September 2002
Barbershop : An Interview with Ice Cube

Interviewed by Monikka Stallworth

Barbershop : An Interview with Ice Cube

Youíd be hard-pressed to find a single hip-hop fan that would deny Ice Cubeís legendary status. Iíve been down with Cube since his jerry-curled days with NWA. And heís certainly one of a handful of hip-hop pioneers whoís managed to remain viable in the recording industry. With talent, focus and determination, Cube has successfully parlayed his hip-hop status into a vital cinematic career as both an actor and director, proving himself a considerable creative force. Intense and handsome, Ice Cubeís courteous presence undermines his hip-hop persona, and like a shaken can of soda, it seem that this state of humble composure serves to mask the hidden currents of energy that must constantly course through Ice Cubeís veins. We chatted in Beverly Hills about his most recent film, Barbershop:

MS: Do you remember what your first barbershop experience was like?

IC: Yeah Ė I remember being very nervous. I was real young, about 4 or 5. Just the sound of the shears was like Ďmaní, I figured I was gonna get my whole head cut off. He sat me in a booster seat, and I remember how rough the barber was with my hair. He wasnít doing it like my moms and pops would do it. It wasnít a good experience, my first visit, but I got used to it.

MS: Youíve come a long way since Boys In The Hood, but there seemed to be similarities between Boys In The Hood and the dynamics of Barbershop. Could you talk a little about that?

IC: Yeah, you know, thatís what attracted me to this movie. I think like Boys was a slice of life, Barbershop is a slice of life too. Without the movie being made, youíd never really get to feel this world and what it means to the community. Itís kind of overlooked at what the barbershop means to the community. This is our ďtee-peeĒ, this is where the elders and youngsters talk about all subjects and itís a good place to be.

MS: As culturally specific as Barbershop is, wouldnít you say that itís appeal is also very universal?

IC: Oh definitely, I think whatís so good about doing films is the fact that you can bring somebody into your world, like a fly on the wall. Even I canít go into a barbershop and get a pure barbershop experience because it turns into an ĎOh, Cube is hereí type of deal. So seeing it on the screen for me is good because I get to be a fly on the wall, so to speak.

MS: In what ways are you similar to the character that you portray in Barbershop?

IC: Just as a young, black man trying to do the right thing, very ambitious, not really satisfied with what he has, always trying to grasp the next ring. Thatís a lot of what Calvin is. But like heís learned to appreciate what heís got, Iíve learned to appreciate what Iím doing and just try to do the best at what Iím doing instead of always looking for the next.

MS: In what ways are you different?

IC: (chuckling) Iím a little harder than he is. I wouldnít have taken all that stuff he took from people like Mr. Lester. I wouldnít have taken all that.

MS: How do you strike a balance between your image in hip-hop with the persona that youíre creating in films?

IC: Well, itís all me, itís all me. And I donít have a problem at all with who I am.

MS: I think itís great because any of your hip-hop fans that venture out to one of your movies will see that Ice Cube is multi-dimensional.

IC: I think thatís whatís good about it. The thing about acting Ėitís all about you giving more of yourself. You canít bottle up like you can in music and just be one way. In acting, you can dig a little deeper. And each role is gonna be different, some roles youíll see me in and wonít believe it was the same guy that was in Barbershop.

MS: Iím sure youíve heard the comments that Sam Jackson made in regards to rappers actingÖ

IC: I heard them. I think theyíre a little bit unfair. We have a saying in hip-hop Ė ďIt ainít where youíre from, itís where youíre at.Ē Everybody comes from somewhere and just because I started off rapping doesnít mean itís all I can or will do. I donít plan on being a 65-year-old rapper. Thatís not fair, everybodyís coming from somewhere and just because the rappers didnít go to these schools for acting Ė that donít mean they canít act. I mean, take Dr. Dre, heís never been to no music school, could you imagine if he never did music, I wouldnít be here. Things like that prove that you can come from anywhere and excel in any field. And sure there are some rappers that canít act, but there are some rappers who can act. I think itís all about what the screen says.

MS: Sam noted your performance in Three Kings as an exception.

IC: Thatís cool - I would love to do a movie with Samuel. I think heís one of the greats that we have out there, you know.

MS: Do you take acting lessons?

IC: I havenít. Itís crossed my mind once or twice. Maybe one day Iíll do it, but for now, I donít wanna lose what I got.

MS: Any plans to direct again?

IC: I want to direct again, itís just so much of a commitment to direct, you have to be there for every single aspect of putting a movie together and I donít want to take that long away from acting. There are a lot of roles and a lot of things in the air that are getting developed for me specifically and I want to do them and then I wanna go back and direct. But I want to direct a drama.

MS: Do you have any dramatic pieces in the wings for you to direct?

IC: I got a couple of projects in mind, but I donít wanna give them away.

MS: Howís all this acting affecting your music?

IC: I love music. Iím gonna always do it. Right now, Iím in the process of changing labels. Iím getting out of Priority, Iíve been there my whole career and its time for me to step up to a major label and do it in a major way. It takes time to get that process to a point to where I can say Ďokay, lets make a recordí.

MS: How do you handle your celebrity and the trappings of fame?

IC: Itís part of what Iíve asked for. I just take it as another extension of who I am, not all that I am, but part of it.

MS: How have you managed to do so much at such a young age?

IC: Just not being afraid. I have a philosophy that everything is hard until you learn how to do it. I just stick my nose in there and pay attention to what I need to pay attention to, hire experts and let them do what they do without getting in their way.

MS: Whatís next for you?

IC: Friday After Next will be out November 22nd, Iím working on a movie for Warner Brothers - a big, action motorcycle movie Ė thatíll be out next summer. And Iím still developing projects at Cube Vision.

MS: Is this one going to be the end of the Friday series?

IC: I always say this is the last one Ė the first one was the last one, but itís all about the fans. If they want more and we can come up with a good story and the movie can stand on its own Ė If you ask me, I think Friday After Next is funny, as funny, if not funnier than the first one and thatís saying a lot coming from me. I think itís a hell of a movie.