From the 1995 Soundtrack to “Friday”
O’Shea Jackson Sr. (born June 15, 1969), known professionally as Ice Cube, is an American rapper and actor. He began his career as a member of the hip-hop group C.I.A. and later joined the seminal rap group N.W.A (Niggaz Wit Attitudes). After leaving N.W.A in December 1989, he began both a successful solo music career and an acting career which included roles in films such as Boyz n the Hood (1991), Friday (1995), for which he also co-wrote the screenplay, and Barbershop (2002). Additionally, he has served as one of the producers of the Showtime television series Barbershop and the TBS series Are We There Yet?, both of which are based upon films in which he portrayed the main character.
Ice Cube is one of the founding artists of gangsta rap, and much of his musical output has contained harsh socio-political commentary. He was ranked number 8 on MTV’s list of the 10 Greatest MCs of All Time, while fellow rapper Snoop Dogg ranked Ice Cube as one of the greatest MC of all time. AllMusic has called him one of hip-hop’s best and most controversial artists, as well as “one of rap’s greatest storytellers”. In 2012, The Source ranked him number 14 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time. In 2014, About.com ranked him number 11 on their list of the “50 Greatest MCs of All Time”
In 1989, Ice Cube recorded his debut solo album, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, in New York with the Bomb Squad (Public Enemy’s production team). It was released in May 1990 and was an instant hit, riding and contributing to the rising tide of rap’s popularity in mainstream society. The album was charged with controversy, and he was accused of misogyny and racism. Subsequently, Ice Cube appointed the female rapper 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. This was followed by a critically acclaimed role as Doughboy in John Singleton’s violent crime drama, Boyz n the Hood. In the same year as AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Ice Cube released the acclaimed EP, Kill At Will which sold well, becoming the first hip hop EP to go Platinum.
His second album Death Certificate was released in 1991. The album was regarded as more focused, yet even more controversial, and critics accused him again of being anti-white, misogynist, and antisemitic. The album is thematically divided into two sides: the ‘Death Side’ (“a vision of where we are today”) and the ‘Life Side’ (“a vision of where we need to go”). It features “No Vaseline”, a scathing response to N.W.A’s ”100 Miles and Runnin” as well as “Black Korea,” a track regarded by some as prophetic of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, but also interpreted as racist by many. Ice Cube toured with Lollapalooza in 1992, which widened his fan base.
A ticket from a 1993 Ice Cube concert in Omaha, Nebraska.
Ice Cube released his third album, The Predator, in November 1992. Referring specifically to that year’s Los Angeles riots, in the first single, “Wicked”, he rapped “April 29 was power to the people, and we might just see a sequel”. The Predator debuted at number one on both the pop and R&B charts, the first album in history to do so. Singles from The Predator included “It Was a Good Day” and “Check Yo Self”, and the songs had a two-part music video. The album was generally well received by critics and remains his most successful release commercially, with over three million copies sold in the US. However, after The Predator, Ice Cube’s rap audience diminished. Cube’s fourth album Lethal Injection, which was released at the end of 1993 and represented Ice Cube’s first attempt at imitating the G-Funk sound of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, was not well received by critics. He had more successful hits from Lethal Injection, including “Really Doe”, “Bop Gun (One Nation)”, “You Know How We Do It” & “What Can I Do?”. After 1994, he took a hiatus from music and concentrated on film work and developing the careers of other rap musicians, Mack 10, Mr. Short Khop, Kausion, and Da Lench Mob.
In 1994, Ice Cube had reunited with former N.W.A member Dr. Dre, who was now part of Death Row Records, in their duet “Natural Born Killaz”. In 1998, he released his long-awaited fifth solo album, War & Peace Vol. 1 (The War Disc). The delayed sixth album 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 and MC Ren, though many fans maintained that the two albums were not on par with his past work, especially the second volume. In 2000, Ice Cube also joined Dr. Dre, Eminem & Snoop Dogg for the Up in Smoke Tour