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Q&A: Ice Cube interview

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The Scene caught up with Ice Cube in LA to talk music, Lakers and life in the City of Angels...

The Scene: How would you describe Los Angeles?

Ice Cube: Well, the city is pretty and ugly at the same time. South of Pico, it's a pretty different city, you know, it's a little more grimy south of Pico. North of Pico, it's a little more Hollywood -- what people picture in their head when they come vacation here -- Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, you know it's more that.

To me it's two different cities and I've been able to have the chance to play in both. It gives a lot of us a place to be creative, to live out our dreams; it can also be a place of heartbreak, a place of a lot of pain and confusion, but that's Los Angeles.

TS: Do you feel the two cities get things from each other?

IC: Well, I think that north of Pico gets more from south of Pico than vice versa. There's a lot of talent in South Central LA, in Compton and Long Beach and Watts, and the city north of Pico pretty much sits back and waits for that talent to emerge and then steps in.

TS: How important is it to you to have this sense of place?

IC: It's just a pride that I guess everyone has for their hometown. I been all around the world and I haven't found a city that I'd rather be from or rather come back to than Los Angeles. It has perfect weather, perfect opportunities for creative people like myself, the Lakers galvanize the city like no other team -- the sun shines brighter on Los Angeles, you know, straight up.

TS: Why does the city identify itself so strongly with the Lakers?

IC: It's a city that has ethnic diversity like any other city, but I think on a major level you have diversity where people really stick to themselves -- blacks, Mexicans, any kind of Arabs or any kind of Asians. The Lakers is something we all can rally around as a whole city. The Lakers mean more to this city than any other thing in Los Angeles.

I was a Lakers fan in the womb -- my mother screamed at a Lakers game for Elgin Baylor or Jerry West and I was a fan from there. I go to every game. It's an experience. It's better than the Hawks, for sure.

TS: What difference is there between the music coming out of here now and the music when you started?

IC: I think there was a lot more energy in the underground, you know. The underground party enforces the DJs and that was so new, fresh, something to be a part of. Everybody had their DJ crews and cliques that they was down wit', and it helped bring a lot of attention to the groups. And then from there, a lot of groups signed independently and then got attention from the majors, so that was the progression.

Now you have the major labels. A lot of them are East Coast-based and the people who run them have a New York state of mind. When they got into the game it started hurting West Coast hip-hop because they didn't understand it so they vetoed a lotta movements. West Coast hip-hop is suffering from that because still to this day, the biggest artists are the artists who started way back when.

TS: What made you start making music?

IC: What really affected me a lot was being bussed out of there -- I got bussed out to the Valley to go to school, then I realized how poor we really were. At first when we were all just in South Central we felt like we wasn't living too bad but then when you compare it to people who don't have to deal with the things that I had to deal with, I started realizing that nobody knows about this world I'm living in. So I'm always going to rap about it.

TS: What was it like growing up in South Central?

IC: Well, you got up, you looked out the door and you figured, ok, what kind of a day was it going to be: was we all gonna have fun, was it a day when we was all gonna fight, was it a day when somebody was gonna come through here and shoot? Being unpredictable is dangerous, about as dangerous as Iraq is now. You had to be affiliated with somebody because just by living where I lived, people was going to clump me over with this gang, period, so I might as well hang with them, run with them, know what they're about and use them as protection.

TS: When did you realize you wanted to get out?

IC: I was trying to get out from when I got in. I was trying to get out through music, through sports. Cocaine was big in the 80's and I saw a lot of people I respected either become dope fiends, go to jail or get murdered and I didn't want that life.

TS: Can you imagine what it would have been like if you hadn't got out?

IC: You know, what that question makes me think about is how many people there that's more talented than me, that's still there, that didn't get that shot. There's a lot of potential that goes unused in places like South Central LA, a lot of brilliant, smart people who just don't have that chance to show it.

TS: How does it make you feel when you go back?

IC: It makes me feel good that I went the road that I went but it shows that there's a lot of work to be done in the community. What I don't like is that nothing's changed, everything's the same, there's nothing new going on. There's still the same cycle of nothing, so people that find hope in those situations, man, are truly special people because there's a lot to give up for. That's the easy part, just to give up.

TS: When you go back, do you see kids who remind you of you?

IC: Not really, because we used to play in the streets. They don't do that no more. We used to have a million kids running up and down our block: it's not that kind of world no more. People are scared of their own neighbors now; it's different. We used to have 25 kids playing football, baseball, basketball, whatever, now you see one kid riding his bike and he goes in his house and nobody comes out.




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