. Of course you guys are on different labels, but if the money was right and it could be done, would you be interested in it?
Cube: Of course! I wouldn’t even think twice about doing that…hell yeah! [laughs] I think the album would be crazy, lyrics would be sick,a dn Hip-Hop would love it. It’s just making that business happen, that’s the part that gets funky. I ain’t never really turned down these kind of projects, they just don’t happen for whatever business reasons. But I’m up for some shit like that because I know we can make a dope record. And to me that is the most important thing.