As he approaches, the former N.W.A. member is still as cool as ice.
As part of the legendary hip-hop group, Ice Cube burst onto the national scene in the early 1990s rapping about his unique perspective on life. Now, even though he's a big-time mainstream actor, he's still not shying away from controversy.
As Cube has been making the rounds promoting Barbershop: The Next Cut, he has been holding forth on everything from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's oft-repeated 1996 remark about "super predators," which he says is an offensive label, to America's current fascination with GOP front-runner Donald Trump. (Cube thinks it's all about Trump's massive wealth and America's love of a boss.)
He also took a stand recently against critics when N.W.A. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"Rock-and-roll is not an instrument, rock-and-roll is not even a style of music," Cube said in his acceptance speech. "Rock-and-roll is a spirit. It's a spirit. It's been going since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul, R&B, rock-and-roll, heavy metal, punk rock, and yes, hip-hop. And what connects us all is that spirit. Rock-and-roll is not conforming to the people who came before you, but creating your own path in music and in life."
I got a chance to sit down with Cube, 46, whose given name is O'Shea Jackson, when he was in Philadelphia late last month at the new Logan Hotel. Here are some excerpts from our conversation that contain his views on:
Who he likes in the 2016 presidential race:
"No matter who's the president, you still got to get up and go to work in the morning. That's what it's all about right there."
The GOP-proposed crackdowns on Muslims:
"You can deal with radical Islamic terrorists, but what about the radical Christian terrorists that's right here? How are you going to deal with them? There are some right here. . . . Look in their background. Radical Christian terrorists. You can't be hypocrites about it. The world is not fooled by hypocrisy. It's like, stop worrying about the people over there when you won't even take care of the people in your own backyard. Won't do nothing about 'em."
N.W.A.'s historic rise in the early '90s:
"I was just trying to be the best rapper in the world. I didn't give a damn about nothing else, like I wanted to get my respect. I wanted to be respected like the dudes I respected - KRS-One, Chuck D, and Run DMC."
"We've got to stop trippin' on that. Who gives a damn really about an Oscar? Really. And the people that do, I'm not minimizing them. But I think their mind is in the wrong place. We are doing this for the people. We're not doing this for a trophy. And when the people come out and your movie does $200 million in the box office, they love it. Oscar, that's the Oscar! People coming up and saying 'I love it' and hugging you and saying 'thank you for doing it' . . . If you really think about it, a lot of actors that's gotten Oscars, you don't hear from them no more, or their career for some reason starts to nosedive like they've peaked or something. So, it's not the finish line to me. It's not the Super Bowl. It's cool. If we would have won, it would have been cool, and that's about it. It would have just been cool, but I wouldn't have felt like I was a better producer 'cause we got it. I know I'm a good producer. I know I'm good. So, you know, it wasn't really made for us. We can't really b---- and moan when we were not invited to a party that wasn't never even made for us. Let's stop putting value in that."
The box-office success of "Straight Outta Compton":
"Our story is so American at its core. Rags to riches. Break up to makeup. All that s---. It's cool. People love it. That's better than an Oscar."
The universality of "Barbershop: The Next Cut":
"Chicago is the backdrop for Barbershop because we believe Chicago represents, you know, the middle of the country. You've got East Coast flavor. You've got West Coast flavor. You've got Southern flavor. It is a great point [from which] to project this kind of movie. And every neighborhood with a barbershop can understand that this movie is speaking for them."
Creating a movie franchise worthy of another sequel:
"Of course, you don't want to count your chickens before they hatch, but you do understand when you've got a movie with great characters that people could probably want to see them again. And it's really up to you to make a movie worthy enough to sustain the fan base and not just go for a money grab. That's why it took so long for this movie to come out because, you know, we felt like, with the second one, we did some cool things, but for some reason we wanted to get back to the soul of what Barbershop means, and I think we achieved it. We can go on and on. It's going to be new stuff happening every day in the world, and all of it is going to be talked about in the barbershop, so we can always continue."