Rapper turned actor Ice Cube tells Tom Ellen about hotel shoot-outs and why George Clooney is a “motherf*cker”.
Your new film Ride Along is in the mould of the classic buddy cop films. What’s your all-time favourite from that genre?
'It’s 48 Hrs''', without a doubt. I was 13 when that came out, so it had a big impression on me.
Ride Along was No1 at the US box office for weeks. Why do you think it’s done so well?
The chemistry between me and Kevin Hart. Kevin’s the class clown and the smartest kid in the class; it’s the strangest dynamic I’ve ever witnessed. His comedy’s brilliant, he’s prompt and professional. He’s always trying something different.
You made your name in NWA with songs such as F*ck Tha Police, and now you’re playing a cop in Ride Along, and a police chief in the 21 Jump St franchise. What would the 20-year-old Ice Cube make of that?
I don’t think he’d trip; they’re just movies. I always loved cop movies like Dirty Harry. I’m not anti-police, I never was. I’m anti-abusive, corrupt cops. I’m anti-f*cking overseer cynical bastards who want to abuse authority and see people in pain. The cops that do their job and enforce the law – you need them.
Do you think any group these days could provoke the same kind of outrage as NWA did back in the Eighties?
I don’t know. I remember when we came out, we were always compared to punk: "NWA: the craziest sh*t since the Sex Pistols.” I thought, “Damn, these Sex Pistols must be some wild motherf*ckers” [laughs]. Then came Eminem and Marilyn Manson. There’s always some new way to shock people.
True, but in 2014 it seems the closest thing we have to a crazy, rebellious pop star is Justin Bieber…
That’s a different kind of crazy. That’s being a young, rock’n’roll rich kid who’s able to do whatever he wants. Just because somebody’s a f*ck-up, doesn’t mean they’re provocative [laughs]. We didn’t make music to shock; we did it because it felt right. It was a release valve for us.
You must have some pretty wild tour stories from those early NWA days…
Oh, sh*t yeah. We were in Detroit once with Ice-T and his crew, and some local gangsters came into the hotel, knocking on every door, looking for their people. We weren’t having it, so the assault rifles came out. We were about to have war on the top floor of a damn Marriott [laughs]. I’m thinking, “I could have stayed in South Central for this sh*t.” But this was the early days, when we took guns on tour with us.
Did you feel you needed them?
Yeah. We felt like we’d never been to Detroit or Chicago – if they ’banging out here like they are in LA, we need guns. At a certain point, though, it was just like, “Dude, we’re famous now. We don’t need guns. Let’s just use the police. That’s what they’re there for.”
Do your kids listen to NWA?
Man, my oldest son knew the lyrics to Straight Outta Compton when he was two. I’m real with my kids, I never hide anything from them. But I don’t need to worry about them gang-banging. They’re rich kids [laughs].
You’re more worried about stopping them from going down the Bieber route…
Exactly. In Hollywood you got to worry about drugs. Keep your kids from being f*cking junkies.
I saw an interview with you recently where you had a go at skinny jeans. You’re not into hipster fashion, then?
No, man. In terms of fashion, in the Eighties, I was a victim of Michael Jackson and Prince. I eventually broke through to nice, manly clothes, and I learnt not to show off my curves [laughs]. Once you break through, you never go back.
What about the Jheri curl hairstyle? Do you regret that?
No, that was the thing to do back then. We’d just come out of the ‘afro age’, and everyone remembers beautiful round afros, but nobody remembers those wack f*cking ugly sideways afros that looked like a sponge on your head. Anything was better than that, so we just curled that sh*t up instead.
There’s a fair amount of political comment on your forthcoming album, Everythang’s Corrupt. What do you think of Obama since his re-election? Is he doing a decent job?
He’s doing a good job. I don’t know if anyone could do a great job. The way that Congress, the Senate and the House are set up, it handcuffs good ideas and perpetuates bullsh*t ideas that passed years ago. It’s all grease-the-palm, you-ain’t-got-money-then-get-the-f*ck-outta-here deals.
Have you met Obama?
No. I’d like to meet him after he’s president. I think he’d be more candid [laughs]. Maybe he’d tell me how it really was.
Finally, you worked with George Clooney on Three Kings. He’s a notorious on-set prankster – did he pull anything on you?
No, you don’t prank someone who ain’t a practical joker, because I’m going to get upset. I’m a sore loser. You can make me laugh from over there, but don’t hit me or spill sh*t on me. Seriously, though, Clooney’s a motherf*cker [laughs]. He ain’t no joke. He talked to me about poking holes in his friends’ condoms and sh*t [laughs]. This was in his younger days, I don’t know if he’d still go that far, but Clooney has no boundaries, man. You don’t play with Clooney.
Ride Along is at cinemas nationwide from 28 February