Ice Cube: “Havin’ More Fun Doing Records Than I Did in the 90’s.”
It’s not like Ice Cube has anything to prove at this point in his illustrious career, but the L.A. rap vet is still putting in work. In May, Cube celebrated the 20-year anniversary of his solo debut album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and this past September he released his ninth studio LP, I Am the West.
This latest project is much different from 2008’s Raw Footage. For starters, the gangsta rap pioneer reconnected with producer Sir Jinx, whose work was integral to Cube’s early works. While the Don Mega is going back to his roots, he still has some new tricks up his sleeve, as well as showcasing his sons OMG and Doughboy (who also appeared on Raw Footage) on the album. XXLMag.com got up with Cube to discuss his return to rap, past beef with Common and thoughts on the new West rookies.
XXLMag.com: What was your approach coming into this album?
Ice Cube: I just kind of took it back to doing what I feel and not reaching and it’s just a good West Coast record.
Do you feel that artist have been running away from the West Coast sound?
Well, you know, I ain’t gonna say running away, that might be the wrong words to use, but just saying kinda getting away from what we do best. Like, just tryna follow the industry. The industry got us out here on an island; we out here and we don’t get no light or very little [light]. So artists have been tryna figure out what we need to do to get that light. And I feel like with this record, we don’t need to do nothin’, we do what we do, have fun with it. Do a record that fans would enjoy and kinda leave it at that and let the chips fall where they may.
Is that part of the reason you linked up with Sir Jinx on this album? You haven’t worked with him in a while.
That ain’t really why, I mean, every producer that I work with is always welcome to be on [my] records, it’s just if what they doin’ fit with what I’m doin’. I get a lot of dope beats, but if they don’t fit what I’m doin’ then I don’t use them. I’m an artist that goes off of feelin’.
How did you feel about your sons OMG and Doughboy getting into rap?
Well, they had always done it for fun, and as they got older they started going to the studio and so I started letting them go to the studio and they would go in there by themselves and come out with mixtapes. It just got better and better and better to the point where I think they’re hot. They ain’t just good, they’re hot. So, I put them on this record. And the record, the one [that] I got them on don’t even really show they’re skills, so I’m putting together a mixtape for them so people can see that they got flow.
When do you expect that mixtape to come out?
I don’t know. I’m not gonna put no date on it. We gonna put it out when it's right. That’s what’s cool about being independent, you don’t have to lock yourself in or nothing.
What’s your writing process like for music?
[Long pause]. You know, by now it varies, you know by now I got different styles to write but I let the music… if I like the music, I don’t force my lyrics on top of it, I got to let the lyrics come. It’s just a more comfortable way to work. When you’re independent you’re not spending any of people’s money so you don’t have their pressure or their expectations on top of you. All you got is your expectations of yourself and it's funner. [I’m] having more fun doing records than I did pretty much all through the ’90’s.
It seems your music is getting more political again, do you think that it's because you’re totally independent you can say more and you don’t have pressures from labels to make a certain kind of record?
It varies now because I did my most political records on labels. But you know Raw Footage was a political record because it was a political year. Nobody knew what the outcome of the presidential election [would be] when I did that record, so it was a lot of tension in the air. But with this record, to me, it’s just a fun record, it ain’t really highly political. It's just some West Coast gangsta shit.
Right, but “Drink the Kool-Aid” has such strong social messages.
Yeah, I mean, that’s the ones that [are] they own... When I do hit it, I hit it hard so it’s kinda like it's whatever your flavor is, whatever you lean towards that’s what you will pick out of my records. If you’re a person that really likes a lot of street knowledge and a lot of game in the records then you’ll lean towards the records. In all [my] records there’s a little game in all of them, I think. It really matters what your flavor is, but [I was] making a whole album [and] I wasn’t leaning towards a whole political feel like some of my records are. This record to me is just a little more fun.
Earlier in the year you had a little controversy about people being mad 'cause you weren’t working with the young cats and certain people were feeling like, you need to put more younger cats on. How do you feel about that?
I mean, it’s my record, I’ma do how I feel it. If I start just letting people tell me how to do music then I might as well get the music from them. [Laughs]. I just think when an artist sits down to do what he do, he can't take too many opinions. You should at some point know what you want to do and do it and believe in whatever outcome. People don’t like the record, I could live with that, but I couldn’t live with me not liking the record.
Are there any young West Coast artists that you’re feeling out there that you listen to personally?
I ain’t been listening to nobody only because I been working on the record for a year. I don’t want to listen to nobody when I’m working on a record ’cause then your music start to sound like the people you listening to. I just kind of take myself off of music while I’m working on music, but to me ain’t nobody hotter than OMG [and] Doughboy.
The other day I was reading a story where Common was talking about how y'all squashed your beef…
That was a long time ago. Somebody asked me about it a while ago so he might be commenting on what I said, but you know it was a big misunderstanding it wasn’t even really no beef. I just misinterpreted one of his records, I spoke on it, he spoke back, [we] squashed it. So I didn’t need to say nothin’ else and that was just the end of it and we been cool ever since. You know it ain’t no beefs going on [now that] people wanna talk about [Laughs]. At the end of the day people wanna talk about shit.
So, what’s next for Cube?
You know, I’m gonna keep it moving start on my next record, it don’t stop. I ain’t got nothing to say either they are going to love it or like it or hate it. [Laughs]. There’s only three ways to go. —Brooklyne Gipson