May 24, 2006 10:02 AM
by Christina Fuoco
For the last decade, rapper/actor Ice Cube has back-burnered promoting his musical career to push his latest flick. Movies such as "Three Kings," "Barbershop," the "Friday" series and "Are We There Yet?" fared well, but he's been yearning to give his music more attention.
On June 6, Ice Cube will release "Laugh Now, Cry Later," his first album in six years. It features the first single "Why We Thugs" (the clean version of which is streaming on his website) and production by Swizz Beatz, Lil Jon and Scott Storch, as well as guest appearances by Snoop Dogg and Dub C.
"I'm definitely with it," Ice Cube said via telephone during a recent tour stop in San Diego. "It feels good just to be back in the game doing hip-hop, being engulfed in it. No movies to worry about right now. It feels real good."
According to the Internet Movie Database, Ice Cube has one new movie in pre-production, "Are We Done Yet?" and two more that have been announced, "Teacher of the Year" and "The Extractors."
Born O'Shea Jackson on June 15, 1969, Ice Cube talked to LiveDaily about the new album, his future in movies and the meaning behind "Why We Thugs."
liveDaily: Why did you decide that now was the time to release an album?
Swizz Beatz and Lil Jon. [Laughs] I worked on [Lil Jon's] album, "Crunk Juice," a song from that. Then he gave me some beats. I let them sit for about a month. Then I was kind of bored, so I started listening to them and they were bangin'. I started writing and I never stopped.
So you wrote your songs before you went into the studio?
I never hardly write while I'm in the studio. With so many people around, I like to know what I'm going to do before I get there. I just like to get there and execute my plan.
Are you a planner?
Yeah, I like to know what I'm going to do. Time is money.
How long did it take to write "Laugh Now, Cry Later"?
I was working on it for about a year.
So you took a good five years off from music.
Not really, because I did the Westside Connection record. I didn't get a chance to promote it. That's been the story of my life for the last 10 years--doing records and not being able to promote them because I was working on a movie or somethin'.
Tell me about the single "Why We Thugs." It's relentlessly catchy.
"Why We Thugs" was produced by Scott Storch. I wanted to make a song that was relevant to the people buying the music, not just a song about me, a song about dancing, females, none of that. I just wanted to do a song that talked about what was really going down, and put knowledge back in the streets, you know? That's why I kept it on this record. Everybody talks about thug life. I wanted to do something about why we thugs, because you got people taking million-dollar machines and making hundred-dollar guns and 50-cent bullets. These AK-47s don't just pop up. Somebody designs, makes and distributes them. I just want people to be aware that there's a bigger plan at play. And with a beat by Scott Storch, I wanted it to bang too. I think we had mission accomplished.
So basically, you're saying thugs shouldn't totally be blamed for what's going on, there's a wider picture here with people who were making guns.
Yeah, no doubt, no doubt.
What is the overriding theme of the album?
"Laugh Now, Cry Later" is really about the state hip-hop, the state of urban America. The state of America, period. Everybody's in this happy, happy [mood] in their own world. Consumerism and materialism is taking over. Nobody's worried about what's going on overseas. Nobody's really worried about everything that's prophesized. "Laugh Now, Cry Later" is an attempt to have a record that was fun and serious, and also just to get people thinking again in hip-hop.
Do you anticipate returning to movies?
I ain't even thinking about movies right now. I plan on releasing multiple albums and doing this for awhile.
Do you have songs written for multiple albums? How many songs did you write for "Laugh Now, Cry Later"?
Yeah. I got about 35 done. I picked out the best 17. We still got some songs that were good. They just didn't fit the theme of this album. They're still good songs. We plan on using them for a future album.
We all know that Ice Cube, founding member of NWA and former "hardcore gangster rapper," performs in family-friendly fluff comedy flicks aimed at the most mainstream of family audiences, but no one with any sense cuts him serious flack for that. Not only are the Friday and Barber Shop movies pretty great, but do you have any idea how big his bank account is by now? When it comes to music, what is the dude to do? It's obviously his first love, but he has about three choices: to work with the Neptunes and try to update himself; to go completely middle America and do a Broadway revue or something; or he can do what he's always done: flex his lyrical muscles, squint a lot, bark out some hardcore lines on top of slick hip-hop--you know, to try and restore his cred. A glance at the song titles will tell you which choice he made. It's interesting to know that the very rich still have problems ("Child Support") and even millionaires have to convince us all that they're tough just like they did when they were broke-ass ("Why We Thugs"). There's some real political commentary here, but it gets lost in uninspired beats and that super-dated style, genre... everything. It would seem that Cube's producers forgot to tell him that no one really cares for that '92 stuff anymore.