#HIPHOP50 Special: PAUSE Q&A with ICE CUBE


There are not many people on this earth quite like Ice Cube. I say this wholeheartedly. It’s not just for his gifts as a musician, lyricist, narrator, activist, father, and most importantly an icon, but more for his innermost self – his beliefs defining his character in a world of faded legacies. Ice Cube has redefined what it means to be true to himself, never wavering from his values, even in the face of criticism. “Being willing to walk away when the conditions aren’t right allows me to keep my credibility in all these different avenues,” he tells me.

Over 30 years of success is a remarkable feat. Renowned for being a founding member of the pioneering hip-hop group N.W.A, and best known for his skills as a lyricist and storyteller who articulates the realities of African American life, Cube isn’t one to shy away from embracing social issues head-on, through his sharp and socially conscious bravado.

Having solidified his position as a cultural mainstream thinker, he has often shown willingness to tackle complex issues beyond music – moving seamlessly into the film industry, where roles in “Boyz n the Hood” and “Friday” enabled him to step into the acting world and become a maestro of the movie set. Despite the intensity of rap lyrics and the nuance of characters, Cube continues to challenge the status quo, sparking dialogue and making a difference in people’s lives.

Taking a moment to reflect on a true cultural icon, PAUSE’s Amal AlTauqi illuminates Ice Cube’s enigma.

As the sun continues to rise on an illustrious career, Ice Cube reminds us that we are all capable of rising above darkness to shine brightly. Read the exclusive interview below.

Before we start, I must say you are very special. I’m across the other side of the globe and I don’t sacrifice my sleep for anybody, but it’s not every day I get the opportunity to talk to you.

Haha, I appreciate you losing a little sleep. I appreciate that.

First things first, congratulations on receiving the Ice Cube Impact Award. You must feel incredibly honoured. It really is a testament to the impact you make every day.

Yeah, you know. It’s not something you wake up thinking about. Like: “Man, If I do this, one day I’ll get into the hall-of-fame.” It’s a great honour. I also think about all the other great names that should be on this award with me because it’s not just me, there’s a team behind it who help make it all happen. It really should be the “ice cube and all his great teammates” award. I feel very good about it.

So, Ice Cube and co?

Yeah. It’s a bunch of people who come together in the right way.

So, beyond the world of entertainment, you have found yourself in film production and the creation of the BIG3 basketball league. How do you navigate the business world whilst also staying true to your artistic roots?

I want to do what I can to make things great. When it comes to music, I have an audience that I have been cultivating for 35 years so giving them great music – that’s from the heart. At this point of my career, it comes from my heart instead of trying to be cool. It’s a different type of level. Even doing the right kind of movies as well, I have a fanbase there, so they dig my style, as they watch it repeatedly. I want to give them the right kind of movies. I want to run the bIG3 the right way. As an artist, I want the athletes and coaches to be treated well. It’s about being true to myself, and I will turn down anything I feel will jeopardise that. Being willing to walk away when the conditions aren’t right allows me to keep my credibility in all these different avenues.

I agree. I think it’s important to reflect on what aligns with you and your beliefs.

Yeah. I think that’s really what it’s all about. Especially when you talk about an artist being an artist, and they’re not just a ‘tool’. You have to be pro-active in what you give to the world. you want it to be co-signed and stamped – approved. When you see Ice Cube, when you see my name, it’s going to be worth your time and worth your money.

You’re essentially leaving your mark on the world…

Um, trying to. When you realise the music, the movies, hopefully the league will all be here after I’m gone, you want to leave an impression. This is going to represent you when you can’t represent yourself. I try and make sure everything is at a high level and I keep it classy.

Which is telling as you got that award. I mean, recognition where recognition is deserved.

What’s cool about the award is that it’s going to go on every year, which means we can find other people that have been making an impact, bless them and highlight them in the basketball hall-of-fame. It’s really cool that it’s going to go on year after year.

Over the years, how has your journey from N.W.A. to your solo career and acting roles influenced your perspective and approach to life… your career has spanned multiple decades. What specific moments or experiences have profoundly impacted your artistic and personal growth?

Meeting people like Dr Dre when I was 14 years old. Meeting John Singleton, who put me in Boyz in the Hood (my first movie). Meeting my first manager Pat Charbonnet, who helped me navigate the music and film business. Just being able to understand that opportunities come, and they go, and you should always trust yourself – go for that opportunity! Even if you’re not 100% sure. When John Singleton asked me to be in Boyz in the Hood, I didn’t think I was qualified because I didn’t go to acting school, but he saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I trusted him and went for it and thank God I did – it turned out to be another career for me. Meeting my guy Jeff Kwatinetz, who navigated the 2000’s with me, who is the co-founder of the Big3, was a moment. He is fearless and together with a guy like me, we accomplished big things.

I’m sure having these individuals around you contributed to your growth as a person. It’s also about the energy people give off.

Yeah. I started off carrying records in crates and moving speakers – doing anything I could to hang out with Dr Dre. I started at the bottom. I am very conscious on how people are being treated because I remember how it was for people to think you’re a nobody. I saw some of those people on my way up, and they changed when I became a known celebrity. I never want to be that person. I want people to say: “I remember him from back then and he’s still the same guy”. Because I am.

You never switched up.

Never switched up. I promised myself when I was young that I wouldn’t let this business change me as a person.

You’re so inspiring. Everyone needs a you in their life.

Aw, that’s great for you to say. I just try to be myself and have dignity. That’s what it’s all about.

Speaking of partnerships, you’re bringing Cypress Hill and The Game on tour to celebrate 30 years of hits. You’re essentially bringing the essence of Cali, to the UK. For someone who dreams of one day seeing California, I can’t wait for this to be the first taste of it. Pretty Iconic right?

We should be calling it the “California Love Tour” because we have The Game – from Compton, one of the best MCs to ever grab the mic, then you have Cypress Hill who have next level hits, they’ve been around the world. Me – I’ve toured with Cypress Hill earlier this year, we did Australia, and it was one of the best combinations. If you like hardcore stuff with hits, I don’t think you’ll have a better time, without a doubt.

What are you most looking forward to on tour? I’m intrigued to see the crowd reception and particularly its demographic. It’ll be interesting to see people my age (24) and then my aunty who is also coming and she grew up with you, it’s going to be such a bonding moment.

It’s a family affair. It’s going to be a celebration of 30 years of good music and what we’re all about. It’s cool to see all ages out there because we know the next generation are being brought up right.

I’m super grateful for my elders who introduced me to you guys, showing me how you rocked the 90s. It makes me wish I was born during that time.

You gon’ feel it that night. No doubt.

Ah, I could talk to you forever. So, before we wrap up and focus on the present, we need to take a closer look at the past. “The Predator” album gave us: “It was a good day” -a classic that remains in heavy rotation. In the words of the man himself, what does a “good day” look like nowadays? 

Man, a good day is a day that my family are healthy, we eat good food, we enjoy each other’s company and laugh. That to me is what it’s all about. Health is wealth. When we wake up healthy, you must look at it as a good day. All the other social problems or issues you may have is still so small in comparison to your health. That’s a good day. 

Man, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I can’t quite believe this has even happened. It’s been an iconic conversation with you, and I appreciate everything you have contributed.

Thank you, I really appreciate it. I hope you and your family have a good time. oh, and… get some sleep!


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