When Bill Maher casually used the N-word on his live HBO show Real Time last week during an interview with Republican Senator Ben Sasse, Ice Cube was taken aback. "He knows that's a bad word to a lot of people," he tells Rolling Stone. "Now, the question is: Why did he think he could be that comfortable with saying that? What makes you think you can say that? Why did you think you could get away with that?"
On last Friday's episode, Sasse invited Maher to "work in the fields" with him in his state of Nebraska. "Work in the fields?" the host responded. "Senator, I'm a house nigger." He put out his hands and said, "It's a joke," drawing both derision and cheers from the audience. HBO censored the remark when it was rebroadcast that night and issued a statement calling the slur "inexcusable and tasteless." Maher apologized for the slur the next day.
Cube was booked to appear on Real Time prior to Maher's comment to promote his upcoming Death Certificate reissue, which contains three new songs. But while Democratic Senator Al Franken chose to cancel his appearance in the wake of the controversy, Cube still wants to go on the show this Friday.
Asked how he would have reacted were he on the episode where Maher used the slur – Killer Mike had claimed he would have punched the host – Cube said he didn't want to be hypothetical. "You'll see me on there Friday, and I'll say what I gotta say," he offers.
In his opinion, the conversation surrounding the episode hasn't been productive. "People are trying to go into this like, 'What is it, why is it, how does it happen? Why is this still offensive? Should we use it, shouldn't we use it?' – this, that, and the other," he says. "And it becomes like a facade of a lot of bullshit. Everybody knows, because of white supremacy, black people got it bad. And it's just not funny, the bully mentality.
"It's just not funny to diss at least the ones who got it fucked up," he continues. "And it's like rich, white guys are the reason why black people are in the position they're in. You're supposed to be a champion, or you're supposed to be a liberal, but racism lives in both parties. It does. So let's throw away the facade and the bullshit. Let's be real."
It's a problem, he says, that extends well beyond Maher. "I see cartoons that are way more offensive – Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and all that shit," Cube offers. "Everybody feels like they can make a joke and cross that line. You can make a joke about everything, but everything ain't funny.
"And he wants to talk about 'house niggas,' like they had it so much better?" he continues with a laugh. "It's like, please. It wasn't a cakewalk for a so-called 'house nigga,' either, unless you like being raped. Sometimes, you gotta know when to shut up. Check yourself before you wreck yourself."
Cube also spoke with Rolling Stone about the album for an interview that will publish later this week.