The lyrical hurricane that is Eminem’s “Rap God” included a slew of name-checks and homages, from Rakim to Pharoahe Monch to JJ Fad and NWA. It was that last shoutout—”Me, I’m a product of Rakim, Lakim Shabazz, 2Pac NWA / Cube, Hey Doc, Ren Yella, Eazy, thank you, they got Slim / Inspired enough to one day grow up, blow up and be in a position / To meet Run DMC, and induct them into the motherfuckin’ / Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame”—that prompted XXL to hop on the phone with Ice Cube to talk about being shouted out on the track.
“Em has always showed love and showed respect to NWA, and when you do that you go a long way,” Cube said while in Boston on a promo tour for his new Kevin Hart movie Ride Along. “If I did a song [like that], I’d be shouting out people like Ice T, Chuck D, Melle Mel, the ones that came before me who were spitting that truth. Those were the ones that inspired me. It’s just showing love and respect, and that’s why he’s been on top for the longest.”
Cube mentioned he’s been going through the Marshall Mathers LP 2 song by song, and praised “Rap God” specifically for its lyrical display. “That song is lyrically incredible,” he said. “And thank God, you know. Lyrics still rule the day. No matter how commercialized hip-hop tries to get, or how commercialized people’s vision of hip-hop and b-boys and rappers are, lyrics still rule the day… [Eminem] always delivers, he always gives quality. He’s gonna be around for a long, long time because of that, because he’s a true b-boy. He ain’t no dude that’s just in it for the fringe benefits, he’s in it for the respect.”
It’s been a while since Cube’s last album—2010′s I Am The West is his last full-length solo project—but he’s been keeping busy with RIde Along and is working on 22 Jump Street, the sequel to 21 Jump Street alongside Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. After he wraps on that, he’ll be turning his attention to a new NWA film helmed by F. Gary Grey. Having been around with NWA since the 1980s, Cube has seen a lot change in the hip-hop world.
“What’s changed to me is the culture as far as behind the scenes,” he said. “When I got into it, it was veterans behind the scenes—it was Red-Alert, it was Fab Five Freddy, it was Chuck Chillout—people who pioneered the game. Now all we got behind the scenes is college kids who are basically hyper fans who are basically telling people what’s hot, what’s not. It seems like a Fantasy Football league more than what I grew up knowing.” —Dan Rys (@danrys)