The Original Gangsta: Ice Cube on 25 Years of ‘AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted,’ Kendrick Lamar, and Cops

The street-smart solo rapper and N.W.A. frontman dishes on his hip-hop career, which MCs he respects, police brutality, and why he’s still angry after all these years.In 1990, Ice Cube was standing at the crossroads of his still-young career. Money disputes had led to his departure from seminal rap group N.W.A., and it wasn’t as if all of hip-hop was expecting solo greatness from the raging young rapper. But what Cube ultimately delivered was one of the fiercest hip-hop albums ever made, a harsh glimpse into the experiences of a young, black man from Compton, California, set against a sonic backdrop of vicious beats and earsplitting funk.N.W.A. had put Compton on the map two years earlier with their 1988 album Straight Outta Compton. But where that classic focused on hedonism and machismo, Cube’s solo debut, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, offered a more insightful and fully-developed portrait of a misunderstood and marginalized culture. Cube’s acclaimed and controversial first album is 25 now, and with a biopic about his legendary former group set to hit theaters this summer, Cube reflects on those days and admits that his time in N.W.A. was always a mixed blessing.“The members of the group wasn’t as political as me,” he explains. “They didn’t really want to talk about all of these different angles that we were faced with. They wanted to just talk about street shit. Street shit is cool, but you’ve gotta understand why you’re street. You’ve got to understand where it’s coming from. Why do we act the way that we act? There’s a source for that. I was a big fan of Public Enemy, who explored all of that. I wanted to do the same thing.”All this time later, Cube has love for his former bandmates (“A lot of people don’t understand that this was a brotherhood. It was more than a group.”), but it’s well-documented why he had to go his own way. As almost any hip-hop fan knows, Cube was the primary writer for N.W.A. and solo star Eazy E, but he received meager compensation for his work on two multiplatinum albums, the aforementioned …Compton and Eazy’s Eazy-Duz-It. His grievances led to a refusal to sign a new contract with Ruthless Records founders Eazy and Jerry Heller (also the group’s manager.) “With Kendrick [Lamar], he’s really displaying that. He’s showing that, even though he has the pop hits, he’s a much deeper artist with much deeper intellect than the norm. And that’s why he’s extraordinary.”Cube broke from N.W.A. shortly thereafter, but was shocked to learn that there was animosity towards him from his former bandmates and friends. He realized how deep the rift was immediately after he’d signed a solo deal with Priority Records and started planning his first album.“There was definitely pressure,” says Cube. “I’d just left N.W.A. and a lot of people didn’t think I’d made the right decision. There wasn’t even a guarantee that [Priority] wanted me to do a solo record. But once I locked that in, it was all about finding the producers.”His first choice? His longtime friend and former N.W.A. bandmate Dr. Dre. “I wanted Dre to do the record, but he got vetoed by Ruthless. Jerry and Eazy was not feeling that. So I had to stop and rethink it,” he shares. Cube goes on to say that, despite the split, he initially didn’t think Dre would distance himself just because of Cube’s problems with Ruthless Records.“My problem was with Jerry and Eazy. Me and Dre was still friends, still cool, and we’d started off together. He was still the best producer I knew. I didn’t think the business part would even have anything to do with the music. I thought our friendship was going to continue and we were going to keep doing music. But that wasn’t the case.”The street-smart solo rapper and N.W.A. frontman dishes on his hip-hop career, which MCs he respects, police brutality, and why he’s still angry after all these years.N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton”Cube wound up flying to New York at the behest of Def Jam’s Lyor Cohen, who’d set up a meeting with producer Sam Sever. Sever was coming off of success with Def Jam stars 3rd Bass—he’d produced the bulk of their debut, The Cactus Album—and Cohen believed Sever would be great for Ice Cube. Sever flaked on the meeting, however, and as a dejected Cube was getting ready to head back to the West Coast, he ran into Public Enemy frontman Chuck D. “Chuck told me he was working on a song called ‘Burn Hollywood Burn’ with Big Daddy Kane and [asked] would I jump on it,” Cube says. “And when I did that, I was able to talk to the Bomb Squad.”The Bomb Squad was the legendary production team behind P.E.’s lauded first three albums, and they wound up handling the bulk of AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.Released in May 1990, Cube’s solo debut became a critical and commercial success, turning him into hip-hop’s most outspoken and controversial voice as a new decade dawned. The rage in Cube’s perspective was matched by his wit, storytelling, and knack for commentary, with the album supplying some much-needed contex

Source: The Original Gangsta: Ice Cube on 25 Years of ‘AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted,’ Kendrick Lamar, and Cops – The Daily Beast

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