Twenty years removed from the release of the historically significant hip-hop album Death Certificate, the iconic rapper, actor, filmmaker Ice Cube is still preparing to deliver Consequences & Repercussions, the working title of his latest studio album on his independently owned and operated imprint Lench Mob Records.
After months of lyrical labor and piercing production, Ice Cube and Priority Records gave birth to the highly anticipated Death Certificate album on Tuesday, October 29, 1991 and as the 105,000 first-week faithful purchasing ‘n.w.a.’s of the soon to be double platinum release would learn, there would be consequences to the “death” side and repercussions of the “life” side. “The ‘death side’ was, kind of where I was mentally before knowing any kind of knowledge of self,” states Cube explaining, “the ‘life side’ is really all about trying to figure out, first of all who I am and what’s my place in this world and what’s our place in this world.”
Cube’s world in 1991 Los Angeles was a juggernaut for social upheaval amidst a disenfranchised community rapidly growing intolerant of the prolonged systematic injustices of police brutality, racial profiling, economic opportunity disparities and volatile race-relations. “It is definitely a snap shot in history; you know, it preceded the Riots and it was just a record that talked about the powder keg that was kind of brewing in a lot communities all over the country and all over the world,” recalls Cube considering Death Certificate “a very significant album,” referring to “all [his] records as time capsules, piece’s of history from [his] perspective.” And of his second solo studio ‘capsule’ two decades later, Cube remains “extremely proud of it,” and rightfully so, aptly noting, “It’s a great record, conceptual album, [and] we don’t get a lot of those nowadays.”
And without question, the genre today is conceptually-challenged, commercially coerced and virtually devoid of the substance that Cube provides, never exchanging or sacrificing the lyrical flames for the safety of the tame and the lures of fame. “Before music became such a big business, a lot of it was done strictly from the heart,” says Cube, “you know, strictly things the artists wanted to do.” And as a former ‘property’ of Priority Records, Cube all to well understands the nature of the music business and more importantly, the business of music. “Record companies have messed up a lot of artists, that’s why the first album is good and no album after that is,” explains Cube who has owned and operated his independent Lench Mob Records since 2006. “I don’t have to have a meeting and talk about with the record company what I want to do and try to project my vision to them. I don’t have to be a slave to radio programmers who may like your song or they may not. I can do what I want to do and do records straight for Ice Cube fans,” states the emcee of twenty-five plus years who recognizes artist such as Erykah Badu and Jill Scott as “pure artists . . . that still take their time” and put “together great records” that “have conceptual feels to their records and their always going to last longer than those records who are just the trend of the day or the saying of the day.”
And from the 1993 Predator album, as arguably his most recognizable and successful song states, it ‘was a good day’ when Cube teamed with The Bomb Squad as he reveals, “I had really met with them to do just a couple of songs and Chuck D, when he told Hank Shocklee what I was trying to do, Hank was like ‘why don’t we do the whole record’ and it was over from there.” Comprised of brothers Hank and Keith Shocklee along with Eric “Vietnam” Sadler, The Bomb Squad was the preeminent east coast Roosevelt, NY based hip-hop production team of the late 80’s and early 90’s largely responsible for the Public Enemy catalog of music and noted for it’s innovative use of hard-edged and loud sounding beats that harmoniously combined numerous samples.
“It was incredible. Those were my heroes. Even coming up in the game before we were known and we was just local emcee’s, we looked up to mostly all east coast groups from Run DMC to Eric B. & Rakim, to KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, and P.E. Public Enemy at that time was the cream of the crop,” recalls Cube of his time on the east coast recording Amerikkka’s Most Wanted. “To be able to work with them on my first solo album was just crazy!” exclaims Cube adding, “I was extremely grateful that [The Bomb Squad] was down to participate and do the whole record.” And when asked as to recording timeline Cube explains, “the records were continuous . . . it’s like I had never stopped from Amerikkka’s Most Wanted and I can’t really even tell you the first record that we recorded from Death Certificate because we was doing a lot of music back then and we was extremely hungry, extremely ferocious.”
And before even pushing play on the Death Certificate LP, the album’s cover art depicting Cube in a morgue overlooking a cadaver toe-tagged with “Uncle Sam”, served as ominous forewarning to album’s lyrical content which fans would soon discover would be absent the musical direction and east coast sound of The Bomb Squad. “I am proud of the record because even though it was a perfect mesh between my style and The Bomb Squad, that was still really an east coast influenced sound,” says the Los Angeles born native explaining, “I’m from the west coast. I grew up on Parliament-Funkadelic, Roger and Zapp, War; I grew up with west coast feeling music, so I was proud that we was able to put together our own version of what the music should be and it was strictly a west coast record as far as from the production standpoint.”
Cube first rose to prominence in the late 80’s as a member of the west coast Compton, California based controversial rap group N.W.A. who would subsequently became the subject matter of one hip-hop’s most notorious ‘diss’ records entitled “No Vaseline” in the Death Certificate album’s only departure from its death side, life side format. “I was mad. I was mad because the guys in N.W.A. had dissed me and I didn’t diss them,” references Cube of his former group’s release of “100 Miles and Runnin’” and “Real Niggaz”. “I didn’t diss them on Amerikkka’s Most Wanted. You really listen to that record, there’s no mention of N.W.A. or my participation in the group at all because I didn’t take it personal like that. But when I heard their disses towards me, I did take it personal because I felt like we were in a whole other space. And so I just felt like I had to go at them and go at the jugular and that’s what I did,” states Cube.
Now two decades later in the wake of the lyrical massacre, which ultimately led to NWA’s dissolution, Cube is working on a biopic film to recount the real story of legendary group that gave birth to the iconic careers of himself Eazy-E and Dr. Dre.
“Yeah, we are really pushing the writing. I’m not totally positive that it’s John’s [Singleton] job yet, it’s other people who are involved, but as far as putting the movie together, that’s what we are doing,” reveals the Cube who “wants everybody to cosign on this script [because] this is history for me so I am trying to make sure that it’s done in the correct way.”
The screenwriter, filmmaker is also in talks to begin production on the fourth installment of the Friday movie franchise early next year. “We putting a deal together right now with New Line to start writing that and getting it hopefully in production early next year,” states Cube adding, “Everybody’s invited back so whoever want to be down, they will show up.” When asked as to the return of Chris Tucker as Smokey, Cube responds, “Oh yeah we got a spot for him too.”
Having also enjoyed a great deal of success in Hollywood as an actor, director, writer and producer, whose big screen debut dates back to the character of Doughboy in the 1991 classic Boyz In The Hood now ironically appears as a cop in the forthcoming film Rampart starring Woody Harrelson which depicts the widespread corruption of the CRASH anti-gang unit of the LAPD Rampart Division in the late 1990’s, Cube offers, “It’s all about acting . . . if I wanted to play a gangster in all these movies, they’re some bad scripts that come across your desk so when you feel like you really want to do this Hollywood thing and you really want to make it a career, you got to just pick the good roles as they come because nobody cares about your bad movies, only people care about is good movies.”
In May of 2010 Cube directed the ESPN 30 for 30 film entitled Straight Outta L.A. depicting the “life” and “death” side of professional football in Los Angeles via the Los Angeles Raiders for which Cube interviewed then Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. “It was cool, he one of the coolest owners in sports,” said Cube reminding, “He did it his way,” adding, “if you had a team, you would want to do it Al Davis’ way.” Sadly, the legendary football mind and figure most notably credited for being the impetus behind the 1966 NFL /AFL merger, which was finalized in 1970, passed away on October 8, 2011. “He stayed in the mix and he a great football mind until the end,” said Cube, “he never lost it, because when I interviewed him, he was talking about draft picks. He was talking about high school players in Los Angeles that he was thinking about that he’d been looking at that he was going to watch through college and see how they do; he was still up on it.”
Cube, an avid Raiders fan himself, insists, “When the league stop hating on Al Davis and realize he’s passed away, they can drop the grudge and officiate us right . . .because every time the Raiders play, it’s a rule that I never heard of that these refs . . . come and penalize our team with. It’s just ridiculous.” Holding true to his Silver & Black, Cube marries optimism and passion with the notion that his team will soon return to downtown Los Angeles exclaiming, “Al Davis died without getting a new stadium. That’s a shame!“ while maintaining, “You can’t count the Raiders out. LA didn’t do what they was supposed to do for the Raiders, they went back to Oakland. Oakland still didn’t do what they was supposed to do for the Raiders. The Raiders deserve a new stadium.”
Also a diehard Los Angles Lakers fan, Cube’s discussion of the current NBA lockout and opinion of the owners echo his sentiments of Ruthless Records owner Jerry Heller during the NWA time period believing, “in America where capitalism is the way of life, you should never tell somebody to take a bad deal just because it’s more money than you’ve every seen.”
But until the NBA situation is resolved and the NFL relocates a franchise to Los Angeles, future LA sports memorabilia will be put on hold, but for fans of the west coast, iconic rapper, you can visit HYPERLINK "http://www.rareink.com" www.rareink.com to purchase authentic Ice Cube collectable memorabilia. “Just like you have athletes who have baseball cards and all kind of memorabilia, things that you wonder are they authentic?” questions Cube who describing Rareink as “a place where, endorsed by the artist, you know you’re getting authentic pieces;” explains, “It’s artists all over the world who do renditions of my work . . . and then we select the best ones,” adding, “We only print so many of them so there might only be a hundred prints and we sell them, high quality and people love it. We want collectors, it’s not a poster, you know what I mean, it’s a great piece of art.”
Listen to the full interview for the extended discussion on music, movies and sports including the future of Cube’s most recent battle for sub-zero supremacy with the “Coors Lights Can” which next year will “come out with more commercials and [include] a campaign where we are trying to find the coldest emcee out there,” closes Cube.