Last year, as people stormed the streets of Charlottesville with tiki torches as a symbol of white pride, Ice Cube didn’t flinch. “It was a weak attempt to scare people,” he says. “It’s just a very weak attempt to make people feel like something was about to happen, or that this movement was out there ready to take over. It just reminded me of some Nazi, Ku Klux Klan stuff, so I wasn’t feeling it. I wanted to take their tiki torches and … you know what with them.”
The ever-outspoken rapper, actor and producer wrote about his contempt for the alt-right on “Chase Down the Bully,” a foot-stomping, funky call to arms on his new album, Everythang’s Corrupt. “I just hate bullies, man,” the 49-year-old says in a tone that lets you know he’s had it. “It’s time for the good people to take over. We’re not running from nothing. Bring it on.” It’s one of many current events he addresses on the long-in-the-works LP, which also includes tracks like “Arrest the President,” “Good Cop, Bad Cop” and, of course, “Everythang’s Corrupt” — a track he released in 2012 with a video that skewered then-presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
“I think people would beg for Mitt Romney right now to be the Republican president over Donald Trump,” Cube says. “If we had to go Republican, I think they would want somebody who’s not so selfish.”
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Although the album isn’t entirely political — lead single “That New Funkadelic” is his bid at George Clinton’s throne and “Ain’t Got No Haters” is a reunion with “It Was a Good Day” producer DJ Pooh and his pal Too $hort — Cube doesn’t hold back. And even though a lot has changed in the political climate since he conceived the title, Everythang’s Corrupt, he tells Rolling Stone it resonates even stronger with him today when he thinks about what’s going on in the world at large. “I know there’s controversy on the record, but remember everybody is talked about on the record,” he says. “Nobody’s exempt on the Ice Cube record, ’cause I think we all pencils that need to be sharpened every now and then.”
Why do you think the alt-right feels emboldened to do things like hold marches?
I guess it’s the Internet. When you sit behind your little computer, you can be anything you want to be. But then you realize when you’re just sitting behind a computer spewing venom, you’re a coward. So that starts to eat at you and you feel like, “I got to do something to show that I’m just not a coward in the shadows with these views, but I’m bold enough to step out in front of the public with it.” And these people feel empowered by the tailwinds of the president’s attitude. So they come out and they show they ugly face.
It seems like the media has been paying more attention to the alt-right, too. And maybe they shouldn’t so much because it just gives them a platform.
Well, you can’t ignore cockroaches, you know what I’m saying? [Laughs] You got to do something about it or it’s going to just crawl in the corner and more are going to come out. Now that’s just an analogy, but at the end of the day, when people are totally against what you believe in, there’s no way you can see eye to eye. They want us to go backwards and we’re not going back.
Another thing you addressed in “Chase Down the Bully” is Trump’s border wall. What do you make of that?
It’s dumb. It’s a waste of money. It’s kind of pathetic. It’s sad when you got to put up a fence around your house. Some people feel like they need it, but all you’re really doing is closing yourself off to the world. Walls, all they do is build division. [Pauses]. I don’t think he’s going to get it. He’s running out of time to get that done. A year from now, he’s going to feel like a lame duck.
You went hard on Trump on “Arrest the President,” saying he’s “Russian intelligence” and treats the White House like a trap house. What was the tipping point that made you feel like you had to write that song?
I wrote it after the summer. It just fit the mood and the feel of Everythang’s Corrupt, and [corruption] starts at the top. I’m not saying it wasn’t corruption before President Trump got there, but people are going to jail. People getting indicted. Don’t tell me that it’s a “witch hunt”; that’s just not true. So something ain’t right. And that ain’t me hating. That’s just me observing.
“When you’re just sitting behind a computer spewing venom, you’re a coward.”
Do you think Trump will be locked up?
I don’t think the president is going to jail. I just don’t think the country can stomach that embarrassment. There’s going to be some provision or something nobody knew about that they pull out they ass that says we can’t lock him up. But all these other people getting locked up, and that’s just a shame. The buck stops with the president. And I’m not hating on the man. I just don’t think he’s president material. It’s very embarrassing. He’s violating the country in a lot of ways. Every day it’s something. It’s just every day.
Kanye West sat down with Trump in the Oval Office this year. What would you say to Trump if you had that chance?
I don’t think I would. Why should I do him a favor and tell him what’s wrong? He probably already know. He probably don’t care, so it’s a waste of my time.
What do you make of Kanye’s support of Trump?
It’s a free country. To me, it’s misguided, but it’s a free country. Sometimes you got to let people have their political views. I don’t know if you should measure yourself on being friends or not friends with people who’ve got different political views than you. I think that’s a little childish. Somebody don’t believe the way you believe, he ain’t my friend. Come on. I feel like [with Kanye] It’s misguided support, but to each his own. I ain’t hating on nobody or mad at nobody. I don’t understand it, and I’m not feeling it.
Everybody’s got an uncle they don’t agree with.
You can’t throw him away just because you don’t agree with him. That ain’t cool. That ain’t how it work.
What inspired the song “Bad Dope” on the record?
Just seeing so many people getting on pills and seeing people on all these super hard drugs from crack to meth. I’m like, these drugs are fucking you up, and I’m saying, “Yo, I could compare myself to that and people will understand what I’m talking about,” like I’m a bad drug about to fuck you up. So I approached the song like it was a bad trip, like you got a bad batch of dope and it’s fucking you up and the song sounds fucked up.
Something about that song and the one after it, “On Them Pills,” also got me thinking about what Dave Chappelle said about the opioid epidemic, too. He said the White House is treating opioids differently than the Reagan Administration did with the crack epidemic was because of race.
That’s probably true. I don’t doubt it. We can’t be shocked when white people are treated better than black people in America. We can’t be like, “Oh, what’s this about? Wonder what’s going on behind this? Hmm?” It’s like, come on, y’all. Stop bullshitting. We know why it’s like that. We already know the diagnosis, let’s cure the disease. We know it’s there. And nobody wants to do that part.
“A year from now, [Trump’s] going to feel like a lame duck.”
Even if you think everything is corrupt, you still want to fix it.
Yeah, and the first thing is to recognize your house is dirty, and you’re like, “I better clean up, or I’m gonna be a hoarder.” [Laughs]. I gotta recognize that shit is getting out of hand. It’s just gonna get more out of hand. So hopefully [the record] is shaking people and waking them up, saying, “Hey, hey, hey, this ain’t how it’s supposed to go. Let’s go figure this out.”
Since you’ve been working on this album since at least 2012, how did it change over the years?
I got a lot of records that didn’t make it for whatever reason. Some of them were dated. Some records stood the test of time. It was a process of finding the time and really saying, “Yo, this is my time to work on the record,” and then letting myself become inspired. You got to hold your water a little bit until these concepts and lyrics organically come to you, and then you go to work. So I had to pick up the record and put it down because of Straight Outta Compton, the movie, and because of [the rapper’s basketball organization] the Big3. I didn’t want to cheat the record. At the end of the day, these are the records to me that represents Everythang’s Corrupt. I probably still have great records that I didn’t put on here, but those records don’t represent the concept of the album.
Did you try to challenge yourself or try anything different on this one?
I wanted it to be in my wheelhouse. The only thing I did that was very experimental is “That New Funkadelic.” That’s me trying to recreate what Funkadelic was to me. It was experimental, but it was very fun.
How did that come together?
We started the track from scratch. My man, T-Mix, made the music. There’s no samples in there. To me, it’s just a perfect remake of what that was, but up to date for now and talking about the West Coast, because P-Funk went to G-Funk, and that whole marriage is already great and welcomed.
Have you sent it to George Clinton yet?
He loved it. He just sent me a video of him listening to it, going off, talking shit and just loving the song, that we got the DNA. That’s all I wanted to hear. That’s all I needed to hear.
Rap has changed a lot since 2010, when you put out your last album, I Am the West. Did you concern yourself much with what had been going on?
No, because I think that that was the issue with I Am the West: I was trying to be super experimental, and that’s good to a certain extent. On this record, I wasn’t worried about nothing else but Ice Cube fans and to give them exactly what they expect from me. I approached the record with the thought that I’m going to just do records that I know I can do great. It might not be the ones they play on the radio, but it’s the ones my fans are going to love.
Now that the record is out, what are you working on next?
I’m trying to buy 22 regional sports networks. That’s all my head is about. I believe that some of the gatekeepers that’s been holding the reins in sports over us for so long need to go. It’s time for some new blood to produce and present sports and culture, not only to America but the world. It’s time for new people that think in a new and different way have some control over what we see and what we get because the way the [regional sports networks] are being run now is pretty dismal. I think the sports world should hope that we get it.
What do you want to do differently with them?
Just add some life to it. We don’t wanna give away the secret sauce, but we have a plan that’s 10 times better than any plan that’s out there. ‘Cause nobody sees this and the growth potential like us, period. Nobody.
“It’s very embarrassing. I feel like [Trump’s] violating the country in a lot of ways.”
How’s the new Friday movie coming along?
It moves fast and then it slows down for business reasons, but we gonna get there. This is something I’m dedicated to making sure it happens, because the fans want it so much. So as entertainers, it’s your job to at least give the people what they want sometimes.
I read that you had asked Chris Tucker to be in it but you haven’t heard back yet.
Me and Chris, we hit each other all the time. We see each other every now and then. We very cool with each other. It’s still that everybody gotta do what’s right for them in their career. So when it’s time to shoot the movie, I hope he’s ready.
Is DJ Pooh, who co-wrote the original Friday, helping out with this one?
Yeah, he’s helping me write it. We just got the Celebrity Deathmatch show, too, so I’m definitely having him help me with that. He’s a super creative dude. He’s a genius. Just underrated.
He produced “Ain’t Got No Haters” on the new album, too.
With him, we can work through telepathy and it’ll come out dope. He produced “It Was a Good Day.” When we got our heads in the right place, good stuff happens.
This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Straight Outta Compton album. What strikes you about it when you listen to it now?
We listened to it a lot when we were producing the movie, and it holds up. I still don’t like “Something 2 Dance 2”; I still wish that record never saw the light of day. And I wish we would’ve used the original “Dopeman” and not the remix on the record. I still have the same things I would do to make it better than what it is, even though I think it’s a pretty perfect record. So I still love it. The first three tracks … the first four tracks, you just done. You gotta be hooked.
Getting back to Everythang’s Corrupt and how bleak some of it is, where do you find hope these days?
In the spirit of good people. I still think there’s way more good people in the world than bad people. The good people just care if they get in trouble. The bad people don’t. There’s so many good people, we’d be crazy to let these few evil, Omen, Damien kind of geniuses walk around and blow us all up.