I never understood why everyone named themselves “Ice” all of a sudden in the 1980s — Ice Cube, Ice-T and Vanilla Ice. So I asked Ice Cube: What’s up with all this “Ice”?
“It’s a cold name,” said Cube, who introduced himself on the phone like this: “This is Cube.”
“It’s one of those signature handles that always sounded fly,” in the vein of “Grand Master This” or “MC That,” he said.
Cube has been friends with Ice-T forever.
“We’re both L.A. rappers, and we cut like ice breakers through hip-hop. We’re the (expletive) spearheads. We were the first ones in line, so we had to walk each other through it, and talk each other through it.”
For sure, Ice Cube and Ice-T are the George Washingtons of gangsta rap.
But this week, Cube is in Vegas touring with different legendary friends — LL Cool J, Public Enemy and De La Soul. That’s Friday at the Hard Rock Hotel ($49.50-$70).
“LL was my favorite rapper at one time,” Cube said. “And Chuck D (of Public Enemy) is my favorite rapper of all time. So I really have a lot of respect for their careers, who they are, their skills and all that.”
But let’s get back to the Ice thing for a second.
Another thing Ice Cube has in common with Ice-T is they are among the best musicians-turned-actors of their generation.
Cube, 43, was superb in “Boyz n the Hood,” “Three Kings” and the “Friday” movies — and he wrote and/or produced the “Friday” movies, “All About The Benjamins” and the “BarberShop” films.
I heard Cube was going to star in a remake of the 1970s John “Sweathog” Travolta TV show, “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
Cube, who grew up in South Central L.A., told me he had a great script but it went into limbo after a movie company dropped out.
“It was real in-the-hood (situations), dealing with some badass kids nobody wants to deal with. … And you realize they’re funny.”
Cube is also putting together a movie on his seminal group NWA, which featured Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren. He has a movie coming out with Kevin Hart called “Ride Along.” He’s filming “21 Jump Street 2” this year.
And his next album, “Everythang’s Corrupt,” comes out in the fall.
Cube and I talked at length about copycat music in hip-hop, pop, rock and other formats. He said the bottom line for good music is: Be original.
“That is the quest: Do something original that nobody else is doing. Say something original that nobody else has said,” Cube said.
“That’s why I love being on my own label. I’m not concerned with the radio, (pop) charts, or nothing. All I’m concerned with is Ice Cube fans: ‘Am I giving them the records they deserve? Is it the true feeling I want to present to them?’ ”
I told him he’s in a good position because he has the money to be autonomous.
“I answer to no man. That is a beautiful place to be,” Cube said.
“But you still gotta make deals, and you’ve still gotta make things work, and you’ve still gotta make sure you’ve got a canvas to paint on.”
By the way, Cube’s talented rapper sons OMG and Doughboy tour with him. He teaches them to appreciate the rewards of hard work.
“Everything we’ve gotten out of this music is all gravy. Nobody expected none of it. So that’s how I teach them: ‘This is fun. Never let the industry frustrate you, because it’s all gravy.’ ”
Doug Elfman’s column appears Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He also writes for Neon on Fridays. Email him at email@example.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.