ABOVE: (LEFT TO RIGHT) JONAH HILL, ICE CUBE, AND CHANNING TATUM IN 22 JUMP STREET. PHOTO COURTESY GLEN WILSON AND © 2013 COLUMBIA PICTURES INDUSTRIES, INC.
In the Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill buddy comedy 22 Jump Street, out this month, actor and rapper Ice Cube will return as Captain Dickson, the no-nonsense chief of an undercover police unit. Later this year, the N.W.A alum will release his 10th solo album, Everythang’s Corrupt. Add that to the success of his cop-caper film Ride Along this January, and it’s clear that 2014 is proving to be a good year.
EMMA BROWN: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
ICE CUBE: A football player. That was my dream when I was a kid. I played fullback and linebacker.
BROWN: When did you change your mind?
ICE CUBE: I met Dr. Dre in the ninth grade and really started to love music. Here was a genius who knew how to put music together. I was intrigued and wanted to hang with him. I needed to make a decision: keep playing football in high school or quit and do music. I probably would’ve hated football. If I had to play for money, it probably wouldn’t be as fun.
BROWN: Did you imagine you’d become an actor as well as a rapper?
ICE CUBE: Oh, no. I thought I wasn’t really qualified to be an actor. I looked at those people as true professionals who had a gift that only they could do. Then I met John Singleton in 1989. He was an intern at The Arsenio Hall Show. I went to Arsenio Hall to see Public Enemy perform, and I met Singleton backstage. He was a student at USC, and he had a movie that he wanted to do when he graduated called Boyz n the Hood . I didn’t really take it seriously. He was just a student, and at the time, the only young person I saw making films at that level was Spike Lee. I was like, “Yeah, right. Okay.” But we kept in touch, and it turned out to be the truth.
BROWN: How did you get involved in the Jump Street series?
ICE CUBE: I went to something I normally don’t go to—a Hollywood party, where they were honoring Quentin Tarantino. I saw Jonah Hill, and he was telling me how much of a fan he was, and that he had this movie that I’d be perfect for if I wanted to play an angry captain. A lot of people didn’t know what to expect, or why we were making a movie about a teen television show. I think it turned out great.
BROWN: Did you ever watch the original show when it was on in the ’80s?
ICE CUBE: A few times. I actually liked it; it was a good show. The premise is good—two guys going undercover in a high school.
BROWN: Would you be cool if you had to go to high school in 2014?
ICE CUBE: Yeah. I’ve never been a follower. I think when you are your own person, especially in high school, it’s attractive to people. Not following the crowd and making your own rules, so to speak, that’s intriguing. Some kids might think I’m cool, some kids might think I’m just on my own page.
BROWN: Whom would you most like to interview for Interview?
ICE CUBE: I wouldn’t mind interviewing George Clinton. I think that would be a good interview. I admire his music and I would love to talk to him about it.
BROWN: What would your first question be?
ICE CUBE: How did you know to put the kind of music together that you put together? How did you know it would work?
22 JUMP STREET COMES OUT TOMORROW, JUNE 13.