On Saturday, September 28, 2019 west coast rapper and icon Ice Cube performed at the Louder Than Life Festival in Louisville, KY with a lineup of rock heavy-hitters featuring Guns N’ Roses, Godsmack, Slipknot, Rob Zombie and others.
Accompanied by WC, Ice Cube exploded onstage with “Natural Born Killaz,” and proceeded to stroll through hits spanning a thirty-plus decade career with songs like “Hello”, “That New Funkadelic”, Bop Gun”, “Check Yo Self”, “West Up”, and “Why We Thugs”. “Straight Outta Compton” and “Gangsta, Gangsta” from the N.W.A catalog were mixed in, followed by crowd pleasers “No Vaseline”, “You Know How We Do it”, “You Can Do It”, and “Gangsta Nation”, where Nate Dogg’s hook had the crowd of 60,000-plus singing along, before ending his set with the classic “It Was A Good Day.”
In this exclusive interview Chad Kiser sat down with Ice Cube at Louder Than Life to discuss performing at the Rock festival where he was the lone rap artist in the lineup, how influential rock ‘n roll has been to his music and career, working with DJ Pooh and Too Short on “Ain’t Got No Haters”, the growing popularity of the Big 3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league, and so much more!
Conversations With Chad: The Ice Cube Interview
By: Chad Kiser
Chad Kiser: Taking the stage at the Louder Than Life Festival here in Louisville, KY as the lone hip-hop artist among rock bands like Guns N’ Roses, Godsmack, Slipknot and others, can you summarize what it means for hip-hop to perform in such a star-studded rock festival like Louder Than Life?
I think it’s great. I think it shows that music has really no genre to the individual. If somebody likes something, they’re not really caring about if it’s hip-hop or rock. That’s something for the radio stations, the programmers, and for people who want categorize everything. But music ultimately is the best communicator. So, I’m not surprised because I think it’s a lot of the same energy and its music that speaks to a certain rebel that’s in all of us. It’s cool to be here! We started doing shows like Louder Than Life and Lollapalooza, where Ice-T was on the first year, and I was on the second year. What was dope is that we were the alternative to what the people had been seeing all day because this hip-hop show pops up in the middle of it for a nice change of pace, and then having the crowd participation and the interaction with the audience is cool. So, I’m always looking forward to doing these shows because I know the audience is like ‘this is a cool change of pace’, and some people out there might not have ever been to a Hip-Hop show.
Chad Kiser: Several songs throughout your catalog, whether it be “Natural Born Killaz”, “Fuck Dying”, or “Late Night Hour” have heavy rock influences. Obviously your appearance here at the Louder Than Life Festival speaks for itself, but how influential has rock music been to your career and the way you approach making music?
It’s a sound that I envy in a way because I started to really get into it, the really industrial heavy bands were going so hard, and they were so visceral. Some of the guitar riffs, the heavy bass in some of that, and machine-sounding that gets you pumped and gets you going is something that I’ve always admired. I’ve always tried to dibble and dabble a little bit with it in my hip-hop because I feel like I’m at my best when I’m really flowing fast and the music is moving to where I can pull that same energy. I grew up a fan of Public Enemy, who were the sample kings. They knew how to take anything and make it their own. They were radical when they first came out for hip-hop because the music they did was so out there. So, it made me want to experiment more to find those sounds and that music that gets your soul. I think a lot of that hard Rock moves your soul.
Chad Kiser: With Tom Morello of Audioslave and Rage Against The Machine playing guitar on “Everythang’s Corrupt” and working with Jonathan Davis of Korn on “Fuck Dying” and “Children of the Korn”, what are Ice Cube’s favorite rock groups to listen to?
I’m a big Nirvana fan, I still love them. For some reason they were able to connect a few different styles of music and make it extremely acceptable to my ear. Some of it is a little radical, but Nirvana was able to sum it up for me. They could play the hard stuff, but also go into the melodies and going into rhythms, and they’re just one of those groups to me that I was always amazed that they could get that much sound out of like three or four people. They sounded big! That’s a group that I really dig.
Chad Kiser: Switching gears, your latest release, Everythang’s Corrupt is a dope album with songs like “Still in the Kitchen” with E-A-Ski, “Everythang’s Corrupt” with Fredwreck and others. Let’s talk about “Ain’t Got No Haters” with Too Short and produced by DJ Pooh. Can you detail the making of that record and how it all came together?
It’s one of them songs where it just feels like a California special. The beat came from “Oh Honey” by Delegation, and I’ve always liked it. It got used one time early in hip-hop in like ’86 or ’87 by a group called Three Times Dope, but then it was never used again. The molody is just so cool. When we did “Ain’t Got No Haters” it actually had another beat on it, but then when I heard the “Oh Honey” beat on the radio I started rhyming to the first part and it fit a flow. I called Pooh asked if he could loop this up for me, and he looped it up and added some sugar and spice to it. He said it sounded like this song was made for this beat, it just fit so perfectly.
With Too Short it’s just all love. We’ve worked with each other from day one. We’ve been knowing each other for a long time. We were both locals with him coming out of Oakland, we’re coming out of Compton on a little California tour of 8 shows thinking we were the shit. Check out this show: UTFO, Heavy D & The Boyz, Salt-N-Pepa, MC Hammer, Too Short, Eazy-E and N.W.A. But we were still in our infancy stages, still trying to breakout nationwide because were still kind of local. But I’ve been knowing Short from way back then and we just always work with each other. We never charge each other. He can always call me and tell me to throw a verse on here, and I can always call him and tell him to give me a verse. I’m like that with Snoop and E-40, too, we just always jump on each other’s shit.
Chad Kiser: Speaking of Too Short, you and he have collaborated on a couple other classic records like “Big Thangs” from the Big Thangs project from Ant Banks, and “Ain’t Nothin’ But A Word To Me” from Shortdog’s In The House. Can you detail the collaborative process for “Big Thangs” and working with Ant Banks on that record, and also detail the process of putting together “Ain’t Nothin’ But A Word To Me” with Sir Jinx, respectively?
On “Ain’t Nothin’ But A Word”, I had gone solo and did Amerikkka’s Most Wanted and we were touring together. He said, “I’m about to work on this new record. Your shit hot, my shit hot. We should do something together.” I told Short any time. He came up with the concept, and then we put it together. I was in the bay area doing shows, and I went by the studio where they got down. I think I have pictures of that of us in the studio, some black and white pictures of me and Short in the studio doing that record. It was a hit, people loved the song.
When it was time to do “Big Thangs”, Ant Banks was like, “Yo, y’all already do hits, can I get one? I got Short on it, can I get you on it?” I told him I’d do a song with Short any day of the week. We go together like peanut butter and jelly. Banks knew it was going to work because the first one worked, and their production value at the time was through the roof. Short had really stepped up his production value over the years, so we knocked that one out. It always sounds big when we get together. The songs are effortlessly done, and to me the best songs are done the fastest. The songs that are alright re the ones you’re struggling with. When you have to do a lot of putting it down and picking it back up to work on it, you’re working too hard for it. The good shit just comes together like sweaty ass cheeks. Me and Too Short could do a whole album together and it would probably take us two weeks.
Chad Kiser: Looking back, do you regret not doing a reunion album with N.W.A either prior to Eazy-E’s passing, or during the early 2000’s when you guys came together for “Hello” and “Chin Check”? You even had the title Not These Niggaz Again?
I regret more before than the latter. Me and Eazy had worked out our thing, but Eazy and Dre thing was full sting, so I guess it just wasn’t supposed to happen then. When we tried to come do it again Dre wasn’t into it. He had come up on 50 Cent right at the same time we were about to do it, so Eminem was already hot and then Eminem brings up 50 Cent, and then The Game comes. So he had 3 major artists at the time, so we just let it go. But you know, we’re still alive, so you never know. It’s on Dre because he has to do the music, he has to produce it. If he ever wakes up one day and wants to try it, I’m in.
Chad Kiser: “My Skin Is My Sin” from Bootlegs & B-Sides, what project was the record originally intended for and why was such a great record not included on one of the classic Ice Cube albums?
It was one of them songs that when you do an album, I call it residue which is like five or six songs that are cool, but they just don’t fit the flow of the record. You kind of save those records for special times. I was always kind of like a B-side guy. I used to like when people would put a fucking hit on the B-sides. I was just kind of going back to that era.
Chad Kiser: Are you going to do another Bootlegs & B-Sides project?
Yeah, probably so. It’s about time. I got residue off of every album.
Chad Kiser: What are Ice Cube’s Top 5 Ice Cube songs of all-time?
Damn, Top 5, man. “Today Was A Good Day” got to be one of them, “Check Yo Self”, “Straight Outta Compton” with N.W.A, “Fuck The Police”, and then I would say “Once Upon A Time In The Projects” because story rhymes are rare, but when they’re done right they’re the best rhymes ever. They’re not easy to do, so when you can lay out a cool story that makes sense it’s always a sense of accomplishment. Those are the major ones that would be in my Top 5.
Chad Kiser: Transitioning to sports and The Big 3. When you conceived the Big 3 idea, did you foresee how popular and pioneering this league would be?
Shit, I was hoping! I was like, ‘Is this idea too good to be true?’ It’s like you find some shit, and nobody in the history of basketball thought of this? Then it’s like, why? So now you’re thinking if it is a good idea because it’s so obvious to me. I start researching and realized a lot of people tried to put leagues together with ex basketball players, but it’s all been 5-on-5. And I understand why that don’t work because we’ve seen you play 5-on-5 at the NBA level, but if you can’t play it at the NBA level I don’t know if I want to see that. But half-court 3-on-3 you might be just as good as you was at 5-on-5, and I would probably want to see that. Then it was, we’re not just going to stick with the nostalgia, we have to make this a real sport. We have to make it where this is professional 3-on-3 basketball. Once you start putting it together, it’s not that it’s too good to be true, but it’s fucking hard. It takes a lot of different talent and skill levels to pull it off.
It’s a scary thing to go out there like that. The night before we launched, me and my guy that started it, Jeff, we asked each other if we were ready to burn the ships, meaning we’re about to go into sports and there’s no turning back. Live or die by this idea. After we launch, everybody’s looking at us sideways and shit like, ‘What the fuck, Cube? Really?’ But, if the basketball is respectable and credible, this could work. As long as we keep our eye on that and not turn it into no side-show bullshit, but it’s real competitive basketball and guys are going hard. All of these things are the formula and the ingredients that makes this work.
In the summer, I’m not a big baseball guy. I would hibernate in the summer with basketball over thinking about when football was coming. I’m thinking there has to be millions of people out there thinking just like me and just hibernating in the summer with nothing to do. There’s no league to get behind. This is out window, when the Finals end we come the next week and end right before the first week of football. That’s our window and it works. So to go back to your question, I was hoping and praying. I want it to get bigger. I’m not satisfied, it has to get bigger for us to really be here forever.
Chad Kiser: Do you have to turn down guys who want in the league? With the popularity growing, what’s next for the league in terms of growth and expansion?
Well, we went from eight teams to twelve, and I don’t think we want to expand too soon because the talent level is still strong and we have people clamoring to play. I think it’s a great place to be because you’re going to get the best players through that. If you got too many teams and everybody gets a spot, I don’t know if you’re getting the best, you know? To keep the league competitive and strong, we have to keep the teams down. So we’re going to stay at twelve for at least another year or two.
Chad Kiser: Joe Johnson was able to get back in the NBA because of him having the platform of the Big 3.
In 3-on-3 basketball you have to have your skills because whatever you’re weak at it will be exposed. If you can’t dribble it’s going to show right up. If you can’t play defense it’s going to show right up. So, to complete out there you know you’re looking at a pretty good basketball player. Scouts, are you going to go to Croatia to watch somebody play? Or Italy? No, but you will turn on CBS and say, ‘goddamn, Joe Johnson doing pretty good. We need to get out to one of these Big 3 games.’ It’s a better platform for them to make it back, definitely.
Chad Kiser: Being an avid Raiders fan, what are your thoughts on what Antonio Brown did to the Raiders?
I think the Raiders did it to him. The foot stuff was legitimate, I believe that was legitimate, so you can’t blame him for that. It fucking happens. Now, the helmet? I don’t know. You’re a center-fielder for the Yankees, you’ve won ten Golden Gloves and they tell you you can’t wear your glove no more, you have to wear this new shit. You might have a problem with that. It’s your equipment. The helmet could be too heavy or he can’t move his head around his shoulder pads, or whatever. So I’ll give 50/50 on that. Fifty percent NFL fault, fifty percent AB fault. But then, I show up and the motherfucker hit you with a $219,000 fine? Hold up, homie. Yeah, I’m going to cuss out somebody. Cussed out the GM, they worked that out and he came back in and apologized. Then, ‘Come to my office. By the way, all the guaranteed money you had, we’re wiping that off. You’re playing paycheck to paycheck, game by game.’ Check, please. I’m out. Fuck that, I wouldn’t play for them either. The GM, Mayock, he’s the rookie. I think he’s a little too heavy-handed.
Chad Kiser: To the movie side of things, there’s something I always wanted to know: Three Kings paired you with George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. Did you and Marky Mark discuss music and have any impromptu freestyle sessions while on set? Is he a better actor or rapper?
Hell, nah! He didn’t want to hear nothing about Marky Mark. You say Marky Mark, that motherfucker would look at you like he don’t know who you’re talking about. He didn’t want to have nothing to do with it. He was focusing on being a movie star. I knew he was going to do it because he had that cockiness about it at the time. It was a cool movie, but it was weird as fuck working on it though. Certain things didn’t translate to me in the script, and I kind of glossed over it. When it was time to shoot it, I was like, “why the fuck are we in milk?” You know the part when we blew up the milk truck and we went sprawling out? “Why the fuck are we doing milk today?” They said, “It’s in the script, didn’t you see?” I thought we was making a war movie, why are we falling in milk and shit? I was kind of off balance making that movie, until I saw it. Then I was like, ok, now I get it. David O. Russell was crazy back then, it was weird the way he worked before he became the man.
Chad Kiser: You’ve directed, produced, and acted on numerous films. Which of those 3 titles do you get the most satisfaction and enjoyment doing?
Producing, because that’s where the action is. A producer is like a GM, his hands are in every little thing from wardrobe, picking the actors, colors, and this car over that car, so you’re right where the action is. I can touch every aspect of the movie. A director is like a coach, and the team are the actors. Being a director is like tunnel vision and you can’t break away from the project. As a producer, I can go from project to project. I can be more fluid and work on more than one thing a year. As an actor you’re just a puppet. If you’re a big actor they’ll listen to you, but most of the time it’s just being told what to do and where to be, do this and do that. Producing and writing is what I like.
Chad Kiser: Finally, outside of family, what do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Outside my family, I would say Friday because I never had dreams of going to Hollywood. I was discovered by John Singleton, he pursued me for two years to be in Boyz N The Hood. I did that, and it was cool, but to write, produce and have a movie that people love like that; your first movie that you ever wrote and produced is just special. Something like that just don’t happen. When the movie came out it made 24 million dollars. It became this cult classic, it’s on every week!
Editor’s Note: This interview originally appears on DubCNN!