PETER SAGAL, HOST:
The rapper, writer and actor Ice Cube joined us in January to talk about his autobiographical movie "Straight Outta Compton,” in which he, Ice Cube, is played his own son. But I started off by asking him about his nickname.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
ICE CUBE: I got the name from my brother. You know, my brother is - he's about nine years older than me. But when I came into puberty...
ICE CUBE: ...You know, I used to try and mack (ph) his girlfriends down because he was never at home.
ICE CUBE: They would always call. So I'd try to, you know, put my mack down. He was like man, you know what? I'm going to pack you in the refrigerator. No, I'm going to slam you in the freezer. You know what I mean? And mama's going to find you in the freezer. And then they're going to just pull you out like an ice cube, you know what I'm saying? So I'm like well, OK. So when I went outside that day, I was like man, don't call me nothing. My name's Ice Cube. Just - I'm that cool, just call me Ice Cube. And it just stuck since I was about 12 years old.
SAGAL: So one of the things that I was amazed to find out watching the film is that obviously, you know, you guys, N.W.A., you're associated with the creation of gangsta rap - very tough, very, very street, as they say. But was that your background?
ICE CUBE: Yeah, I grew up right in the hood, man, right there. It's in the middle of South Central LA. And I got bused to a white school that's in Woodland Hills.
SAGAL: Was that weird? Did you enjoy it?
ICE CUBE: I liked it because I was being bused with a lot of my homies. So we was, like, all going out there, and then it was a lot of different neighborhoods. So it was, like, buses from all these different neighborhoods all converging on this white school. And it was kind of cool because we had a chance to see different things, different people, have different conversations, hear different music and just get a chance to see that the world was bigger than Compton, South Central or, you know, whatever. You know, so we had a chance to really kind of open our horizons...
ICE CUBE: ...Getting on that bus.
SAGAL: And all of your songs, especially in the early days, were all about life in the streets in South Central. Did you ever think about writing about life in the streets of Woodland Hills, like, not getting a date to the prom, that sort of thing?
ICE CUBE: No. You know, it was like - there was already corny groups doing stuff about - (laughter) - about life in the suburbs.
ICE CUBE: You know - so, you know, we was trying to make sense of our life in the hood.
ICE CUBE: You know, it was crazy, you know, the police was crazy, gang-banging was crazy. And then here comes hip-hop. It was like a way to express yourself. So we were just trying to make sense of everything that we were living through.
SAGAL: Now, that is very clear in the film. And I can ask you about this film all day. But the one thing that I'm amazed at is in the film, you, Ice Cube, are played by your own son...
ICE CUBE: Yeah.
SAGAL: ...Which is - A, he's brilliant. I mean, it was a great performance...
ICE CUBE: Thank you.
SAGAL: ...B, he looks like you, which is weird.
ICE CUBE: Yep.
ICE CUBE: He is mine.
SAGAL: Yeah, well, that's very clear. You have nothing to worry about, sir. He's obviously your son.
ICE CUBE: Yep.
SAGAL: How weird was it for you? You were a producer on the film. You are, like, let's take that hotel party, which is the most amazing rock 'n' roll hotel party scene I've ever seen, and you're saying to your son OK, this is what I did then.
ICE CUBE: Yeah.
SAGAL: Was that ever weird?
ICE CUBE: No. I was like man, grab them [expletive].
ICE CUBE: Come on, son, make me proud.
SAGAL: I mean, you were fine with it. Did your son ever go, like, dad, you did not really do that? And you're like yes, I did.
ICE CUBE: The only thing he asked me that he was shocked...
ICE CUBE: ...He said why did y'all take some many guns on tour?
ROY BLOUNT JR.: Ah...
ICE CUBE: You know, that's all he wanted to know - why did we take so many guns on tour? Because - I said we came from a gang-bang-infested neighborhood. And then they was talking about - yeah, I mean, you've got a show in Alabama, man, you've got a show in Tennessee. And we were like yo, we need to take guns, man. We don't know what's going on out there.
SAGAL: The movie is amazing. I recommend it. But I want to ask you about what you're doing now because you have made a transition quite successfully. You've been an actor in so many films. When you were a kid living on the streets of South Central, getting into rap, getting into that whole thing, did you say to your friends someday, man, I'm going to get out of here, and I'm going to do a cameo on "Sesame Street" with Elmo himself?
ICE CUBE: No.
SAGAL: Well, Ice Cube, it is a pleasure to talk to you. But we have asked you here today to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: It Was A Very Bad Day.
ICE CUBE: (Laughter).
SAGAL: So one of your biggest hits...
ICE CUBE: All right.
SAGAL: ...If not your biggest is a song called "It Was A Good Day." So we thought we'd ask you three questions about people who had a very bad day. Answer two of them correctly you'll win our prize - Carl Kasell's voice dropping some sick rhymes on a listener's voicemail. Bill, who is Ice Cube playing for?
KURTIS: Madison Webber from Tulsa, Okla.
SAGAL: All right, you ready to do this?
ICE CUBE: Let's do it.
SAGAL: All right, Cube - just a couple of weeks ago, a Virginia prisoner thought he was having a good day when his wife finally came to visit him in jail. Turned out it was a bad day - why? A, first thing his wife said to him in front of the guards was good news, honey, they haven't found the money you gave me to hide...
AMY DICKINSON: (Laughter).
SAGAL: ...B, his other wife came to visit him at the same time, or C, he called her by the wrong name and she broke a chair over his head.
ICE CUBE: I think it's B.
SAGAL: You are right, sir...
ICE CUBE: The other woman came...
SAGAL: You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
ICE CUBE: ...To visit him at the same time.
SAGAL: There's a lesson for all of us - stagger their visits.
SAGAL: All right, that's very good. In 2009, a writer for the London Telegraph newspaper described her bad day in an article headlined what? Is it A, Nudity And Jellyfish Don't Mix, B, My Eyes Were Bigger Than My Kidneys, or C, If They Didn't Want Me To Run Into Buckingham Palace, They Should Have Given The Guards Real Hats.
ICE CUBE: Hmmm, I'm going to say C...
SAGAL: You're going to say C.
ICE CUBE: ...Because, you know, that right there sounds wild. I like that one.
SAGAL: I like that, too. It would be cool, and seriously, those guys' hats are ridiculous. They're not real guards. But actually...
ICE CUBE: Yeah, that's real.
SAGAL: But actually - it was A, actually - Nudity And Jellyfish Don't Mix. It's an account of going skinny-dipping, as she likes to do, in jellyfish-infested waters. It did not work out. However, it could work out for you, Cube, because you have one more question. Here we go. In May of last year, a driver in Florida drove his truck into a fire hydrant. That would be a bad day all by itself, but then what happened? A, the water sprayed all over his shipment of cotton candy, causing him $30,000 in losses, the fire hydrant was in front of Tiger Woods' ex-wife's house and she came out with a golf club yelling not again...
SAGAL: ...Or C, he got out of truck to inspect the hydrant and locked himself out of the truck. Meanwhile, the flooding from the fire hydrant caused a sinkhole. He kicked in the back window of his truck, got in to drive away but he drove back into the sinkhole.
DICKINSON: Oh, my God.
ICE CUBE: C, I like that one. That sounds wild. I like that one.
SAGAL: That was exactly what happened, Cube.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
ICE CUBE: Oh, yeah.
SAGAL: There's nothing more to say about it, a bad day.
SAGAL: Bill, how did Ice Cube do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Well, the Cube is very good - 2 out of 3. That wins in our book, Cube.
SAGAL: Well done, well done.
ICE CUBE: That's right.
SAGAL: That's how you do it in the streets of South Central.
ICE CUBE: Yeah. Hey, man, you know, just put the check in my mama's name.
ICE CUBE: Put the check in my mama's name. You know, my credit's bad, man.
SAGAL: Ice Cube is a founding member of N.W.A., the rap group recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He's an actor, a screenwriter. He produced last year's "Straight Outta Compton," an amazing film. Ice Cube, thank you so much for joining us, what a pleasure.
ICE CUBE: Yeah, man. It was fun.
SAGAL: It was fun. Thank you so much.
ICE CUBE: Thank you.
SAGAL: Take care.
ICE CUBE: All right, homey, bless.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT WAS A GOOD DAY")
ICE CUBE: (Singing) Just waking up in the morning, got to thank God. I don't know but today seems kinda odd. No barkin from the dog, no smog and momma cooked a breakfast with no hog...
SAGAL: When we come back - feeling depressed? Well, you should get either a pet or you should listen to Tony Robbins. And we’ve got both. We’ll be back in a minute with more WAIT WAIT... DON’T TELL ME from NPR.
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