There’s something about rappers that draws them to the silver screen. Maybe it’s their ability to over-perform or their knack for delivering one-liners. In the past ten years, many hip-hop stars have made the move from rapping to acting, with varied degrees of success. LL Cool J’s done it (Halloween H20, NCIS) and who can forget Ice T’s eye roll-inducing one-liners on Law & Order? But former N.W.A rapper Ice Cube (Friday, Boyz N the Hood, Three Kings) has mastered the transition with a certain degree of believability. Now, the 43-year-old rapper is delving back into comedy in the role of police Captain Dickson in a remake of ’80s cop show 21 Jump Street, now available on DVD. Here, we chat to Mr Cube about the move.
Who approached you about doing 21 Jump Street?
Neal Moritz, the producer. He was like, ‘Yo, we got a script that Jonah [Hill] is into, called 21 Jump Street. There’s a role in there that’s perfect for you.’ So I checked it out and he was right. This is a character you’ve seen a thousand times in a thousand movies, but you’re always interested in how the actor’s gonna do the mad captain, yelling at his officers. I just wanted to take it and flip it and be able to do it R-rated.
But mainstreaming was always what you had in mind?
The thing is with hip-hop, it has its waves and the waves crash against the beach and the new waves come in. To stay relevant you have to roll with that. Early in my career, people wanted to hear music about protest, about trying to change things. But during the Clinton years that attitude kind of shifted to, ‘Let’s relax a little bit, enjoy our struggle’. So you gotta go with the times.
On TV and in film, you’ve shifted toward a family-friendly sensibility.
Even in N.W.A we used to watch stuff like E.T. I used to love Home Alone, you know what I mean? If I just did hard stuff, that’s not keeping it real to me, and I’m all about being real. Hard stuff is real, the funny stuff is real, the kids’ stuff is real. Society says, ‘Cube was in N.W.A and now he’s doing Are We There Yet? ’ And it’s like, come on, man. I was changing diapers when I was going to the studio doing some of those records with my own kids.
Which of your films are you most proud of?
Friday. It was my first crack at producing and it was the first script I ever got made into a movie. [Friday has] become this thing that a lot of modern movies steal from. I remember I saw There’s Something About Mary. I was like, ‘That’s a white Friday movie! [Laughs] That’s a white Friday movie.’
21 Jump Street, from Dhs91, available at www.amazon.com.