Ice Cube | Interview
The former N.W.A rapper steals scenes with a supporting turn in 21 Jump Street.
In 21 Jump Street, Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson keeps undercover cops Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in line. “Infiltrate the dealers, find the supplier,” he instructs them repeatedly—though that’s an order these two have a hard time following. At the Trump Tower in February, the former N.W.A rapper reflected on his career’s shift toward the mainstream.
Who approached you about doing 21 Jump Street?
Neal Moritz, who’s a producer. He was like, “Yo, we got a script that Jonah is into called 21 Jump Street. There’s a role in there that’s perfect for you.” So I checked it out and it was right. This is a character you’ve seen a thousand times in a thousand movies, but you always are kind of interested in: How’s the actor gonna do the mad captain yelling at his officers, you know what I’m saying? I just wanted to take it and flip it and be able to do it R-rated.
What would younger Ice Cube think of current Ice Cube?
I’d be with it. I always look at how, when I was younger, how did I look at people that was in my position now? Which at the time it was Bill Cosby or Quincy Jones or somebody who’s achieved a lot and was looked at as somebody who has kind of mainstream recognition. I looked at them as like, damn, how did they do it? So that’s probably how the young Ice Cube would look at me.
But mainstreaming was always what you had in mind?
The thing is with hip-hop, it has its waves and the waves crash against the beach and the new waves come in. So to stay relevant you have to roll with that. Early in my career, people wanted to hear music about protest, about trying to change things. Twelve years of Reaganomics was kind of squirting out of people. But during the Clinton years that attitude kind of shifted to, let’s relax a little bit, enjoy our struggle. So you gotta go with the times.
On TV and in film, you’ve shifted toward a family-friendly sensibility.
Even in N.W.A we used to still watch shit like E.T. I used to love Home Alone and shit, you know what I mean? If I just did hard shit, that’s not keeping it real to me, and I’m all about being real. Hard shit is real, the funny shit is real, the kids’ stuff is real. It’s like Al Capone, I don’t know if he had fucking kids, but any of them gangsters—they loved their kids and nephews, and they’re not fucking anti-family, anti-children, anti-everything, you know what I mean? Society says, “Damn, Cube, he was in N.W.A and he’s doing Are We There Yet? ” And it’s like, come on, man. I was changing diapers when I was going to the studio doing some of those records, you know what I mean, with my own kids.
Which of your films are you proudest of?
Friday. Because it was my first crack at producing and it was the first script I ever got made. It’s just kind of become this thing that a lot of modern movies steal from Friday. I remember I saw Something About Mary. I was like, Damn, that’s a white Friday movie! [Laughs] That’s a white Friday movie.
21 Jump Street comes to VOD, DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday 26.