Cube Meets Dre After "Friday"

Rapper to head into the studio after film's release

Craig and Day Day, the ne'er do well protagonists of the Friday franchise, return this week in Friday After Next, the third entry in the series. This time out, the Ice Cube-penned characters usher in Christmas in the hood, as Craig (Cube) wakes up in the wee hours of Christmas Eve to find a thieving Santa Claus rooting through the residence he shares with Day Day (Mike Epps).

Among the crook's loot is the duo's rent money, forcing them to take jobs as strip-mall security guards. The rest is ninety minutes of the sort of humor that made a left-field success out of the original film. Ice Cube says that he got the itch to write shortly after his appearance in Boyz in tha Hood.

"I got a lot of scripts," he says, "none of them as good as [Boyz], of course. I was telling John Singleton my frustration, that it doesn't look like I'm ever gonna be in a movie again, because these scripts are weak. And he said, 'Write your own. You can write a record, you can write a movie. Look at some scripts, you can write that. Just see what the formula is and if you need some help come on by.' I went over a couple of times and he showed me some tricks of the trade, and from there I was just doing it myself. Friday was the third script I wrote, and it was the one that got made and launched."

Friday, which like its sequels was co-written with D.J. Pooh, was directed by F. Gary Gray and released in 1995. Next Friday (directed by Steve Carr) rolled into theaters two years later, and though only two years passed between the second and third Friday films, the latest entry was hatched with as much care as its predecessors, right down to the selection of director Marcus Raboy, with whom Cube first worked a decade ago on his "Guerillas in the Mist" video.

"There's always reservations," Cube says of the decision to return to the series. "You don't wanna mess up what you've done. It's like Jordan coming back: You're scared to mess up the legacy. But we're in this entertainment business really to give the audience what they want. People come up to me all the time, asking, 'When's the next one, when's the next one, when's the next one?' So we made an effort to see if there can be a next one, because we don't wanna do it for the wrong reasons just because we can make a lot of money or all those things that the movie companies love to promote. We just wanna do good movies."

And the Christmas holiday provided the perfect vessel for keeping Friday fresh. "With a movie like Friday, it's straight for laughs," Cube says. "I don't have no social commentary in there whatsoever. If you got a tie on, loosen it up. We take things that you would normally cry about, and laugh about 'em. We take the stuff in the neighborhood that you would normally be pissed off about, like somebody breaking into your house on Christmas and stealing all your stuff."

Friday After Next falls in the middle of a busy Hollywood stint for Cube. Earlier this year, he starred in The Barbershop, and he also shot Torque, in which he plays the vengeful leader of a biker gang, due next spring. "Joseph Kahn the director, he's dope," he says. "The way he's shooting it is kind of like Japanese animation, reality in that style. I wanted to do a big action movie after doing Barbershop and Friday."

In other Ice Cube news, he'll step out of his cinematic shoes and back into those of his initial creative outlet next month. Cube will enter the studio with Dr. Dre to record his seventh album and the follow-up to 2000's War and Peace, Vol. 2 (The Peace Album). That record teased at a reunion between Cube and Dre with its opening track, "Hello," which featured the two former N.W.A members and fellow alum MC Ren. And with the release of the career-spanning Greatest Hits last year, Cube's reached the end of his contract with Priority Records, and his next record will be released on Dre's Aftermath.

Though N.W.A, without the late Eazy-E, enjoyed a brief reunion on the Up in Smoke Tour in 2000, the initial recordings made while on tour have yet to coalesce into what was tentatively titled the "Not These Niggaz Again" album.

"I'm just an entertainer, man," Cube says of his dual pursuits. "I don't like to pigeonhole myself to anything. I love to do it all. Right now I'm working on movies, next month movies are gonna be forgotten about. [But] I wanna keep doing music as long as it's interesting to me. Working with Dr. Dre just excites me to the fullest, because my next record could be the best one. That got me turned all the way on . . . rap music is my love."