Thursday, September 16, 2010

An EXCLUSIVE interview with ICE CUBE!

How The West Was One:

An EXCLUSIVE interview with ICE CUBE

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

Once any type of art becomes integrated into all aspects of our culture, it becomes hard to remember a time when it DIDN’T exist. Rock ‘n’ Roll is barely 55 years old, yet our entire musical landscape has been altered dramatically in those five and a half decades. Rap’s lifespan is 25 years younger than Rock’s, yet it has gained plenty of momentum in its 30 year existence. Rap music has not had it easy, but it has continued to evolve over the years, eventually morphing into many different sub-genres. In the meantime, Rap has become a part of ‘pop culture’. And as Rap and Hip Hop culture exploded all over the world, the music became more than just a rhyme, a beat and a hook: it became a lifestyle, an attitude, an art form and, for a lucky few, a money-making career. Rap is no longer just music: it is a way of life.

Rap was never more potent and powerful than when NWA and Gangsta Rap appeared on the scene in the late ‘80s. This West Coast movement started on the streets of Compton, California and spread like wildfire. Rap music became ‘dangerous’. It also became frightening to middle class America who didn’t quite appreciate a song titled “Fuck Tha Police”. Regardless of what people thought, it did catch the public’s attention and NWA became the most controversial band in the world. Even if you have never heard a lick of music by NWA, you know who they are. Or perhaps you might be more familiar with their first and most respected lyricist, ICE CUBE? Yes, the actor, rapper, performer, producer, father, writer and businessman.

Over the years, Cube has dabbled in many different aspects of the entertainment business, but its Rap and Hip Hop that remain the core of who he was, is and will always be. And just because he’s a successful actor doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything left to say! In fact, I Am The West, his 2010 album, is proof to that. Staying loyal to his West Coast roots, Ice Cube serves up a platter of hot and fresh rhymes and some mean beats that are destined to become classics in his already distinguished back catalog.

Spaz was able to sit down and speak to Ice Cube about music, movies, his brand spanking new platter, the West Coast music scene and more….

SPAZ: I Am The West is your ninth solo album. When you started writing for this album, what was the main inspiration for your lyrics?
ICE CUBE: Ya know, it just felt good being a b-boy. My last record was kinda highly political in a lot of ways. This record is just back to rhyming and having fun with the music, celebrating West Coast Gangsta Rap. Just doing it how I feel it.

SPAZ: Do you usually intend to have a theme, an idea, running through each album or are the songs meant to be their own separate entities?
CUBE: I record each song as a separate entity. From there, I start looking for things that can connect one song or one idea to another. Some songs I record don’t even fit a record and you just have to save it for another record. At this point in my career, I just have to go off of inspiration.

SPAZ: Do you find it easier or more difficult to write new music after 25 years in the business?
CUBE: Well, I think it always becomes a little more difficult because you don’t want to repeat yourself. At least, I don’t! I don’t want to start talking about the same things I talked about before. You’re always searching for new ways to do your thing.

SPAZ: Do you find it a little disappointing when something that you do doesn’t connect the way that you felt it was going to?
CUBE: I think every artist wants their work to connect… especially with their fans. But people are going to respond to what they want to respond to. I’ve had people just as passionate about projects that weren’t considered a success. I think people are passionate, you know, they like what they like no matter what it does to the masses.

SPAZ: I’ve noticed that sometimes, people don’t appreciate things right away. Have you experienced somebody finally understanding or appreciating something three or four years AFTER its release?
CUBE: Oh, yeah. Being ahead of the curve is just as bad as being behind the curve sometimes! But it’s cool. What’s good about this stuff is that it’s there forever. They get turned onto it whenever they get turned onto it. It’s still my work and I’m proud of it.

SPAZ: What do we need to know about OMG and Doughboy – your collaborators on “She Couldn’t Make it on Her Own”?
CUBE: Yeah, those are my sons! OMG is 19: he’s at USC right now. Doughboy is 23. He produced a song (on the album) called “No Country For Young Men.” He’s starting to get his feet wet in the music industry. It’s pretty cool. They’re good. What’s cool about it is that they are their own kind of B-Boys in a way. And they’re good enough, so why not?

SPAZ: “I Rep That West” is the first single from the album. While recording the track, were you aware that THIS would be the first hit to introduce your legions of fans to the new album? Or was that a decision made after the album was completed?
CUBE: Yeah, After I recorded it, what I was saying, the lyrics were a perfect way to start off this album. It just felt right.

SPAZ: It sort of encapsulates the whole idea of the album, right?
CUBE: Yeah, in a lot of ways. For me, when you’re doing Hip Hop, you gotta do it how you feel it. For me, it’s a “West Coast record” that celebrates the West Coast.

SPAZ: How’d you get hooked up with Gabriel Hart for the making of the video. How did that concept make it to the video screen?
CUBE: I met Gabriel through this guy I work with who told me I needed to meet this young, incredible director who he thought was ready to start doing my videos… He does so much with so little. He was able to make the perfect video for this song.

SPAZ: I think the combination of Old West meets West Coast was pretty smart.
CUBE: Yeah. For me, it was only right. Because a lot of people are separating the new West Coast and the old West Coast. I wanted to show that we’re all West Coast, old and new.

SPAZ: The look and feel of the video is pretty amazing. I think it compliments the song very well.
CUBE: I think the video brought the song home. The song is cool but when you see the video, it’s where you get the whole feel for what it is.

SPAZ: Do you have a favorite track on the album?
CUBE: You know they’re all my babies, it’s hard to pick your favorite one. I put so much time and effort into each one to make sure that it was good enough to make this record. But if I had to say one, it’d be “Too West Coast”.

SPAZ: Ice Cube the Rapper, The Father, the Husband, The Actor, the Writer, the Producer…. How on earth do you make it all happen?
CUBE: I’m good at allocating power. I’ve got a great team of smart people who are good at what they do... just as passionate as I am. I let ‘em do what they do and I oversee it all. It’s cool. It makes it all work and then I can still get home at six o’clock at night and be with my family. I don’t work late hours at all. It’s really all about how committed you are to your family and prioritizing things. And you can pull it off.

SPAZ: How do you view the internet in regards to your career? Has it helped from a marketing standpoint or hindered you because of illegal downloading?
CUBE: It’s a double-edged sword in a lot of ways. It’s kinda like a condom. It prevents diseases and pregnancy but it causes a lot more people to be fucking on each other, you know what I mean? (laughs). What it’s doing is giving people opportunities who wouldn’t have had opportunities. It puts the power in the artists’ hands to promote it aggressively. But it also is teaching a generation that music is free…that they shouldn’t have to pay for it. Everyone should stand in line and look forward to opening a CD and all that stuff. It’s like taking the magic out of it and ultimately, it will put your favorite artists out of business. And you’re gonna have all these IPads, and iPhones and ITunes, and you aint gonna have nothing to put in it.

SPAZ: Do you continue making music because you love it or do you still feel you have something to prove?
CUBE: Both. But I love the culture, I love the freedom. I love the music and that’s why I do it.

SPAZ: What’s next for Ice Cube?
CUBE: We’re going to tour Australia. I’ve got some other tour dates in the states. I got a couple of movies I’m gonna shoot at the end of this year. I’ve got a lot of TV shows, too.

SPAZ: What do you currently have spinning in your CD and DVD players?
CUBE: In my CD, I got I Am The West playing cuz I’m still gauging that it’s everything that it needs to be. In my DVD player, I’m checking out a lot of old movies. In fact, I’ve looked at Jaws a couple of times?

SPAZ: Jaws is my favorite movie of all time.
CUBE: Mine, too. Damn, we got something in common.

Thanks to Ice Cube
Special thanks to Jacki Feldstein, Jocelynn Pryor and Dana House.

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