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Ice Cube - Actor/Musician MAG
“Are We There Yet?” is his latest movie, due to be released January 21, but it’s a rhetorical question because the man known as Ice Cube is most definitely there - at the top.
Ice Cube is an appropriate nickname for a man as multifaceted as O’Shea Jackson. From shaping gangster rap in the’90s to writing and starring in movies, this 35-year-old native of South Central Los Angeles has become a force in Hollywood. Whether you have his CDs or plan to see his latest movie, Ice Cube demands attention.
Famous for his words and opinions, Ice Cube had this to say about writing in our pre-interview chat:
Teen Ink sounds like a great thing because people really underestimate the voice of kids, of youngsters. That’s one of the reasons we got into hip-hop music: to be able to have some kind of voice, to be able to state our opinions to whomever would listen. And you have a magazine just dedicated to that, which is very smart. You know, it’d be smart if adults picked it up and actually read it. They’d learn a lot about themselves and their kids.
You know, everything starts with the writing - I don’t care if you are doing a song or a movie or an article, instructions - everything starts with writing.
I have four kids, a son who just turned 18, a 13-year-old son, a 10-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. A lot of parents forget how it was to be their children’s ages. Never forget how it was to be their age- that is the key, and remember what you went through. Remember what you thought of the world and don’t forget, don’t get caught up in your own age.
A[ngela]: I’d like to know whom you admired most growing up and who had the greatest influence on you?
I was fortunate to have my father and brother with me. My brother is nine years older than myself. I looked up to both of them because they were always available, always there with anything I needed to help me get through the day, you know, living in South Central Los Angeles and trying not to get caught in all the traps it had. So I have to say my father and my brother had the biggest influence on me.
You know, I love people like entertainers and athletes but, my pops always told me, those famous people don’t put no food on your table.
Keep everything in perspective. You know, they get paid for what they are doing, you kind of give up your emotions for free so, you know, that always put everything in perspective about who is really having an influence on my life.
M[cClain]: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to face?
That’s hard to sum up, but it’s kind of always trying to show people that you can do it.
A lot of people love to doubt everybody but themselves, or you have to come in with accolades before they respect what you can do. So, growing up being in the business is always“give me a chance to show you I can do what I say I can do. ”That’s been the biggest obstacle.
A: Do you think music (or any creative works for that matter) should be censored?
No, I think censorship is dangerous. Because it pulls out questions - who are the censors? What do they know? You know what I mean, that’s really what it boils down to.
I think all art should have age limits, you know? There is nothing wrong with putting age limits on things. Categories, a rating system for movies - there is nothing wrong with that.
Yeah, you know, kids do see bad things when it comes to art and media, but that don’t necessarily make them bad people in the end.
Censorship is bad because you have people censoring people, and what do they know?
M: What is the biggest misconception about being Ice Cube and who are some of the big influences on your film career?
The biggest misconception is that I am just Ice Cube. Ice Cube is my ego. Ice Cube’s my nickname. People real close to me don’t call me Ice Cube, you know what I mean?
So, always the misconception is, you know, I am what I put out only. I am not saying that’s not apart of me. It is, but it’s not the only part of me. It’s the part that I have to put out, you know. So, that’s the biggest misconception.
Influences as far as my film career, people like John Singleton, he directed “Boys in the Hood, ”“Shaft” and “2 Fast and 2 Furious. ” He put me in my first movie. He told me to write movies. He said, “You can write a rap, you can write a movie. ” That kind of opened up a door in my head, I never even thought about it like that, you know. So, he is a big influence on me. He is the one who planted the seed in me that’s kind of grown into what it is now. He is the one that I give all the credit to when it comes to my film career. That’s where it started.
A: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing minorities in the film industry?
You know, the same old thing, racism. It goes back to what I said, trying to prove that you can do what you say you can do.
That’s to me the biggest obstacle, because when you have open-minded people and they give minorities a shot, usually they do pretty good.
It’s just trying to get past the same old hurdles that this country has always faced in this business. The same old problems, you got to get through them. Some people can see through that, some people can’t, but you just got to keep on convincing people that you can doit.
A: So are you saying that people expect you to write a certain thing or make movies about a certain topic?
I am pretty sure they do. It’s still a business. It’s not like anything you think of, you can go and make. You know, people have ideas on the kind of movies they want you to make, and it’s a business deal. So, you have to kind of see what they are looking for, and put your twist on it.
Comedies in Hollywood are easier to get made than dramas. Hollywood would rather make the people laugh than cry, that’s just the way it is. So, you know, you will see a lot of comedies come through more than dramas (real stories about human suffering and the like).
M: Can you tell us something about your latest movie?
I’ve got a movie coming out January 21 called “Are We There Yet?” I play a guy by the name of Nick who is doing the bachelor thing. He doesn’t want to be tied down, no commitments. He doesn’t really like kids, he is that kind of dude. Then he meets this girl and it is love at first sight, but she has two kids, an eight-year-old and a 10-year-old. He don’t like them and they definitely don’t like him because he is the new guy. So I, Nick, come up with a plan because my friends tell me, man, if the kids hate you, the mother won’t date you.
M: Did you write this movie?
Yeah. Yeah, you know, for everything I do, I try to put my hand on it because a lot of these movies are just not written for, you know, me. You know what I mean? Some will be a little too corny or whatever, so I try to put my twist on it. Usually the people who put their hand on their projects have better luck than the people who just show up for a movie, shoot it and hope it do well.
A: You’re writing family comedies now, but your early work was very controversial, not just because of the profanity but because of your political views. Have these views changed as you have gotten older and more successful? Does having a lot of money change how you think politically?
Well, you know, just think - you both are 17, right? Well, at the age of 10, I am pretty sure you thought you had a lot of stuff figured out. And at 13, you say, when I was 10, I had it somewhat right, but now I know a little more. Now that you are 17, you really think you’ve got it figured out.
And I was, I kind of - I didn’t go about things the right way. If I knew what I know now, I would have went about things differently - well, when you get older, that’s what you think.
The music that I did when I was younger, yeah, I wholeheartedly stand by it, that’s what I was feeling, that’s what I said, that’s what was recorded.
As you get older, you start to realize, if you want to make an impact on people, you can’t just yell “the world sucks” from the highest mountaintop. I have to do things, I have to do things that really affect people.
So what I did was become an example:“Look where Ice Cube came from. Look what he has done with himself, you know, not only in the record career, movie career whatever. Look, he took it on himself, he started writing. He started doing these things himself. ”
Man, I can write - I know I got a movie -I know - you know, and it’s to try to inspire people on a whole different level. Because there is only so much yelling you can do.
At some point you got to actually do things that affect what you are talking about to try to change it. And my thing was, before I got into Hollywood, it looked a lot different than it do now. And I believe that I have had something to do with changing that.
M: Overall how would you describe your music?
I would describe my music as reality-based gangster rap. I mean, that’s really what it is.
A: Every day I do something embarrassing like tripping or making poor choices and then regretting them. Can you say what you are embarrassed about or regret?
Oh, man. Biggest thing, that’s a tough one. You know, we have to come back to that because I want to think about that one real good. I am the kind of guy who, when it’s done, it’s done.
I can’t really worry about what I can’t change. But let me think.
A: It doesn’t have to be serious.
Let me see, I fell off the stage once. I think that’s one of the most embarrassing things you can do, because you have 18, 000 people looking. We were in Chicago and when we came out there was too much smoke at the front of the stage and they had these monitors which play the music back for you on the stage so you can hear yourself.
And the smoke covered the monitor, so when I came out and tried to get real close to the edge of the stage, I stepped over the monitor and went into the pit.
But you know, I kept rapping, I kept the mic on, but that’s got to be one of the most embarrassing things that ever happened to me, because so many people saw it, and you lose all your cool points when you fall offstage.
M: A lot of people write just to entertain. You seemed to write your music because you had something to say. Are you now trying to say things to your audience through your films, or are they more focused on providing entertainment?
You know, the films are more focused on, right now, providing entertainment. The records are always entertaining, too.
You know, when you see a film, it’s all entertainment. But with the records, it’s my vision. I don’t have to run it by the studio. I don’t need the director to like it. I don’t need the other people involved to like it, but to get big Hollywood movies made it takes over 100people.
When I am in the studio, it’s just me, I don’t have to run it by nobody. It would be my feelings. Now, rap is 90 percent ego and 10 percent knowledge that you can really live by. You know what I mean, so that’s how people got to take it -it’s an art form, it’s music about bragging and boasting about how bad you are. That is the essence of where it came from.
So, movies are straight entertainment, I don’t have as much leeway because so many people have to sign off on it for me to put it out. Even Steven Spielberg waited till he got to a certain point before he started doing movies like “Schindler’s List”and World War II movies and things like that. So you have to kind of get a status in Hollywood before they start giving you millions of dollars to do your dream project.
A: Can you describe an incident where you experienced racial discrimination, and how you dealt with it?
I got bussed to school, my mom didn’t want me in our neighborhood because they knew the neighborhood eat up so many youngsters. And so they figured, yeah, we’ll bus him off to school and give him a better chance at an education, stand and focus on education and not get into neighborhood school stuff.
So, I went up there and basically they didn’t want us out there. You know, a lot of kids got bussed from the inner city to the valley and the community, the faculty really didn’t want us out there. Some of them could disguise that and kind of do their job, but some of them couldn’t. Some of them would let you know in so many ways. You know, so, I kind of faced a little bit every day.
But, as a kid, as a youngster, I didn’t care. Because to me that weren’t the hardest thing I was facing. The hardest thing was when the bus dropped me off at 4 o’clock and I had to walk through the neighborhood to get back to my house. You know, that was more stressful than any of that other stuff. Because that other stuff you know, they can only do so much. The teacher could not like you, give lower grades or whatever. And I was just not the kind of person to let that kind of stuff get to me. I always felt like, you know, I am going to find a way. I got to keep finding a way.
So, I was just worried too much, worried about my neighborhood. So, it was real things every day that could affect you, but when you are black, you just can’t afford the luxury of letting it bother you to the point where you can’t move or function or you can’t succeed.
A: In a school setting like that, did you have any teachers who encouraged you?
Oh, yeah. There were teachers who was happy to see us and was happy to see us trying to get a better education than what was available in the neighborhood school, and there was a difference.
M: Did you have a favorite class or teacher in the school?
My government class was one of my favorite classes. Because growing up, all that kind of stuff don’t concern kids really - Republican this, Democrat that. Until somebody really break it down to you and show you how this stuff really works and how it affects, you know, out of South Central L. A. (or wherever you come from), you are not interested in that. Because you have bigger things to worry about.
I learned a lot in my government class. I learned a lot about how the world works, how this country works, you know. I have always liked that, because I thought I was actually given real stuff that I can use in my life.
M: With the 21stcentury’s focus on materialism, how do you feel spirituality should fit in with our lives?
To me, that’s first, you know, being spiritual has to be first. People have to look at their body as the best thing that they will ever own. You never own nothing better than your body. I mean all these trinkets - I have six cars, but I can only drive one at a time. You know, you got this nice car, but you can’t see yourself in it. Only other people can see you driving down the street. At some point it becomes like it don’t matter. It always matters when you don’t have it and you want it, and when you get it, you really realize it don’t matter.
M:Is that what made you want to be a member of the Nation of Islam, which you joined in 1992?
Well, you know, I don’t like putting labels on religion. Not on my spirituality, you know. I think me and God have a relationship that you can’t even label. You can’t call it nothing, you know, because I am not going to use any middle man to get to God. I can talk to him like I am talking to you. That’s really the essence of it.
Trying to go to God brokers and all these people who say they can lead you to the path, those people have problems in their lives. So I don’t put a label on my relationship with God, because I just think it’s really idiotic. It’s much more than any label can describe, you know what I mean?
A: In the movie “Three Kings, ” you got a cinematic glimpse of life in Iraq. How has your experience in that role affected your view of the current war in Iraq?
Doing that movie, I understood more about Iraq than I did when the ’91 Gulf War was going on. I understood that just like any government, there are people inside that country who don’t like the leader. And it showed me what they were going through from the inside out.
This new thing [Iraq war], I think it’s just something totally different. It seems like the people there got a bad taste in their mouths from ’91 on whether we supported them enough when they were trying to overtake Saddam, and a lot of people got bitter, so I think this time the support that the country believed it would get didn’t come because, you know, people are like “Man, you left us hanging one time. We are not going to let you leave us hanging again. ” I don’t think “Three Kings” applies to what is going on now. For the most part, that attitude came and went.
M: Do you have a motto that you live by?
Mind your own business. I mean, it’s simple, life is simple, you know, people make it hard. If you deal with your own business, for one thing, you don’t have time to get into other people’s business, plus your business is in order. I know some people who all they can do is talk about what other people are doing and how other people are doing it wrong and the intricate parts of other people’s lives, and then their life is messed up.
So, if you are handling your own business, you shouldn’t have a problem. You know, I tell parents, be good to your kids, because if you ruin things right now, when you get old, your kids are going to be the ones who got to take care of you. You know, you want a good relationship right there. What goes around, comes around, you guys - you know, parents got to know that, and remember that.
M: I think your kids are pretty lucky based on what I have heard.
I have got some good kids, I can’t complain one bit about what they are turning out to be. They are giving me no problems. They have two feet on the ground. They’re not big-headed, they are not spoiled and now they do what they are supposed to at their age. You know, that’s cool.
A: Do you have any advice to teens who are considering having children?
It’s better to wait, because the earlier you have it, the earlier your life stops and you start taking care of another person. You know, no more fun, basically. I am not saying you are not having fun raising a kid but why do it so early?
Have fun while you are a kid. Know what life is about, then you can do that. You know, you do it early, your options go down, no doubt.
You know, the person without the kid and without the ties is experiencing life better than a person with a kid because that’s when life gets real.
M: What is the one piece of advice you would give to teens?
Slow down. Have fun. Be a teen. Because once you become grown, you can never go back. Once you’re grown, you’ll always be grown. You know, all grown-ups wish they were teen-agers, ain’t that something? I wonder why: because it’s fun. Now is the time for you not to be so serious about the things that life has, the obstacles out there.
All you have to do now is be serious about what and who you want to be. And serious about your school work, you know, that’s easy, that’s the easy part. The hard [part]is when you are out in the world, you don’t know who you are, you don’t know who you want to be, but you are grown and nobody has sympathy for you. Nobody is trying to help you.
You know, now you are a kid, everybody is trying to help you. Get that help, get better, get smart, don’t fall on obstacles, try to sidestep them and slowdown. Don’t try to be grown so quick. You got a lifetime to be grown.
A: All right. So, growing up, was there any one experience that really shaped or influenced your life?
I had a half-sister who got killed in 1981. And I was just 12, so that was my wake-up call in life, and what it is really about, you know.
Gotta prevent stuff from happening to you. You know, that’s what youngsters and adults have to think about. Not “Oh, if this happens I’m going to do this, ” but preventing it from happening to you. So, you have to be alert about your life and which way it is going.
M: What do you feel is the leading cause of teen violence today?
It all comes down to what it’s always comedown to, with not only teens but adults. Respect, you know. Everybody puts a lot on what that word really mean, how they perceive respect. A lot of people look at respect in different ways. But to me, that’s the biggest cause of any kind of violence in the world. This is one person taking it upon himself to disrespect another person and then violence starts. So, I think that’s the biggest cause.
It’s not TV, it’s not movies, you know. A bully doesn’t respect the guy he is picking on, you know what I mean? The guy who goes out with your girlfriend don’t respect you. It’s those things that start violence - it’s the guy who, you know, skids out in front of you, the guy who calls you a name, you know. That’s all the stuff that leads to violence between people.
A: You have achieved so much, but what is one of your greatest disappointments and how did you deal with that?
This business is all based on ... if you are in the record business, did you go platinum? Did you go double platinum? Did you go quadruple platinum? You know, it’s really measured on how many records you sold, and I have always been on independent labels. And an independent label is not going to sell as many as the major labels.
So even though the money has been right, the sales could have been better. So that’s it. It’s nothing big, it’s just if I had been on a major label and sold more records, I guess. But, you know, to me, who cares if you sell a lot of records and you don’t get paid? So, I guess it all worked out.
M: A lot of teens equate success with money, but what does success mean to you?
Good health, man. Nothing better than good health. You have good health, you are very successful. We have got a roof, we have got food, we have got clothes, we have got transportation.
Everything else is just a bigger version of that. More money you get, the more money you spend. It’s kind of easy for me to say from this point of view, but, you know, I have been poor, and I have had money and ultimately when I measured it, it’s really all about are you healthy? Because no matter how rich you are, if your body is not healthy, then you are not going to enjoy that money anyway, and they’re not going to put it in the casket with you when they puts you in the ground. So health is the most important thing in life.
A: I’m a real bookaholic and read all the time. My favorite book so far is The Human Stain by Philip Roth or perhaps Crime and Punishment. What are a couple of books you think every teenager should read?
You know, I’m more of a pick-up-the newspaper kind of guy. You know, a Newsweek, Time magazine type of guy. I think reading is important in any form. I think a person who’s trying to learn to like reading should start off reading about a topic they are interested in, or a person they are interested in.
One of the first books I ever read was the autobiography of Malcolm X. I read it because I had heard about him so much, and I wanted to know who this dude was. So, it was something I was interested in, and it kept me reading.
The key is to find something that clicks in you and makes you love to read. So start off with the thing you are interested in. I mean if you like sports, go get the sports pages and read up on what happened last night. Read about it instead of letting the ESPN man tell you what happened. That’s going to get you used to liking reading.
M: You mentioned Malcolm X and I was wondering what historic figure or person interests you most?
God. After that, Jesus Christ, Moses, Muhammad. I mean, if you had a chance to talk to anybody, who else could you pick? It wouldn’t be some actor.
A: You probably get thousands of fan letters and e-mails a week. What’s the weirdest or funniest mail you ever received?
I had a person send me a jean suit, like jean pants and a jean jacket. And it had all my articles, photos and pictures from magazines sewn all over it with plastic covering, so it wouldn’t get damaged.
And I have still got this thing because it is the craziest thing I ever got. You know, a jean suit with all your accomplishments all over it ... like, how egotistical would it to be to wear that, you know what I mean?
M: Is there any chance you would ever run for a public office?
No. No. No. I am really not interested. You know, to me I think it’s like - I would rather do the lecture tours. I think I can help people more that way, instead of the politics game.
A: What are some causes or charities that you work for?
You know, we are really involved in a minority AIDS project. And I have a nephew who is autistic so we try to give a lot to any kind of autistic foundation. These are the few that are close to my heart and we just try to do what we can on that level.