Frozen in time: why does nobody want to hear Ice Cube rap any more?

Frozen in time: why does nobody want to hear Ice Cube rap any more?
Frozen in time: why does nobody want to hear Ice Cube rap any more?

The man responsible for some of the biggest rap records of the 20th century seems out of time next to controversial new acts like XXXTentacion and 6ix9ine

Ice, Ice, baby: Ice Cube.

Once upon a time, it would have been a case of, “Oh! Ice Cube has a new album coming out!” Now, it’s more a case of, “Oh, Ice Cube has a new album coming out?” Because, really, the days of O’Shea Jackson Sr as a vital and vibrant recording artist basically ended with 1993’s Lethal Injection, following the classic triptych AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990), Death Certificate (1991) and The Predator (1992). He has, to paraphrase Jay-Z’s Takeover, gone from a “one hot album every year average”, to a “no hot albums for 25 years” losing streak.

It is hard to see new album Everythangs Corrupt ending that streak, with no superstar producers (anyone for Big Von? Magnedo7? Nope, us neither) and a performance akin to that of its 2010 predecessor I Am the West – No 22 on the Billboard chart – seeming more likely. It is not a great sign that the album’s release has been constantly pushed back for more than three years. The 21st century just doesn’t seem to want to hear Ice Cube rap. It is, of course, a lot happier to see him act, particularly in broad comedies that are either fuzzily family-friendly (Are We There Yet?, Barbershop) or coarse and ribald (Friday, Fist Fight). Even then, one could argue that Cube has only actually made five good films (Boyz N the Hood, Trespass, Three Kings, 21 and 22 Jump Street, since you asked) out of nearly 40 since 1991.

In terms of bringing talent through in the time-honoured hip-hop way, he is certainly no Dr Dre. His fellow former NWA man has had sizeable hands in the success of Eminem, the Game, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent (who pops up on Everythangs Corrupt alongside, um, Redfoo from LMFAO) and Snoop Dogg.

Ice Cube, meanwhile, gave the world the middling Da Lench Mob and WC, who is at least the greatest rapper alive named after a toilet. Make no mistake, Ice Cube is responsible for some of the greatest rap records of all time. But gangsta rap’s shock value has long gone: yelling “FUCK THE POLICE!” is no longer an insurrectionary roar, more a commonsense attitude. And besides, on his new album, Cube implores the feds to arrest the president, the big snitch. Next to the vile, real-world malfeasances of modern rappers such as 6ix9ine and XXXTentacion, Cube sounds positively polite.

Cube’s great contribution to 21st-century film and music may actually come in the form of his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr, who is currently batting three-for-three film-wise (Straight Outta Compton, Ingrid Goes West, Den of Thieves) and also shows a certain alacrity for rapping, going under the slightly cringeworthy nom de plume of OMG. Perhaps it is time for the father to slide gently into comfortable cinematic dotage, and let shorty take up the reins.

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