Ice Cube talks '22 Jump Street,' NWA and staying relevant

Ice Cube. (WENN.COM)

Ice Cube. (WENN.COM)

, Last Updated: 11:49 PM ET

NEW YORK — This time it's personal.

Ice Cube returns in 22 Jump Street as the endlessly furious Captain Dickson, boss of undercover agents Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum).

The sequel has an expanded role for Cube, 44, and he gets to chew the scenery on a couple of occasions, never talking to his detectives when he can shout at them.

It's interesting how the man who made 'angry' his trademark on the big screen turns out to be mega-chill in person.

Captain Dickson is a family man in 22 Jump Street, a detail that gets Cube talking about his four kids in real life (with wife Kimberly Woodruff); "They know I'm cool," says the rapper of his children.

Yes, he's joking. Although best known as an actor and rapper, Cube is also a very successful movie producer. "And I'm gonna need help, you know, with CubeVision," he says of his production company.

"I've been waiting for the kids to get older so they can help me keep it moving."

Cube is currently producing on Ride Along 2, Barbershop 3, maybe another Friday sequel and Straight Outta Compton; the last film is the story of rappers NWA (N----z Wit Attitudes) and South Central in the late '80s. F. Gary Gray will direct.

It's an important film for Cube. He first got famous as part of NWA, the group that included Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, among others.

He says of those times, "It felt like hip hop was our only weapon to be able to combat what was going on. Things happening in the neighbourhood I didn't understand. Crack was just taking over everything. AIDS was moving and scary, and Daryl Gates and the LAPD pretty much had South Central like a police state."

Through rap, says Cube, (whose real name is O'Shea Jackson) he could sum up the world as he saw it.

"That's kind of how I started falling in love with creating on that level."

Writing was his entree into film, says Cube. His writing talent was recognized when he was still a student, and writing music, he says, sharpened those skills.

Then John Singleton, who directed Boyz n the Hood, (which was Cube's 1991 film debut) challenged the rapper to write a movie.

"He was like, 'If you can write a vivid record like that, you can write a vivid movie.' It sparked my curiosity," says Cube.

"Could I do it? I tried it, and the third script I wrote was Friday."

Cube still seems surprised at the level of his own success in all these ventures.

NWA may be legendary, for example, but the rapper figured their records would never make it past the section in the store that included Richard Prior and Eddie Murphy — "The section where you had the dirty records," he says, half-joking. "That's where I thought our records would live. They'd never see the light of day. We were really doing our music for the neighbourhood... we had no expectations that the world would even know or care about what we were rapping about."

He adds, "It was just too raw for most people. Even hip hop people said it was too raw. I always thought my audience would be a niche audience."

And now ...

"It's a trip, you know, you have grandmothers coming up talking about they love your record. And kids coming up saying they love your movies."

He continues, "I've been on this journey for a while, and people give me a lot of respect for what I've done. I always, you know, stay humble with it, because it's all about the work. If I do terrible work, it'll be like, 'Cube, you're a legend!'" he jokes. "'You need to sit down. You're f-----g up your legacy.'" He laughs.

"It’s just cool to still be here. To still be relevant."

Twitter: @LizBraunSun

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca

 


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