Gangsta Rapper Takes Tinsletown by Storm
Newsweek recently gave a respectful notice to The Player's Club, a new film about a black female student putting herself through college by working as a stripper that opened in late April with an $8-million box office, the highest per-screen average of any movie that week. Even more, the magazine's critic enthused about the writer and director of the movie, a young black man, born O'Shea Jackson, who is better known as Ice Cube. A rapper with a new album in the works, the Cube has already made a small name as an actor scowling his way through roles in films like John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood and Higher Learning, as well as the thriller Anaconda, where he disses the monster.
Newsweek sees the 28-year-old Ice Cube as someone who is "becoming a force in Hollywood," an artist who moves easily between film and the rap music where he made his reputation for what the magazine calls "brutal social commentaries." But such a statement is tantamount to praising a white country-western singer whose lyrics obsess on torturing and killing blacks for having a "bittersweet take on race relations." It is, of course, inconceivable to imagine such praise for a white racist artist. But the other side of the coin which bears the image of Ice Cube rings nicely at music stores and at box offices in theaters across the country. Writer and performer of rap songs that glorify drug dealing, murder, misogyny, and violent racism, Ice Cube is seen only as an angry young black man whose talent is a diamond in the rough.
Critics who see the Cube as a noble savage ought to spend a little more time with his lyrics. Starting with his first CD release in 1988, made with fellow rappers in a group called N.W.A. (Niggas with Attitudes), his confrontational tone, particularly against law enforcement, is set. On the famous track, "Fuck tha Police," N.W.A. rappers put the police on trial, and, not surprisingly, wind up with a conviction:
N.W.A. court is in . . . Beat up police . . . scene of the slaughter . . . Ice Cube will swarm on any motherfucker in a blue uniform . . . gonna be a blood bath of cops dying in LA . . . I'm a sniper with a hell of a scope . . . Taking out a cop or two . . . A sucker in a blue uniform waiting to get shot by me or another nigga . . . the jury has found you guilty of being a redneck, white-bred, chickenshit motherfucker. . .
The 1989 N.W.A. release of Straight outta Compton is nearly identical to the 1988 release, except that now the "Fuck tha Police" track is removed. Later Ice Cube CDs call for the killing of law-enforcement officers, and lyrics often single out white male officers.
Violence directed more broadly at whites began in 1990 after Ice Cube broke away from N.W.A., starting with his first solo work called AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. In the title track Ice Cube claims to be a criminal and says:
. . . Ice Cube has got the 4-1-1 . . . Cops ain't shit to me . . . FBI is on my dick. Stay off! . . . I'm wanted by America . . . It's time to take a trip to the suburb. Let them see a nigga invasion. Point-blank on a Caucasian. Cock the hammer and then cracker won't smile. Take me to your house, pal. Got to the house. My pockets got fat, see. Cracked his head. Got the money and the jewelry . . . 'AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted' reports that Ice Cube is the leader of the Lench Mob. Also in the group they have J-Dee, T-Bone. . . It's like a black thing.
Educated blacks who do not help take violence to the whites should be killed, one phrase says on another song. In more recent years Ice Cube's lyrics occasionally suggest that blacks who act too much like whites should be killed.
His violent racism got attention from the media in the fall of 1991 when Death Certificate was released. In it, whites and law enforcement have been joined as targets by Asians and a white Jew who managed N.W.A. However, the threats against Asians and Jews are relatively minor in comparison to repeated acts of verbal violence against whites. "Horny Lil' Devil" is representative of the Cube's take on whiteness:
. . . you are the prince of darkness, arch-enemy, father of evil, hell-born, demonic, savage, fierce, vicious, wild, tameless, barbaric, ungovernable, uncontrollable . . . the Beast . . . Looking at my girlfriend's black skin . . . she don't like white men . . . get your punk devil-ass hurt . . . where I'm from, devils get they ass kicked . . . I wanna kill a devil for talking shit . . . horny little devil, you better listen, before your ass come up missing . . . Trying to fuck me out of my land and my manhood . . . right now you got the upper hand . . . when I'm on top, I won't be fucking you, I'd rather put a buck in you. Because I hate the devil with a passion. And when I see the whites of his eyes, I start blasting. Dig a hole and throw his ass in it. I won't be happy until I'm down to my last ten . . . we'll blow your head off, and turn that white sheet to a red cloth . . . beat the Jap up . . . put his dick on the wood block. Swing. Swing. Swing. And Chop. Chop. Chop . . . I'm gonna get my gun, and put an end to the devil. So get a fucking shovel . . .
By 1991 Ice Cube had become a follower of Nation of Islam, a commitment that was soon reflected strongly in his music. (In return, Louis Farrakhan, in a speech at the Los Angeles Coliseum last summer, said that music had more influence than preachers among young blacks, and praised rap and Ice Cube in particular from the podium.) The pamphlet inserted into the Death Certificate CD, in fact, shows a photograph of the rapper reading a copy of Nation of Islam's weekly newspaper, The Final Call, whose title refers to the final warning God gives in order to get blacks to pledge to Nation of Islam doctrines just before the onset of the bloody Armageddon. In the background of the photograph, posed menacingly behind Ice Cube, stand members of Nation of Islam's security force, the so-called Fruit of Islam.
The only one of his CDs not distributed by the Priority/EMI Group team came out in 1992 when he wrote and produced lyrics for his friends to rap in a new group called Da Lench Mob. Handled by Time Warner under the Elektra label, the raps from Guerillas in tha Mist often refer to Nation of Islam's doctrines, as is shown by "Buck tha Devil":
. . . Buck the devil. Boom. Here comes a tune. Bullets fly by your head. Zoom. Zoom. Zoom. A to the K to the 4 to the 7, little devils don't go to heaven. Last night I shot eleven at the record shop. Most of them dropped when my nine went, pop. Damn. See the fucking cop with the flat-top standing over nigga's face down on the black top. That shit has gotta stop, so I kicked a hip-hop. Popped that devil in his ass and make him flip flop . . . Trying to fuck a black. In fact, I got the 4-1-1 so you can buy a gun. Lench Mob's got the devil on the run . . . Shorty joined the Nation . . . As-Salamu 'alai-kum . . . Whitey can't fake them, and if they try FOI will break them . . . Ice Cube got the motherfucking bomb . . . Da Lench Mob. Down with Farrakhan. Gotta let 'em know the devil is a conniver. The devil hates my skin because I'm an original . . . be sure to put the devil on your shit list. Ya'll can't miss this, a brand new LP, from the L-e-n-c-h M-o-b . . . relying on my voodoo . . . fuck you too and your Red, White, and Blue. Motherfucker, you through. So act like you knew. Shoot you with my .22. I got plenty of crew. I take out white boys, that's scary. Boom. Yah. I'm the nigga that said it, and I'm sorry that I can't regret it. But it's a proven fact that Jack is anti-black. So here's your fucking pay back . . . I'm coming. Bullets humming. Devils running. Niggas gunning. Many done it. Looks stunning . . . Armageddon is a confrontation, that the information is coming from the Nation. So what you gonna do with your crew or your boys? Will you just sell out or bring the noise? Keep your boys 'cause we got big toys with the one-mile scope.
Released late in the year after the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, The Predator CD seethes with a tone of wild empowerment and describes the Riots as righteous acts. The "Wicked" track warns the country: "April 29 was power to the people, and you just might see a sequel." Death threats are issued to the white police officers who participated in the beating of Rodney King, to the jurors who acquitted the officers, and to whites in general. The title track issues forth:
. . . riots ain't nothing but diets for the system. Fighting with the beast, 'no justice, no peace' . . . Niggas are sick of your white man tricks, with no treating us right. Now it's on, on sight. . . Farrakhan for president of white America . . . Put my chrome to your dome, watch it bust like a cantaloupe . . . So who's Ice Cube? I'm a rapper, actor, macker. Got a little problem with the redneck cracker. . .
Printed on the CD pamphlet is the following caveat: "Ice Cube wishes to acknowledge white America's continued commitment to the silence and oppression of black men . . . White America needs to thank black people for still talkin' to them 'cause you know what happens when we stop . . ."
The major music companies continued spreading the rapper's sentiments around with 1993 and 1994 CDs. The track "Enemy" on the Lethal Injection CD begins with an introduction by the hydrophobic Khallid Muhammad, anti-Semite-in-chief of Nation of Islam:
Every January 16, it's the Dreamer . . . What did he dream? That little black boys and little white girls would one day hold hands together, shit . . . They little black hands are yours. They can't hold your black brothers' hands. But you gonna go hold some crackers' hands before you hold each other's hands. You gonna walk with your enemy before you learn to walk with one another? How sick can you be? . . .
At this point, Ice Cube continues:
. . . bust a Glock. Devils get shot . . . Buck the devil . . . After 1995 not one dev' will be alive . . . Ku Klux Klan, scared of me nutty beats, 'cause them nutty beats equal them bloody sheets . . . me know Elijah . . . I know that Farrakhan is your baby, Jesus. Devil, don't you know I'm a soldier, in God's name . . . You don't care if me die from the cracker . . . You don't care because you're nothing but a cracker. Now it's Judgment Day. Allah will never play. 'Freedom Got an AK,' them guerrillas say . . . When God give the word me herd like the buffalo, through your neighborhood. Watch me blast, drive up your past, getting that ass. You should've took heed of my word and became a friend of me. Now you're just the enemy . . . Now I change my style up . . . Bodies pile up . . . I'm killing more crackers than Bosnia-Herzegovina, each and every day, out a six-straight Chevrolet, with the heavy A to the motherfucking K. . . don't bust 'till you see the whites of his eyes, the whites of his skin, the whites of his lies . . . Putting in work for Master Farad Muhammad . . . 1995, Elijah is alive, Louis Farrakhan, NOI, Bloods and CRIPS and little old me, and we all getting ready for the enemy . . .
Writing most of the tracks on Da Lench Mob's second CD, Planet of da Apes, Ice Cube packs in phrases that glorify the killing of whites. "Goin' Bananas" is a good example:
. . . We're having thoughts of overthrowing the government . . . the brothers and sisters threw their fists in the air . . . It's open season on crackers, you know. The morgue will be full of Caucasian John Doe's . . . smoking skinheads until they're all dead . . . Ring the alarms. You motherfuckers been warned. And I won't fail, I make the Riot shit look like a fairy tale . . . I remember the time when you were white, you were right, and when you were black . . . you stayed back . . . The KKK is my motherfucking prey. I'm hunting them down with wicked AK . . . gang a cracker for his bank . . . down with the FOI . . . Oh my god, Allah, have mercy. I'm killing them devils because they're not worthy to walk the earth with the original black man. They must be forgetting. It's time for Armageddon, and I won't rest until they're all dead . . .
The last track on the CD gives Nation of Islam's "Final Call":
Pinky dead again . . . The devil got his. Fuck that. I want mines. The system was designed for pinky to live fine . . . It's time to regulate, and set the shit straight . . . it's time to warrior . . . Fuck them laws, 'cause the Mob is coming raw. Nigga, is you down 'cause it's the Final Call. The media is only good for bluffing, and the government is only good for straight fucking. Grab your gat. Know the three will start busting. I'm trying to take them down, that these devils ain't nothing . . . The war of wars with no fucking scores. And after this there won't be no more. April 29 was a chance to realize . . . the g.'s are out to kill . . . Nigga, is you down 'cause it's the Final Call . . . For 400 years we've been played like a trump, with no respect, held by the fucking neck. But you thought we was gonna let it ride. Now here's the payback, the shit from way back. Changing the course, with no fucking remorse . . . we got crackers to kill. Sending them back in on a ship to Europe . . . They deserve it . . . A nation-wide riot across America . . . Fuck them laws, 'cause my mind is coming raw. Nigga, is you down, 'cause it's the Final Call . . . This is the Final Call, on black man and black woman, rich and poor. Rise up . . . come together for this black mastery.
The 1994 solo work, Bootlegs & B-Sides, does not let up on the need to kill whites. In addition, Ice Cube proclaims the belief in black supremacy that is commonly held by Nation of Islam followers: ". . . not only mentally but physically the black man rules."
1994 was not only the year of two more violently racist CDs, but was also the year that Ice Cube hit Hollywood, taking a role as the defender of black grievances in director John Singleton's Higher Learning. Two years after meeting Singleton at a rally for Louis Farrakhan, Ice Cube got his first movie role in 1991 in the director's Boyz N the Hood, in which the rapper plays a former inmate who kills to avenge the murder of his brother. A year later he played a murdering drug dealer in Trespass. More recently he has played the good guy: the neighborhood protector (Friday; 1995), the victim of a sheriff's department full of racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic white male officers (The Glass Shield; 1995), the victim of South African police and the victor over armed skinheads (Dangerous Ground; 1997), and the monster-killing hero in Anaconda.
There are, of course, some ironies in his film persona, particularly when he is shown working with the whites his rap music despises. Higher Learning, for instance, is a film in which actors who pretend to be white supremacists are vilified, while Ice Cube, who actually espouses black supremacy, plays a character who escapes censure. Although Ice Cube's character initiates violence, he does so in response to specific racist acts perpetrated by whites. Away from the movie set, Ice Cube raps the slogan "no justice-no peace." Director Singleton promotes the "no peace" part of the chant as not only a warning of civil disobedience but also as a threat of riots.
The only other common target besides whites in Ice Cube's music are rival rappers or black drug dealers. In some songs Ice Cube threatens drug dealers or gang members because he views them as a detriment to predominantly black communities, but in other songs the same types are either blandly described or outright glorified and praised. Demeaning references to women are common. In "You Can't Fade Me" Ice Cube raps that he is thinking about shooting a woman in the head who tried to trap him falsely into paying child support. In "Cave Bitch" white women are degraded and he suggests that blacks should kidnap white women and hold them for ransom.
Demeaning synonyms for female are used to characterize men, as are derogatory synonyms for homosexual. Homosexuals, although rarely pointed at by the rapper, are threatened in "Enemy" and in a few lines of "You & Your Heroes," a song that claims black entertainers and athletes are superior to white ones; however, in both songs being white overrides being homosexual as the justification for hatred.
Even though in some CDs Ice Cube bluntly asks blacks to avoid always blaming someone else for problems they face, in other lines he undermines the self-help messages by passing onto whites some of the ultimate responsibility. Ice Cube emphasizes in his lyrics that killing law-enforcement officers is justified because officers disrespect, brutalize, and kill blacks. Excerpted from an interview and put onto the "Fuck 'Em" track of the Predator CD, Ice Cube says: "The things they done to us in the past are still affecting us now, mentally." His songs suggest that whites spread AIDS, crack cocaine, and guns through predominantly black neighborhoods, and then, after luring blacks into crime, imprison them with sentences harsher than those handed down to white criminals.
The largest video television channel in the world, MTV, spotlighted Ice Cube in videos throughout the 1990s, and even put him on the show to talk as a "role model" to millions of young people. Parents might be disturbed by a 1994 track of his rap propaganda called "Trapped":
. . . you motherfucking crackers know me. Your kids buy my shit . . . I got game on top of game. The kid is mesmerized by the Lench Mob fame . . . I smoke him, choke him . . . I see the white kids running . . . I'm the nigga, called the brothers. Stop the black-on-black. It's time for the kidnap . . . Being a black man . . . in his white land . . . Motivate. Motivate. Motivate. The kids are talking. Now they want to do them drive-by's. That's right . . . It's too late. Your little child is trapped. White boys . . . love them hot. You come to the ghetto, you come to get mopped . . . we might tell you to kill your fucking family . . .
One might wonder about the fate of popular culture in America when a figure like Ice Cube is not only not censured, but given an ever-widening platform to spread his hateful ideas. Yet this is what has happened as he has moved out of the ghetto of rap and into films first as a star and now as a director courtesy of New Line Cinema, a Time Warner subsidiary, which recently gave him over $5 million to make The Player's Club. He is doing so well in the industry that one can imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when the Cube stands up on stage smoldering at the audience at an Academy Awards ceremony. ". . . and I'd like to thank my main man, Louis Farrakhan and my brothers who are ready to cap the white devils . . ."