Gangsta rap pioneer Ice Cube made a recent stop on Jamie Foxx’s radio show to address “selling out” criticism, Dr. Dre’s early days, and the importance of privacy in his personal life.
In the early 90s, Cube launched his movie career in 1991 with the Oscar-nominated Boyz N the Hood. Since then, Cube has starred and executive-produced in over 40 films.
After transitioning to more family oriented work such as the Barbershop and Are We There Yet series, some critics and fans have accused Cube of selling out and betraying his earlier gangsta rap roots to assimilate into Hollywood.
The 25 year music veteran counters that his film evolution is a natural progression for a married man in his 40s whose original fans now share those same realities in their personal lives.
“Most of those people don’t know how to get money. If you know how to get money you do what you do to get that money,” Cube told Foxxhole Radio. “It was a good look because my fans now have kids. I don’t want nobody telling their kids that Cube used to be the shit, y’all just don’t know. I’d rather for them to be a part of what I’m doing, too. And it’s fucked up when you got a six-year-old coming up to you quoting Friday lines. It’s like alright let me do something for your little ass because you shouldn’t be watching Friday. It was something for all my fanbase.”
Following N.W.A.’s dissolution his former band mates Eazy-E and Dr. Dre became embroiled in a heated rivalry in 1993. Over the next two years their respective labels Ruthless and Death Row would join the fray and release several diss records. Eazy used 80s pictures of Dre sporting lip gloss and sequence outfits to support his stance that his former friend was fabricating his gangsta rap image on the seminal The Chronic album.
Ice Cube recalled the photos, and stated both Dr. Dre and DJ Yella used to argue with World Class Wreckin’ Cru leader Lonzo Williams about wearing the gaudy outfits. Williams adhered to funk and soul music traditions, and looked at Hip-Hop as fad cash-in instead of a legitimate art form.
“[World Class Wreckin’ Cru founder] Lonzo was a Con Funk Shun type of dude,” he noted. “He thought rap was going to be in and out. That’s who they worked for…They used to argue about that [with him].”
The recent public divorces of Nas and DMX have been cited as examples of the difficulty artists have in making a marriage work in the music industry. Cube, who’s been married for 17 years and has four children, believes maintaining privacy is the #1 reason his marriage has lasted.
“Keep everybody out your business, that’s how you do it. And I mean everybody. It ain’t about having a relationship outside of the house. It’s about having a relationship within each other,” he explained. “When something go down don’t be calling your sister or your mother; I’m not gonna be calling my brother or uncles. We’re gonna work it out.”
Ice Cube’s ninth studio album I Am the West will be released on September 28. The latest single is “Drink the Kool Aid.”
Fans can also see Cube weekly on his TBS sitcom series “Are We There Yet?,” which debuted in June.
When you’re making moves there’ s always going to be someone who criticizes. That’s not just true in Hip-Hop but the world in general. But only in the wacky world of Hip-Hop could a 41-year-old married man with four kids be called a sell-out for not keeping the same gangsta-rap image of his 20s. What’s even more ironic is that Cube’s music still retains the street knowledge of his earlier albums, but just from a more mature and seasoned perspective.
Let’s be real. If artists like Cube, Nas and Jay-Z were still approaching their music now the same way this did 15 years ago, they wouldn’t be as revered and respected. In fact, they probably wouldn’t be here period. Those three are examples of emcees who took the challenge of growing with their audience. Sure, there were some growing pains and missteps, but their efforts have resulted in careers that show dynamic, three-dimensional musicians.
Take a look at someone like 50 Cent and you see the exact opposite. Since 2003 the G Unit mogul has essentially remade the same album with little artistic growth. And even outside the booth, people have grown tired of the publicity-focused “beef” antics. That is why Nas and Damian Marley can sell out nearly all their tour stops around the country while 50 is canceling his U.S. tour due to low ticket sales.
People claim they want Hip-Hop to mature but are afraid to mature with it. Ice Cube is a perfect example of why we don’t have to abandon the Hip-Hop culture that raised us just because we hit the other side of 30. In fact, you can retain your integrity and still handle business in the corporate world on your own terms. Nothing more gangsta than that.