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Rap Biographies: Ice Cube

Ice Cube
Ice Cube (born O'Shea Jackson on June 15, 1969 in South Central Los Angeles) is an American actor and rapper. He began his career as a member of the controversial rap group N.W.A, and later launched a successful solo career in music and cinema. In recent years, Ice Cube's acting career has taken center stage in his life, and he has taken much time off from rapping. Regardless, he is considered one of the most influential and iconic figures in the hip hop industry, particularly well-known for angry, fearless raps on political and racial topics (such as the treatment of African-Americans in the United States).

Ice Cube was raised in South Central Los Angeles by his parents, both of whom were employed at UCLA. He began writing raps while attending school at William Howard Taft High School. Cube and a friend, Sir Jinx, rapped as a partnership called C.I.A. at parties hosted by Dr. Dre. After a brief stint in a group called "HBO", Cube showed Eazy-E "Boyz 'N Da Hood" and the pair, plus Dr. Dre, and MC Ren formed N.W.A. Cube took one year off to earn a degree in architectural drafting in Phoenix in 1987 but returned in time to help create N.W.A's debut album, Straight Outta Compton. The album earned the group serious notoriety, from the FBI and concerned citizen and parent groups. Ice Cube's contribution to this status was significant, as he performed the lead verse for the album's infamous track "Fuck tha Police."

For such a revolutionary figure, Cube came from a surprisingly straight background. Raised in South Central Los Angles, where both of his parents had jobs at UCLA, Cube didn't become involved with b-boy culture until his late teens. He began writing raps while in high school, including "Boyz-n-the Hood." With his partner Sir Jinx, Cube began rapping in a duo called CIA at parties hosted by Dr. Dre, and he eventually met Eazy-E, then leading a group called HBO, through Dre. Eazy asked Cube to write a rap, and he presented them with "Boyz-n-the Hood," which was rejected. Eazy decided to leave CIA, and he, Cube, and Dre formed the first incarnation of N.W.A. Cube left to study architectural drafting at Phoenix, AZ, in 1987, returning the following year after he obtained a one-year degree. He arrived just in time for N.W.A.'s breakthrough album, Straight Outta Compton. Released late in 1988, Straight Outta Compton became an underground hit over the course of 1989, and its extreme lyrical content -- which was over-the-top both lyrically and politically -- attracted criticism, most notably from the FBI.

During 1989, Ice Cube felt he was not being treated fairly by the group's management (Eazy and Jerry Heller). Consequently, Cube left N.W.A due to these and other financial and personal conflicts in 1989. With Da Lench Mob and the Bomb Squad (Public Enemy's producers), Cube recorded his debut solo album in New York City. AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted was released in 1990 and was an instant hit, riding and contributing to the rising tide of rap's popularity in mainstream society. Racist lyrics in his material have provoked controversy: "Black Korea" was a song against Korean shop owners, which helped inspire the rise of Korean rap group Drunken Tiger, and songs such as "Enemy" and "Cave Bitch" were songs against "devils", which was a popular derogatory term at the time for white people. As much as Cube thrives on the shocking and the profane, it becomes clear upon listening that he isn't glamorizing the harsh urban realities he raps about, but protesting them. Cube takes some controversial stands, referring to certain types of African-Americans as "Oreo cookies", implying that they appear to be black but are actually willing participants in the racial hierarchy that keeps the majority of African-Americans living in poverty-stricken and drug-riddled ghettos; specifically, this is aimed at soft-pop-R&B radio stations broadcasting a watered-down sound.

By the age of 21, O'Shea Jackson had not only earned a college degree in drafting, but had established himself as a rap superstar named Ice Cube due to his participation in the ground-breaking and influential ensemble Niggaz With Attitude; N.W.A. was the group largely responsible for reinventing West Coast rap and launching the controversial gangsta sub-genre. A native of L.A.'s South Central, Cube came from a strict two-parent home, and early on preferred rapping and writing to gang life. More than any other rap artist, Cube has kept the heat on in terms of incendiary storytelling and controversial viewpoints. His rage seems to explode unchecked by a concise political agenda; indeed, his is a shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach.

Arsenio Hall is specifically mentioned as being such a "sell-out". The titular song on the album directly parodies the television show, "America's Most Wanted", exposing the perceived racism inherent in watching largely African-American men being arrested for entertainment. Partially to help deflect criticism, Cube appointed a female rapper named Yo-Yo (who appeared on AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted) to the head of his own record label and helped produce her debut album, Make Way for the Motherlode. That was followed by a critically acclaimed turn in Boyz N the Hood, a movie by John Singleton. The film turned Cube into a Hollywood star, as he garnered critical praise for his role as "Doughboy".
Cube's 1991 follow-up, Death Certificate was even more controversial. It shows an angrier and very more aggressive side of his than that expressed on AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. The album itself has many racist, homophobic and discriminating slurs throughout the songs and demonstrates Cube's "freedom of speech". It is widely known as Cube's most focused and best political work and is considered his best album by many fans. The album is thematically divided into the Death Side (a vision of where we are today) and the Life Side (a vision of where we need to go). A few songs in the album featured Cube's hate for "Uncle Sam" and American politics, and a bonus track named "No Vaseline" was his diss track aimed at his former N.W.A bandmates and his manager Jerry Heller. The album was re-released in 2003 with another bonus track from 1991, "How to Survive in South Central," which came on the Boyz N the Hood soundtrack. Cube toured with Lollapalooza in 1992, which widened his fan base. Also during that that year, he converted to the Nation of Islam.

Ice Cube released The Predator in November (1992), a vibrant collection of cuts that were created amidst the L.A. uprising of the early '90's. "The Predator" debuted at #1 on both the pop and R&B charts, the first album in history to do so. For this album, Cube decided to load some G-funk style beats which at that time were the big thing and some remix tunes which brought a new style to Cube, which previously had consisted more of hardcore and extreme work. Singles from The Predator included Today was a Good Day and Check Yo Self (remix) which together had a two part music video. Ice Cube used his killer rap delivery to full effect on funky cuts like "Now I Gotta Wet' Cha" and "We Had to Tear This Motherf**ker Up" in a way that few other MCs could, benefiting from the contributions of a crew of producers that included Sir Jinx, DJ Muggs and DJ Pooh. Out of all his albums, it has been the most successful, with over 5 million copies sold in the US.

After The Predator, Cube's audience began to diminish. Lethal Injection (1993) was not well-liked by critics and Dr. Dre and the West Coast G-Funk sound was dominating American hip-hop. It wasn't until much later on that the album became very popular with Cube fans; realizing it was an underrated album at the time it was released. Taking a break from his own albums, Cube assisted on debuts from Da Lench Mob (Guerillas In Tha Mist) and Kam (Neva Again), both of which had limited commercial success but gained a lot of critical acclaim. Around this time in 1993, Ice Cube also worked with the emerging superstar rapper Tupac Shakur on his album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. and appeared on a track with him. He later had a duet with Dr. Dre on "Natural Born Killaz." Ice Cube would later have a falling out with Kam due to money and personal issues which led to Kam releasing the venomous diss track "Whoop Whoop" and an altercation, which led to the theft of Ice Cube's Westside Connection necklace. Though they would end the feud, they never worked together again. This was a time when Ice Cube was increasingly embroiled in verbal warfare, including the famous back and forth with Cypress Hill. Cypress Hill accused Ice Cube of stealing beats, lyrics and choruses for his Friday soundtrack that they had planned to use on their Cypress Hill III: Temples of Boom album. They recorded the diss track "No Rest For The Wicked" as a result. Ice Cube responded with "King Of The Hill" (credited to his Westside Connection group) to which Cypress Hill released "Ice Cube Killa" in response. He would also go on to have a feud with Common which spawned the stinging diss track towards Cube titled "The Bitch In Yoo". This stemmed from what Cube perceived to be an insult towards him and West-Coast Hip-Hop in the lyrics of Common's classic "I Used to Love H.E.R.", an allegorical song about the history of Hip-Hop. They dissed each other back and forth, finally meeting with Minister Farrakhan and setting aside their dispute.

In 1995, Cube had some breakthrough film roles, in the hit comedy Friday, starring alongside comedian Chris Tucker, and his second film with John Singleton, Higher Learning. Friday was a success and spawned two sequels. Critically they were some of Cube's best films, and he earned a few award nominations for "Higher Learning". In 2002, Ice Cube starred in the critically acclaimed movie, Barbershop, as well as its 2004 sequel Barbershop 2: Back in Business.
During this time hip-hop started making a transition from the West Coast Funk Hip-Hop to East Coast pop rap. With Mack 10 and WC, Cube formed the Westside Connection in 1996, releasing their debut album Bow Down later that year, with the eponymous single reaching #21 on the singles charts.

With 1996's Bow Down, Westside Connection brought their own agenda to the hip-hop party, something they've been doing since they formed. Ice Cube, Mack 10 and WC were tired of getting overlooked by East Coast media outlets and being considered second-class citizens in a genre they helped popularize. The album instilled a sense of pride in West Coast rap fans and started a worldwide movement that anyone who felt underappreciated could identify with. Songs like "Bow Down", and "Gangstas Make The World Go 'Round" make reference to this.

Sales were brisk, but a wide audience was evasive. This album was later perceived as a classic, especially on the West Coast. In 1997, Cube released his long awaited solo album War & Peace Volume 1. The second part War & Peace Volume 2 was released in 2000. The albums featured appearances from Westside Connection as well as a reunion with fellow N.W.A members Dr. Dre & MC Ren. After a seven-year hiatus, Westside Connection returned with their long-awaited second effort Terrorist Threats. Critically the album was good, but weak compared to their first breakthrough LP Bow Down. Gangsta Nation was the first and last song they released from the album. After arguments the band split up and went their separate ways. In December 2004, after a long break from recording, he reached #2 in the UK singles chart with the club favorite, You Can Do It (featuring Mack 10 and Ms Toi), released as a single 5 years after it was first included on movie soundtracks such as Next Friday and Save the Last Dance.

In November 2005, Ice Cube and Emmy Award winning filmmaker R.J. Cutler have teamed to create a six-part documentary series titled "Black. White.", which will be broadcast on cable network FX. Two families, one black and one white, share a home in the San Fernando Valley for the majority of the show.

The Sparks, who are black and hail from Atlanta, Georgia and their son Nick are transformed from black to white at the end of the show, while the Wurgel's and their daughter Rose are transformed from white to black. "I'm really excited to be a part of a show that explores race in America," Ice Cube said. "'Black. White.' will force people to challenge themselves and really examine where we stand in terms of race in this country". The show premiered in March 2006.
His upcoming movie projects include "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" which is scheduled to be released in 2007 (pre-production), "The Extractors" and "Teacher of the Year" which to be released this year. Cube will be heading to Vancouver in June to start production on "Are We Done Yet?" the sequel to 2005's "Are We There Yet?"

Ice Cube has, as the head of his production company Cube Vision, written, produced and starred in the cult hit Friday and its successful sequels Next Friday and Friday After Next. Cube Vision was also responsible for The Players Club, in which Cube made his directorial debut. He recently starred in and executive produced the back-to-back hits Barbershop and Barbershop 2: Back in Business. He also produced and starred in All About the Benjamins. Most recently, he executive produced Beauty Shop starring Queen Latifah and starred in and produced Revolution Studios' sleeper hit family comedy Are We There Yet?

Other film credits include the critically acclaimed Three Kings opposite George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, the action drama Torque, Anaconda with Jennifer Lopez and Jon Voight, Trespass and Higher Learning. Cube made his feature film debut in John Singleton's classic Boyz N the Hood.

Cube continues to be one of the most recognized hip-hop artists in the recording industry. His thriving music career included the double-platinum success of Volumes I and 2 of his double album "War and Peace." As a solo artist, Cube recorded such hit albums as "Lethal Injection," "Bootlegs & B-Sides," "The Predator" and "Amerikkka's Most Wanted."
On the 7th of February 2006, Ice Cube officially announced that on June 6th, 2006 he will be releasing his long awaited comeback album entitled Laugh Now, Cry Later from his own record company Da Lench Mob Records. Cube has enlisted the production services of some of the hottest beat manipulators currently working in the business. Cube will also succumb to the now requisite guest artist appearances, but seems to be keeping it to a bare minimum with Snoop Dogg and his Westside Connection compadre WC. The only artist who is not being involved in the album is Dr. Dre, who had insisted on assisting on a comeback album for his friend Cube since 2003, as he is too busy with his Aftermath record company and the associated artists. The album will contain 18 tracks, with the street single and accompanying video, "Chrome & Paint," already creating a buzz in the underground. The album's first official single will be the Storch produced "Why We Thugs." Ice Cube has also stated that from now to June, he is focusing on this album and is keeping film work away until after the album is finished and released.

Recently, Cube collaborated with fellow West Coast hip hop rapper Warren G in the song Get U Down which had also featured Snoop Dogg and B Real.

Ice Cube has just signed on to star in and produce Welcome Back, Kotter, a big screen adaptation of the '70s television series. The title character who was originally portrayed by Gabe Kaplan. Ice Cube's company, Cube Vision Productions, has made a deal with Dimension Films to bring the show to the big screen.
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