Ice Cube– O’Shea Jackson (now senior) — was a pioneer in hip hop. He’s a producer of “Straight Outta Compton,” a movie I believe must be nominated for Best Picture by the Academy Awards. (Globes missed this one.)
SAG has nominated the film for Best Ensemble, so there was a lunchtime celebration on Wednesday at the Chevalier restaurant on West 53rd St. Ice Cube, his actor son O’Shea Jr., and “Compton” director F. Gary Gray were all present, as were a few celebs like Cuba Gooding Jr. and Gayle King, among others.
I asked Ice Cube what he thought of hip hop today. He answered first, with a laugh: “It’s airight.” And that got a laugh. But then he said more seriously:
“To me hip hop started its downward spiral around 1993. To me it’s all about escapism rap now. Cars, and jewelry and women. That’s the topic. It used to be the topic was about how to make the world a better place, and how to understand the world around us. Now it’s just all about fantasy, clubs and cars, excess. It has no substance.”
Who does he like?
“I love the Roots still. Kendrick (Lamar) is dope. J Cole. They have a point of view other than saying We’re going to party tonight.”
Willie Geist, moderating a panel (and doing a pretty good rap imitation himself) cut in: “Tell us the truth. Who sucks the most?”
Gray, by the way, told me one of his secrets of making that unique ensemble cast come together: before they shot the movie, he had them record a version of the “Straight outta Compton” album. The whole cast. And some days he– Gray– didn’t bother showing up, so the cast formed ties to each other in their “frustration” with him. Interesting directors’ trick– and it worked beautifully.