By Rahul Lal
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ice Cube was the guest on the latest episode of Play.It’s Drink Champs podcast, hosted by hip-hop legend N.O.R.E. and his co-host DJ EFN, to talk about everything from N.W.A. to his film career.
As many N.W.A. fans know, the group’s leader, Eazy-E, originally wanted to be on the business side of things, and not on the mic. “Eazy wanted to be a manager, he just wanted to manage the groups,” Cube recalled. “He didn’t want to rap. New York was so hot and L.A. was so cold, he was like, ‘I want a New York group.’ He found these dudes out of New York called Homeboys Only and said ‘Cube, write one of them hood raps for these dudes’ and I did it. I wrote it and gave it to them and they was like ‘Man, what are you talking about? Six-four? Jackin’? We don’t know what you’re talking about, man. This ain’t got nothing to do with where we from.’ So, I think it was just the fact that the rhymes was so L.A. they just was like, ‘No.’”
The group’s manager, of course, was the late Jerry Heller. Cube and the other members of N.W.A. have long alleged that he ripped them off, and that’s how the story was portrayed in the biopic Straight Outta Compton, which was exec produced by Cube and Dr. Dre.
While Cube admitted that Heller took a risk to sign them when nobody else would, he also noticed some of the shady business going on outside of the spotlight; N.W.A. publicist Pat Charbonnet informed him of Heller’s past financial scandals.
“She knew his history,” he said. “I don’t know what he was known for but she gave me the game and I was like, ‘This is a dude I got to watch.’ I don’t really know her too good and if she’s saying to watch him, I’m watching everybody and that’s how I started to just notice things weren’t happening. I was young, we was all young and we were just happy to be doing a record, happy to be on tour, happy to be part of hip-hop and not just locals anymore. I would listen to that lady and she was giving me a lot of good game and I was using it and I was helping them too.”
Each member of the group was only offered a $75,000 contract, which seemed large given their respective financial backgrounds, but Cube knew that he was worth more than that.
“They clowned me when I didn’t sign that contract,” he said. “I knew they owed me more. I knew if I took that, then I was accepting that I wasn’t paid more, that this was cool and I was like, ‘This ain’t cool.’ When you ain’t never had nothing and you start getting a little and start seeing people get a lot, then you start saying ‘Hold on, I’m putting in more work than anybody or most of the people,’ and it just threw up a red flag. Where I’m from and you know somebody is beating you and you accept it, you just a bitch, period.”
After leaving N.W.A. he started his solo career and soon began working in movies as well, starring in John Singleton’s Boyz in the Hood in 1991. Eventually, Cube was encouraged by Singleton to write his own movie; he soon wrote the script for Friday.
“I was over at his crib and he was like ‘Yo Cube, when are you going to write a movie?’ I was just like ‘What? John, I came over here to have a beer not get put to work,’ he recalled. “I asked him ‘What makes you think I can do it?’ He said ‘Them records you write. They’re so vivid, I know you can write a movie.’ That night, I went to the computer store and bought a computer and got the programs you needed, that was back when you had load all the programs into the computer, and I started writing the script that night. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just started. The first two scripts I wrote were wack—garbage—but the third one was Friday and seeing that get made, I kinda knew what I was doing, and just kept going from there.”
Listen to the full interview with Ice Cube below.