So West Coast
It's an uncompromising love for the West that makes Ice Cube the best.
Expressing love for one's home town is nothing new in music; Lynyrd Skynyrd love â€˜Sweet Home Alabamaâ€™ and Jay-Z and â€˜New Yorkâ€™ are â€œlike thatâ€, as we've recently learned. Few artists, however, have used their roots to shape a career quite like Ice Cube has done with his beloved west coast of the United States.
Born in South Central Los Angeles, the acclaimed rapper was responsible for introducing gangsta rap to the world when, in the late 1980s, he founded Niggaz Wit Attitude (N.W.A) alongside Dr Dre, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella.
NWA's 1988 classic debut LP â€˜Straight Outta Compton' - and the several singles it spawned including 'Express Yourselfâ€™ and the controversial â€˜Fuck Tha Police' - saw Ice Cube develop a reputation as one of the west coast's original hardmen, one he has since exploited to shape a successful, multi-faceted solo career which today sees him billed as a â€˜rapper, actor, producer, director, screenwriter and committed father of fourâ€™.
While credits for television series â€˜Are We There Yetâ€™ and for films â€˜Boyz In The Hoodâ€™, â€˜Higher Learningâ€™, â€˜Three Kingsâ€™ and the â€˜Fridayâ€™ and â€˜Barbershopâ€™ franchises have made him a bankable name on Hollywood hill, it's been Ice Cube's music that has continued to endear him to a wide international demographic. Early albums â€˜AmeriKKKa's Most Wantedâ€™ and â€˜Death Certificateâ€™ were two of the defining hip hop releases of the 1990s, while the â€˜War And Peaceâ€™ albums and â€˜Laugh Now, Cry Laterâ€™ continued to champion west-coast rap and hip hop to the world.
His newly-released ninth studio album - the aptly titled â€˜I Am The Westâ€™ - takes this long-held love for everything west coast that little bit further and confirms his reputation as one of the United States' most socially-aware artists. The album is a homage to the west coast and contains all the bravado and fronting we've come to expect from Ice Cube, along with ubiquitous crisp production and playful, intelligent lyrics. While â€˜Too West Coastâ€™ sees him proudly proclaim his â€œEgo is as big as Heathrowâ€ - and the entire album continues to propel the east-west rivalry - Ice Cube maintains it's a rivalry today played out only through music as opposed to on the streets, where such â€œbeefsâ€ resulted in the deaths of Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G and others throughout the mid 1990s.
â€œIt's not the east-coast west-coast beef that everybody remember from the '90s,â€ he explains from his home in LA where he's just watched his beloved Oakland Raiders snatch a win in the NFL.
â€œI think everybody now can represent where they from without pissing anybody off. Those beefs are behind everybody; it's really not where you from, itâ€™s where you're at. People represent where they from without offending nobody; it's cool.â€
So, while poignant cracks at Kanye West and Jay-Z throughout â€˜I Am The Westâ€™ could be seen as stirring the pot, Ice Cube maintains it's all very much tongue-in-cheek. â€œThat's what we call 'style and grace', you know what I mean?â€ he says. â€œIt's basically saying, you know, 'I'm not this one, I'm not that one', you know, but you gotta know who I am, so it ain't really dissin' nobody.â€
â€˜I Am The Westâ€™ - released on Ice Cube's own Lench Mob Records - is a sharp social commentary on the problems facing the United States early in the 21st century but production-wise, as he explains, it's also a reflection of how the music industry has changed since the early days of NWA and Westside Connection. â€œA few things have changed but not a lot. [It's] still pretty much a process of kind of discovering what the song should be,â€ he explains. â€œI used to go to the studio back in the day with a crate full of records trying to figure out, you know, what could we use to enhance our record. Now we get musicians in the studio, so it's more of a traditional session.
â€œBut I [still] approach it like I've always approached it, you know; I love to record pretty much with the studio clear of people; just me and my engineer. I go in there and then after that just try and build the best song, for what it is, that I can.â€
Touching down in Australia this week alongside Dub C and Crazy Toones, Ice Cube promises Australian fans - for whom he is full of praise - are in store for a night of classic and upfront tunes. â€œWe're just trying to come down there and bring some of this Californian love out there,â€ he says.
â€œI always plan on doing all my repertoire of hip hop, from NWA to Westside Connection to early solo years and some â€˜I Am The Westâ€™; hopefully give people a nice dose of everything. The Australian audience is extremely sophisticated when it comes to hip hop; what's hot, what's not, what they like - I like - because they don't really take their lead from America. They just kinda figure out who they like.â€
Rumours have swirled in recent months about plans to bring the NWA story to the big screen, an ironic development for Ice Cube, whose life has been played out on stage and on screen for over 20 years. While he confirms a biopic of the group Rolling Stone named number 83 in the 100 Greatest Artists Of All Time is â€œmoving forwardâ€, he is hesitant to say more at this stage other than that he â€œhopesâ€ Dr Dre is involved. The movie business, as he explains, is one he continues to be wary of.
â€œI would love to act more, but I'm real picky about my movies 'cause Hollywood, you know, they'll try to play you,â€ he says. â€œUltimately I want to always be proud of what I do (movies) [but] I â€¦ have hit a total comfort zone when it comes to acting, that I'm assuming some of my best work is ahead of me.â€
Ice Cube plays The Tivoli on Saturday October 30. â€˜I Am The Westâ€™ is out now.