Ice Cube Loves to Rap Solo and Wrap Films
LOS ANGELES--Samuel L. Jackson has said on several occasions that he doesn't like rap artists taking jobs from actors. "I don't do rap, so why should they act?" he told the Georgia Straight in 2002 during interviews for Changing Lanes. However, rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube, who is costarring with Jackson in the upcoming XXX2, says the Oscar nominee is overreacting.
"I don't think it's fair," he argues in a Los Angeles hotel's interview room. "Everyone comes from somewhere. Cab Calloway, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra all came before me, so I am not doing nothing new. And there are rappers who can't act, but there are also actors who can't act."
Ice Cube changed his name from O'Shea Jackson in the late 1980s and had several hits as a rapper before the end of that decade. By 1991, he had crossed over to movies with a supporting role in Boyz N the Hood, the acclaimed John Singleton drama about growing up in South Central Los Angeles. In 1995, he added writer and producer to his résumé with the film Friday. It has gone on to spawn two more films, Next Friday and Friday After Next, and encouraged Ice Cube to continue to produce vehicles for himself.
His latest producer-star credit comes with Barbershop 2: Back in Business, the sequel to a film that starred Cube as a man named Calvin Palmer who fights to keep the Chicago barbershop he inherited from his father from falling into the hands of gangsters. In the sequel, which opens Friday (February 6), Calvin again appears to be on the edge of losing the shop. This time, a sophisticated franchise called Nappy Cuts is preparing to open a store across the street, the first link in a chain of new businesses that would change the neighbourhood.
Cube says Barbershop's success may have been partly due to the accessibility of his character. "Calvin is a lot like all of us, just trying to run a respectable business and trying to take care of his family. He has to get dirty a little bit, but he is trying to find his way. I love playing him because he reminds me a lot of myself. He is ambitious and he runs a tight ship that is just a little loose."
Cube's own ambition has taken him to producing parts of two successful franchises. He says he saw producing as the key to having some control over his acting career. "I knew that being a black actor you have to be active in development and production and follow through with your project or it won't get made, and even if it does get made, it won't get made right and that could kill your career. If you are a producer, then you have the ability to make everyone happy. You can make a good film, which makes you happy, and if you watch the cost that makes the studio happy. If it makes money, then it proves the audience is happy. And I think making people happy in this business is what it is all about."
Cube admits that even after a decade of developing movies, he prefers the other side of the business. "The best part of me is that I love to be creative and I love starting things from scratch and seeing them have a life of their own. The worst part of me is that I have a problem with the tedious work of filmmaking, like the sound mixing. I have a hard time staying interested, and I usually pass it off to [coproducer] Matt Alvarez. I say, 'We are about to do a four-day looping session. Show me what you've got.' As far as postproduction and producing the movie on set, I am all in, but when it gets to the tedious part I am out of there."
If Samuel L. Jackson is happy to work with Ice Cube, it could be because he has forgotten that Cube is a rapper. Cube admits that his film career and the 20 movies that he has made in 13 years (including Are We There Yet?, which is currently being shot in Vancouver) have probably overshadowed the music. "Movies set you on a bigger stage. It [movies] will overshadow music because movies are bigger than music when you do it right. I am happy with the position that I am in when it comes to rapping, and I'm anxious to do a solo record and to keep it going. It is still my first love, because there is so much freedom doing it. With the movie thing there are so many people involved that sometimes you have to compromise your vision a little bit for the sake of making a good movie. So I will always love music, whether I can sell it or not."