Ice Cube headlines the Irving Plaza this Sunday, September 21. Tickets are available here.
Even though Ice Cube mugged for the camera as a playboy babysitter in the 2005 kid-comedy Are We There Yet? , the man is still intimidating in person. When I interviewed Cube at his publicist’s midtown office recently, the 39-year-old spoke stoically and didn’t look me in the eye once. Meanwhile, his elementary-school-age son sat beside me, preoccupied with his Nintendo DS the whole time.
Ice Cube’s newest release Raw Footage is all about revamping the progressively minded side of hip-hop, the business side of music, and our need to avoid the “stupid shit” that is holding us back. The record is, in its creator’s words, “for the brain and not the booty.” Family films may’ve become Cube’s hustle, but he still doesn’t want you to forget where his loyalty rests. — Eavvon O’Neal
You’ve come a long way since NWA.
I try to do good movies [now]; I try to do good records. People expect for me to talk at my age now like I did when I was 18 or something, and that’s just not going to happen. I’m normal like anybody else, so of course my music is going to change different topics, different years, different subjects. I don’t want to speak on the shit that I spoke on before, because what good is that, rehashing shit?
Then what would you say is the focus of this album?
Raw Footage is a record that I’ve been waiting to do for a long time. I just felt like conscious hip-hop has kind of taken a background to escapism. Cars, jewelry—that kind of hip-hop has been in the forefront for about 15 years now. So it’s really time that people feel like they want political and social messages in the music. With Raw Footage, I just tried to make a record that was really for the brain, and not the booty. Not really for the club, but for the individual listener.
I got a song called “Why Me” featuring Musiq Soulchild which takes the view of the victim of random violence, speaking to the shooter. I got a song called “Cold Places,” dealing with issues. “Get Money” [laughs] “Get Money, Spend Money, No Money,” is a song I got, which talks about our being broke as shit but still trying to throw money in the air. You know, some of these dudes is one generation from poverty, and got the nerve to be throwing money in the air, you know, that kind of stupid shit.
What was the reasoning behind releasing this album independently?
You know, just being sick of majors. They burnt me out. I think between Lethal Injection and Laugh Now Cry Later, I was just burnt out on labels and the way they do things—the things they don’t do and the money they waste, when they could use that same money to do effective marketing. They’re doing formulas that were put together in the ‘90s trying to sell records, and that just doesn’t work now. I wanted to get away from that and be able to do some of the things that I felt like I should do to sell records, or to make the record hot. I was sick of them looking at SoundScan, looking at fucking BDS, sick of looking at Billboard, I’m sick of all that shit. I just want to do hip-hop. Do it how I feel it, and not worry about none of that stuff, I’ll let the industry worry about that stuff.
Could this be your last record?
Nah, I’m just going to do it how I feel it. I’m not going to worry about that kind of stuff. I think b-boys got their minds too much into sales, and platinum, and this kind of shit and they ain’t got it into hip-hop; rhymes, beats, and lyrics. That’s all I’m going to focus on. So if this record don’t sell it won’t change my next record at all. I’ll still do records for Ice Cube fans. I’m no longer reaching for every little fan I can get out of every nook and cranny. I’m just trying service Ice Cub fans and what they want from me, and that’s I’m going to be concerned with.
Do you think there will be a crossover between those who are fans of your music and the people that know Ice Cube as an actor?
Maybe, you know? But this is for the hardcore hip-hop fan. All this gravy that’s out there, I’m not really even worried about it. If it come, it come, if it don’t, it don’t. As long as my core fan base loves the record, then I feel like it’s a successful record. No matter how much it sells.