Born O'Shea Jackson, June 15, 1969, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Hosea (a machinist and groundskeeper) and Doris (a hospital clerk) Jackson; married Kimberly in 1993; three children: Darryl, O'Shea, and Kareema Education: Phoenix Institute of Technology, graduated, 1988. Addresses: Home-Encino, CA. Record company-Priority Records, 6430 Sunset Blvd. #900, Hollywood, CA 90028. Agent-William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, Floor 15, New York, NY 10019.
One of the most popular practitioners of hard-core rap music, Ice Cube rages against societal ills by making albums that straightforwardly depict the problems present in poor, black communities. Though his music has been assailed for its inflammatory lyrics, it has sold wildly and received acclaim for its quality as well as for being an integral cultural product. Ice Cube has deflected criticisms that his songs are misogynist and racist by stating that he is merely mirroring a troubled society and speaking to disaffected youth in terms they can understand. He began his career with the rap group N.W.A., who were known for their controversial album Straight Outta Compton, but soon broke off to pursue his solo career. From his first individual release, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, he has established himself not only as one of the most popular and enduring rap artists but also as a talent with the ability to maintain a strong presence in the film industry. He won accolades for his role in John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood, 1991, and after acting in other projects, became a writer, director, and producer himself. In 1998 he cemented his reputation as an all-around media mogul when he wrote, directed, produced, acted in, and produced the soundtrack for The Players Club. Later that year, he released War and Peace Volume I (War); it was his first full-length original solo album in five years and the first volume of a two-CD set. Volume II (Peace) appeared in 2000.
Ice Cube was born O'Shea Jackson on June 15, 1969, in Los Angeles, California, and raised in South Central Los Angeles near Inglewood in a middle-class home. His father, Hosea, worked as a machinist and as a groundskeeper at the University of California at Los Angeles, and his mother, Doris, was a clerk at a UCLA hospital. Ice Cube's mother named him O'Shea because it sounded similar to the name of her favorite football player, O.J. Simpson. Ice Cube was the second son and youngest child of four siblings; he also had a half-sister who died when she was 14. A decent student, he held a B average and played basketball at the YMCA and football in the Pop Warner league. Though his neighborhood was not far from the scene of the notorious 1965 Watts riots, which brought race relations to the forefront of the nation's consciousness, South Central L.A. was, for the most part, a relatively safe suburban area, even though gang activity was on the rise by the time Ice Cube was a teen. Although he did commit some petty crimes like breaking into cars, he never joined a gang and spent most of his free time composing music with his friend Jinx.
Rap music was brand new at the end of the late 1970s, and it immediately caught Ice Cube's interest. He was astounded with the revolutionary "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang and began writing his own raps, making his first tape at age 15. "It was pathetic," he admitted to Mike Sager in Rolling Stone. Ice Cube persevered, though, and began performing rap at parties and venues like skating rinks; he also was a finalist in rap competition hosted by a local radio station at the Hollywood Palladium. In 1986, Jinx's cousin Dr. Dre introduced Cube to Eric Wright, better known as Eazy-E, who started up his own music label, Ruthless Records, with profits he made from dealing drugs. Eazy-E asked Ice Cube to write some songs for HBO, one of the groups he had signed, and Cube and Dr. Dre penned "Boyz-n-the-Hood," a grim portrait of life in the gritty industrial city of Compton, south of Los Angeles. HBO, however, who were from New York, rejected the material, considering it too "West Coast." Eazy-E went on to record it himself in 1986. Later, he, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube formed the band N.W.A. (Niggaz with Attitude) along with M.C. Ren and Yella.
N.W.A. released their debut, N.W.A. and the Posse, in 1987, featuring basically party music, with the exception of a couple of cuts like "Dope Man" and "Boyz N the Hood." With Cube writing and performing for many of the songs, the band started to amass a following and was on the verge of bigger things. Even Ice Cube's mother was proud of her son's venture as a recording artist--that is, until she heard an uncensored version of "Dope Man" and was appalled at the cursing. He had never been allowed to use foul language in his home. Though he reassured her that filthy language sold records, she insisted he get an education and sent him off to the Phoenix Institute of Technology, where he completed a one-year drafting program. After that, he was back in Los Angeles to work with N.W.A. He also wrote much of the material on Eazy-E's solo effort, Eazy-Duz-It, released in 1988 on Ruthless. Next, N.W.A. put out another album in 1989, Straight Outta Compton.
One of the early examples of hardcore gangsta rap, the explicit lyrics and criticism of law enforcement on Straight Outta Compton prompted a letter from the FBI to the record company and a flurry of media attention. The record sold two million units within three months, with little to no airplay to promote it. The release also drew fire, however, from many who found the lyrics disturbing for their violence and misogyny. However, as Ice Cube later explained in the New York Times Magazine in a dialogue with former Black Panther Abiodun Oyewole, "I have to speak the language of the street.... See, the teacher, the preacher, the politician won't talk real to the kids. So that's why they won't listen to them. You got to talk in their language and guide them to the place, and that's exactly what we're doing."
After the release of their debut in 1989, N.W.A. headed out for a 50-city tour. During the middle of it, however, Ice Cube bowed out of the group over a monetary dispute with their manager, Jerry Heller. Cube discovered that although N.W.A. had record sales topping $3 million, plus additional revenue from the tour, he had only earned $32,000. He hired an attorney and received compensation, but struck out on his own anyway, believing he could be a stronger force as a solo act. Bitter public feuds subsequently developed between Cube and N.W.A., but N.W.A. quickly degenerated and disbanded in the early 1990s while Ice Cube continued to build his career. His first solo album, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, came out in 1990 and sold a million copies in three months. Produced with Public Enemy's Chuck D and the Bomb Squad, it continued to address issues that unfortunately permeate poor communities, such as teen pregnancy, gangs, murder, and drugs. As with earlier works, it seemed to portray women in a most negative light, once again provoking cries of misogyny. Perhaps to quell this, Ice Cube included a guest track from female rapper Yo-Yo that presented a woman's opinion, but many were not appeased. In 1991, he produced Yo-Yo's album Make Way for the Motherlode, and in 1992 executive produced her release Black Pearl.
In the meantime, Ice Cube had joined Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, a religious group that promotes African American self-independence. At a rally for Farrakhan, he met writer/director John Singleton, who was making the movie Boyz N the Hood, 1991, about three teens growing up in violence-plagued South Central Los Angeles. Ice Cube was cast as the ex-con Doughboy, alongside Cuba Gooding, Jr., as Tre Styles and Morris Chestnut as Doughboy's brother Ricky. The film received high praise overall and marked the start of a continuing acting career for Ice Cube. Also in 1991, Cube released an EP on Priority Records titled Kill at Will, which contained the stark single, "Dead Homiez," and put out his second album, Death Certificate. The release was split into two parts, the "life" side and the "death" side. Ice Cube explained to Dimitri Ehrlich in Interview, "The 'death' side is the condition we're in now: the records are real negative, and that side starts out with a funeral. Now, the 'life' side starts off with a birth, meaning that we get knowledge of self.... [W]hile the 'death' side shows you where we at, the 'life' side shows you where we going."
Though Death Certificate garnered a number of positive reviews and reached number two on the Billboard charts, Ice Cube's lyrics again stirred emotions for what many concluded were racist sentiments against Korean grocers in "Black Korea" and anti-Semitic remarks in "No Vaseline." One Jewish group called for a boycott of his music, and some critics disapproved of homophobic and sexist language as well. Even Billboard editors, in a first-ever move, penned an editorial blasting the release. The next year, 1992, Ice Cube's effort The Predator became the first album since Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life (1976) to hit the top of Billboard's pop and R&B charts simultaneously. This, too, won praise from many critics, and was an especially important cultural product because, as Robert Hilburn put it in the Los Angeles Times, it was "the first post- Rodney G. King/L.A. riots collection from the most powerful rap voice in the 'hood." Released in the wake of riots stemming from the videotaped police beating of an African American motorist (King), The Predator-like Cube's earlier works-articulated the concerns of disenfranchised African Americans. However, he also appealed to a more diverse crowd in 1992 when he toured with the alternative rock Lollapalooza festival.
The Predator, though, dismayed many for its continued misogyny, charges that did not let up with Ice Cube's 1993 record, Lethal Injection. He took a break from solo recording at that point and wrote, produced, and sang on Da Lench Mob's debut album, Guerillas in the Mist, 1994. His film career was rolling ahead, though, so critical attention shifted to that arena for a while. After his well-received debut in Boyz N the Hood, Ice Cube appeared in 1992's Trespass with Bill Paxton and fellow rapper Ice-T, then did a turn as himself in the comedy "rockumentary" CB-4, 1993, with Chris Rock. He then had a part in 1994's crime drama The Glass Shield before joining up again with writer/director Singleton in 1995's Higher Learning. He followed this string of mainly serious roles by starring in Friday, a comedy he also cowrote and coproduced. Made for $2 million, it grossed more than $80 million and firmly entrenched him in Hollywood. The skits showcased in the film were inspired by "events that happened in my life, friends' lives, things I've seen," Ice Cube related to Ira Robbins in Newsday. "The movie was actually written before I started writing. In my head." He added, "A lot of doors are opening because of the rap records that I do, and I would be a fool not to step through them. The movies have taken my career to a whole new level. I'm going to take advantage of it."
True to his word, Ice Cube went on to star in 1997's Anaconda, a horror thriller about a film crew terrorized by a giant snake. He admitted to Nancy Jo Sales in Premiere, "It was corny. I did it because I got to kill the snake and because I want to expand my audience." After that, he coproduced and appeared in Dangerous Ground, which was generally dismissed, but then made waves with 1998's The Players Club, which he wrote, directed, and produced. In addition, he produced The Players Club soundtrack, including its summer of 1998 hit single, "We Be Clubbin'," released on his label Heavyweight Records (he previously founded another label, Street Knowledge, in 1990). About a single mother who supports herself and gets an education working as an exotic dancer, The Players Club contained touches of humor but overall was a drama. Ice Cube told Sales, "It's not a raunchy movie. I want to really take you into a strip club and see what some girls have to go through to make a decent living." Though it got mixed reaction, the film was seen as a success by the studio, New Line Cinema; the film cost roughly $4.5 million to make and earned $8.4 million during its first five days in theaters. Cube attributes his skill at filmmaking to his experiences learning on the job with Singleton and other directors.
Returning to his music, Ice Cube released War and Peace: Vol. 1 (The War Disc) in November of 1998, to be followed by War and Peace-Volume 2 the following year. This followed along the lines of Death Certificate's "life" and "death" sides. The album's first single, "Pushin' Weight," spent two weeks at number one on the rap charts. Also in 1998, he toured with alternative rockers Limp Bizkit, Korn, and others on the Family Values tour; he has also directed a number of music videos for other artists, ranging from hip-hop to alternative rock. He also formed a "supergroup" with rappers WC and Mack 10 called Westside Connection. Ice Cube remains an adherent of the Nation of Islam and lives in Encino, California, with his wife, Kimberly, and three children--Darryl, O'Shea, and Kareema.
Ice Cube's Career
Member of rap group N.W.A., 1986-89; released debut solo album, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, 1990; founder of Street Knowledge (record production company), Los Angeles, 1990, and Heavyweight Records, 1998; produced Make Way for the Motherlode for rapper Yo-Yo, 1990; executive producer of Black Pearl album by Yo-Yo, 1992; directed music videos, 1993; film appearances include Boyz N the Hood, 1991; Trespass, 1993; CB4, 1993; A Darker Side of Black, 1993; Higher Learning, 1994; The Glass Shield, 1994; Friday (also executive producer and cowriter), 1995; Dangerous Ground (also co-executive producer), 1997; Anaconda, 1997; The Players Club (also producer, director, and writer), 1998; I Got the Hook Up,1998; Three Kings, 1999; and Next Friday, 2000.
Ice Cube's Awards
Rolling Stone critics' poll award for best male rapper, 1990; Lifetime Achievement Award, Source Hip-Hop Music Awards, 2000.
- Selected discography
- AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted , Priority Records, 1990.
- Kill at Will (EP), Priority Records, 1990.
- Death Certificate , Priority Records, 1991.
- The Predator , Priority Records, 1992.
- Check Yo Self (EP), Priority Records, 1993.
- Lethal Injection , Priority Records, 1993.
- Bootlegs and B-Sides , Priority Records, 1994.
- Bop Gun (One Nation) (EP), Priority Records, 1994.
- Really Doe (EP), Priority Records, 1994.
- You Know How We Do It (EP), Priority Records, 1994.
- Featuring ... Ice Cube , Priority Records, 1997.
- War and Peace: Vol. 1 (The War Disc) , Priority Records, 1998.
- War and Peace: Vol. II (The Peace Disc) , Priority Records, 2000.
January 16, 2004: Ice Cube starred in Torque, which was released by Warner Brothers. Source: New York Times, movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=276341, January 16, 2004.
- Contemporary Black Biography , volume 8, Gale Research, 1995.
- Contemporary Musicians , volume 10, Gale Research, 1994.
- Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television , volume 10, Gale Research, 1995.
- Entertainment Weekly , May 25, 1990, p. 66; January 23, 1998, p. 61; April 24, 1998, p. 59; April 17, 1998, p. 48.
- Interview , December 1991, p. 89.
- Jet, February 28, 2000, p. 58.
- Los Angeles Times , November 15, 1992, calendar, p. 64; November 14, 1998, p. F1.
- Musician , July 1998, p. 11.
- Newsday , December 21, 1993, p. 49; November 22, 1992, p. 23; December 5, 1993, p. 19; May 4, 1995, p. B3.
- Newsweek , April 27, 1998, p. 72.
- New York Times , February 12, 1997, p. C10.
- New York Times Magazine , April 3, 1994, p. 40.
- Premiere , April 1998, p. 117.
- Rolling Stone , October 4, 1990, p. 80; December 10, 1998, p. 122.
- Source , May 1998, p. 128.
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch , October 23, 1998, p. E1.
- Time , December 28, 1992, p. 68.
- USA Today , April 8, 1998, p. 7D.
- Variety , April 13, 1998, p. 28.
- Ice Cube official web site, http://www.icecube.com (February 5, 1999).
- "Ice Cube," Internet Movie Database web site, http://us.imdb.com (February 5, 1999).
- "Ice Cube," Rolling Stone Network web site, http://www.rollingstone.com (February 5, 1999).