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June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 20th, 889@Night is highlighting Ice Cube.
Over the years, the West Coast has produced some of the greatest names in hip-hop, but none as widespread as Ice Cube. He’s had success not only as a rapper, but has gone on to include work as a writer, actor, director, and producer on his extensive list of works. One of the legendary MCs from the golden years of West Coast sound, he still maintains a high level of popularity and presence today. Ice Cube stepped into the rap game in the mid 1980s after meeting another legend-to-be, Dr. Dre. The two collaborated on a number of songs for separate projects, but came together in 1987 to form the prolific rap group N.W.A. The group rode on success for a few years, but by 1990 Cube found himself in conflict with the group manager. As a producer for many hits under Ruthless Records, Cube felt he had been cheated financially, and rejected his contract terms, leaving the group. This resulted in fuel that would feed a beef between N.W.A and Ice Cube for the majority of the 1990s.
In 1989, he released his debut solo album, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted. Although he initially requested the production of his old friend, Dr. Dre, the break-up with N.W.A was still too touchy of a subject for the two to feel comfortable working together. Instead, Cube enlisted The Bomb Squad, who produced primarily for Public Enemy. The album went platinum despite very limited airplay and was received well by both critics and fans. Regarded as highly controversial, the album covered topics that were a part of every day life in South Central Los Angeles such as drug addiction, racism, and poverty. Ice Cube’s lyricism is both socio-politically conscious and true to everyday life, making his work educational and relatable. Following the release of his album, he began production on Yo-Yo’s debut album, Make Way for the Motherlode, and accepted the role of Doughboy in the critically acclaimed film Boyz n the Hood. He also released the EP Kill at Will, which became the first hip-hop EP to be certified as both gold and platinum.
In 1991, Ice Cube’s second album, Death Certificate, was released. This album continued the trend of controversial lyrics, speaking about racial profiling, the right to bear arms, and drug dealing. This album was also a platform for the ongoing beef with N.W.A., most notably on the single “No Vaseline” which was a diss track directed at his former group members. The following year, he released The Predator, which gave rise to classic hits such as “It Was A Good Day” and the “Check Yo Self” remix. The album was the first in history to debut at number one on both the R&B and pop charts. However, both this and his subsequent album, Lethal Injection, were not received well by critics. After 1994, Cube decided to refocus his time into film work and the careers of the artists on his label, Lench Mob. That year, he also reunited with Dr. Dre, and the two released a duet, “Natural Born Killaz”, for the Murder Was the Case soundtrack.
In 1996, Ice Cube formed the group Westside Connections with rappers Mack 10 and WC. Cube felt tired of being overlooked by East Coast media, and hoped that the group would give West Coast rap fans a sense of pride and an invitation to be a part of a larger movement in music. They released an album, Bow Down, which produced the singles “Bow Down” and “Gangstas Make the World Go Round”. Two years later, in 1998, he released War and Peace, Volume 1, with Volume 2 released in 2000. In 2006, he released his sixth album, Laugh Now, Cry Later, followed up by Raw Footage in 2008. His last album to date was I Am the West in 2010. As of November of 2011, he stated via Twitter that he is seven songs into his next album, currently titled Everything’s Corrupt.
Besides music and production, Ice Cube has made a name for himself in the film industry. He began acting in 1992 in the films Trespass and Glass Shield. Ice Cube worked with John Singleton in the film Higher Learning as an actor, and afterwards was encouraged by Singleton to write. He wrote the comedy Friday, which was so successsful that it produced two sequels, Next Friday and Friday After Next. He recently announced that the final sequel, Last Friday, is in the works. He directed the film The Player’s Club in 1998. He also acted in both Barbershop movies, critically acclaimed Three Kings, Anaconda, All About the Benjamins, XXX: State of the Union, Are We There Yet? and Are We Done Yet? In both the music and film industries, Ice Cube has a well-rounded resume.
Another West Coast giant, Ice Cube is both a talented musician and creative force. His work in both the music and film industries certify him as a jack of all trades, and his diversified roles in both fields mark him as someone who is talented with a lot to contribute. He has given back to hip-hop as a form of music as well as culture. His lyricism is able to deliver both hard hits and a strong message, making him rightly deserve wide recognition as one of the greatest MCs of all time.