Ice Cube on N.W.A’s Rock Hall Induction: ‘It’s Hard to Sum Up in Words’
N.W.A had been on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s ballot three times before, but 2015 was no ordinary year for the Compton rap collective. In August, their biopic, Straight Outta Compton, hit movie theaters to rapturous reviews, earning over $200 million and lots of Oscar buzz. It reminded the world just how impactful N.W.A was during their brief time together, and probably helped them finally get into the Hall of Fame. We spoke with Ice Cube about the induction, his vision for the ceremony and even the possibility of an unlikely all-star jam with fellow inductees Deep Purple, Chicago, Cheap Trick and Steve Miller.
Yeah, man. I’m extremely excited about it.
Who told you the news?
Your first reaction?
I kept asking, “Are we in-in, or are we nominated? I know we’re nominated, but are we actually in the Hall?” She had to let me know a few times that we’re actually in.
What does this mean to you personally?
It’s hard to sum up exactly what it means. It means a lot of things. It means that the group’s mark is kind of solidified. It’s all legitimized in a way because the whole music industry has to honor the group in a way. It’s just hard to sum up in words, really.
It’s the culmination of a pretty insane year for you guys.
Yeah. It’s everything that kind of eluded us in a lot of ways when we were coming up. So many people were opinionated about N.W.A. I think everyone now at this point, no matter how you feel about us, understands what the group actually did and what it means to modern music. I think the movie helped to get people to remember that.
I think the movie also gave a context to the music. People that maybe weren’t paying attention to what was happening in Los Angles back then can see it and understand what led to your music.
That’s the thing that we were trying to show the audiences. Everyone knows the where and when, but a lot of people didn’t know the why. The movie was able to connect some of those dots for people. Why were five youngsters out of Compton, California, rapping about this kind of stuff? It was basically trying to make sense of the world around us, in a lot of ways.
The more time that passes, the more it becomes apparent how impactful you guys were.
I believe so. It’s funny. History could blur the lines and dull people’s memories, but since me and Dre are really still smack dab in the middle of pop culture on a lot of different levels, it hasn’t. I think that helps to keep the memory alive of what really went down back then. This movie and us being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is really a way to remember and set it in stone. It’s great.
Do you think you guys are going to perform at the ceremony?
I want to. I think we can get Ren, Yella and Dre together. I think Snoop might do an honorary Eazy. I can’t speak for him, but we’ll ask him. We’ll probably ask a few people.
They’re doing it at the Barclays Center. If you guys get on the stage, you’ll just destroy the place. It’ll be incredible.
It’ll be great on all levels. We’ll see what ends up happening, but I’m definitely down.
Did they tell you the other inductees?
It’s going to be Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, Chicago and Steve Miller.
Wow. That’s a nice lineup.
Are you fans of those groups?
Not really, but I know they’re big [laughs]. I’ve been hearing their names all my life, though.
There tends to be a big all-star jam at the end of the night. Will you want to take part in that?
I don’t know [laughs]. It’s all about if we can do something cool. If we’re doing something and it’s feeling kind of corny, I won’t want to do it. If we can do something cool … I think the audience wants to see something cool. They don’t want to see some forced medley.
Do you see hip-hop as an extension of rock & roll?
I think that just like any new music, it borrows from the music that’s already there. Rap is a piece of rock & roll, but there’s also a piece of soul, a piece of R&B, a piece of blues — all of that music that comes before it. I think rap captures the spirit of rock & roll just like rappers and guys who do rock & roll capture the same spirit, but they might go in different directions with it. But it’s the same spirit.
“I think [Eazy-E would] be real excited because he was always fighting for legitimacy.”
There’s only a handful of hip-hop acts in the Hall of Fame. It’s you guys, Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. That’s good company to be in.
My God. That’s like the cream of the crop when it comes to groups that made an impact. What’s funny is that the hip-hop group basically started to fade away with Wu-Tang Clan. It went from groups, groups, groups to solo, solo, solo artists. I would be interested to see who is the next solo rapper that makes it into the Hall. That would be interesting.
Do you think Eazy would be happy about this?
I think he’d be real excited because he was always fighting for legitimacy, whether it was trying to get out of the dope gang and become a legitimate, productive person in society. Also, the industry talked a lot of shit. This would please him I think because the music that we did is a force to be reckoned with. We got some of the most creative, talented people in N.W.A that’s ever been compiled in one group. It’s just exciting that the group as a whole gets recognized by the whole industry as Hall of Fame worthy.
The induction ceremony isn’t that long after the Oscars. It would be crazy if the movie is nominated and these things happen back to back.
Wow. I think that would be one of the biggest years for any artist or group ever. The movie was the biggest biopic in history and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame … Anything the Academy even thinks about giving us that day, it will be a year that will be hard to top. I just appreciate all of this. I really do.