Actor/rapper Ice Cube, who comes to Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica on Tuesday as part of the Kings of the Mic tour that features old school acts LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Tribe Called Quest, says he wasn’t incredibly disappointed when N.W.A. wasn’t inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum this year. He was encouraged simply by the group’s nomination. (Public Enemy, also nominated, was inducted).
“It’s hard to say if we’ll get in because we don’t have a lot of albums,” he says when asked if he thinks N.W.A. will be inducted sometime down the road. “We really only have one album together. I don’t know. It’s just something that being mentioned and having the chance to get in there was very exciting and we had our fingers crossed but we knew Public Enemy had more history and they’re still together. They’re a hard, hard group to beat.”
Still, N.W.A.’s legacy is undeniable. The group basically invented the gangsta rap genre. Even though it essentially only delivered one album — 1988’s Straight Outta Compton — the band had a huge influence. You could argue N.W.A. is to rap as the Sex Pistols are to punk.
“The legacy of NWA to me is that we were the world’s most dangerous group for a lot of reasons,” says Cube. “We made artists, especially in the music industry, really be themselves and drop the façade and we showed that you can be yourself and say what you want and be a true artist and be just as famous as the popcorn artist who wanted to be squeaky clean. We opened that door and showed that you can be a true artist and be just as influential as anyone.”
The group actually began as a bit of a novelty act.
“We started back in the day where Weird Al Yankovic could be famous,” Cube says. “It was a crazy time where you could flip stuff on its ear and get noticed. Dre wanted us to perform at a place where he was DJing. He just told us, ‘You have to be funny. You have to be interesting or they gonna throw full cups at your ass. I seen it done.’ We was like, ‘Oh shit, OK.’ We thought we had to figure something out. We took ‘Roxanne, Roxanne’ and flip it and make it dirty like Blowfly or Dolemite. Let’s call it ‘Diane, Diane’ and keep the same flow. The song smashed when we did it at the club. Everybody loved it. We figured that these dirty records get the people going and who knows what we can sell but around here, they gonna love us. That’s the origin of it. We started to talk about real stuff on mix tapes and people would eat them up. Eazy came around and he wanted to do hardcore only. Then, he had a hit with J.J. Fad and I was like, ‘What the fuck happened to hardcore only?’ He put out Supersonic. That was the first Ruthless release. That record went gold. It’s kinda funny.”
Though Cube is perhaps best known as an actor these days, he says he never stopped performing. And he says he’s looking forward to returning to Cleveland.
“I love Cleveland and played at the Front Row a few times with N.W.A.,” he says. “I remember running through the club and jumping on with Eazy and N.W.A. We all came out in layers. I would come out and do my hit songs. Eazy would close the show. It was great venue for hip-hop at the time.”