How do you go from posing for pictures with an assault rifle, rapping about gangbanging and belonging to one of the most profane (yet pioneering) hip-hop groups of all time to a producer of family-friendly comedy? To get an answer, you'd have to ask Ice Cube, because he's done all of that.
The former N.W.A. member, who has also enjoyed a wildly successful solo career in the gangsta rap world, is somehow the same dude who served as producer for the family film Are We There Yet? and now is executive producer of the TBS sitcom of the same name. But this isn't to say Ice Cube has sold out. He really hasn't. In fact, his last album, I am the West, hit the streets last fall and was surprisingly awesome and a great throwback to the glory days of West Coast rap.
Yeah, Ice Cube still has it, so don't expect to be disappointed when he lights up the Midtown on Wednesday night. But still, the guy's career has been impressive. Here's a rundown of the best things he's created in the realms of music, television, film and everything else he's done.
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (1990)
Depending on where and when you grew up, there's a good chance this album, the first solo effort of Cube's after he broke off from N.W.A. in 1990, really pissed off your parents, teachers and all the other old folks who thought this was gangster filth, when in fact, the record was an uncompromising look at inner city culture at the time. The album featured the production of Public Enemy's Bomb Squad and included the title cut, in addition to "The Mack," a sly indictment of pimp culture.
While still insanely famous as a hip-hop star, Ice Cube took some time in the mid 1990s to pen the script to this hilarious comedy that also gave us one of our first looks at Cube as an actor (outside of music videos, that is) in the role as Craig. The film also introduced us to Chris Tucker, who played Smokey, the squeaky stoner who's supposed to be a drug dealer, but opts to just get super, super high on Craig's front porch. Taking place over the course of merely one day, the film - although silly as all hell at times - is damn well written. It's kind of a Dazed and Confused-sort of romp, but set on the mean streets of Southern California as opposed to the suburbs of Texas.
Straight Outta L.A. (2010)
OK. I have to say that I did watch half of an episode of Are We There Yet? and it's not Cube's best work. Granted he's only the producer, but still. Anyway, where he really shined on television was with the documentary he directed and appeared in for ESPN's 30 for 30 series entitled Straight Outta L.A., the tale of the cultural impact, arrival, and subsequent departure of the Raiders from Los Angeles. Cube is a die-hard Raiders fan and manages to relay his love of football while also incorporating the team's influence on culture in the city and beyond. There's even some first-person tie-ins about how the team influenced N.W.A. (the group wore Raiders gear nearly exclusively) and vice versa. He also doesn't let that living corpse of Al Davis get away with any of the ridiculous nonsense he's been subjecting that franchise to for the past half-century. If Cube ever gets tired of making music or TV shows, ESPN should really look at bringing him on staff. The guy knows what he's talking about when it comes to pigskin.
Solo By Cube
You're probably thinking, "Oh great, another hip-hop star parlaying his lyrical prowess into a side job hawking tremendously expensive sweatpants." But that's not really the case with Solo by Cube, which is as much of an invention as it is a clothing item. What he's made is a hoodie sweatshirt with a headphone jack in the pocket that fits iPods or other devices and with headphones in the shirt's drawstrings. It's like having headphones that keep your whole upper body warm. I'm kinda disappointed that I didn't think of this.
Ice Cube, Mosley Wotta
8:30pm Wednesday, April 6. Midtown Ballroom, 51 NW Greenwood Ave. $27.50/advance, $30/door. Tickets at bendticket.com, Ranch Records and ticketswest.com.