Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
March 12, 2012
To play a police captain in the big-screen update of the ’80s TV series “21 Jump Street,” Ice Cube did not consider remaking NWA’s “[Bleep] Tha Police” into “Love Tha Police.”
He does bite ferociously into the role of Capt. Dickson, which allows him to wink at the movie stereotype of the angry black police captain as he yells at his young cops (Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill) to “Teenage the [bleep] up” and infiltrate a high school. Naturally, Dickson makes a Justin Bieber reference, but don’t go thinking Cube is a fan.
“Uh, you know, I’m not a fan. I don’t know enough about him to be a fan. He’s just a cool kid that can sing.” (Later in the interview, when asked to name a surprising artist of whom he’s a fan, Cube says, “Fan is a strong word.”)
At the Trump Tower, the 42-year-old actor/rapper talked about his own high school memories, the family film he watched while in NWA and if he and Ice-T will ever team up on the force.
To what extent do you think people find this police captain especially funny because it’s you?
I think people get a kick out of that. I think Hollywood has been conspiring for 20 years to make sure me and Ice-T (who rapped “Cop Killer” and appeared on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”) play a cop. So you got us! You got us!
You haven’t worked together as cops, have you?
Nah, nah. I don’t know if that’s going to happen.
I can see the reality show now: “Ice and Ice.”
Oh, God. That sounds like some terrible Bravo [bleep].
How much did you stay in character and boss around Jonah and Chan when the cameras weren’t rolling?
Not a lot, just a little, just a little. They was in awe when I first got there ‘cause they had never worked with me before. And the first day was the day that I was yelling at ‘em, telling ‘em not to [bleep] no teachers, no students, no janitors. Don’t [bleep] nobody. It all kind of played into it. I kind of kept it going for a little while. Them dudes is too cool, you gotta be cool with them. I didn’t want to be the dick actor who’s method, stays in character forever. It’s like, “Damn, Cube, he was cool in the part, but he’s an asshole.” You know what I mean? I don’t want to go at ‘em like that.
How much did “21 Jump Street” remind you of your own high school memories?
It did, you know, because I got bussed out to a school, and that school had everybody in there from people wanting to look like Dr. J and Magic Johnson to people trying to look like Boy George and [bleep]. It was like everything was at that school so I was able to really see all these different high school freaks. In a lot of ways I was one because I was a B-Boy and we would have Gazelles on and we would have Kangols and we would have belt buckles and people with no shoe strings on shoes and people was looking at us, like, “What the hell they doing?” Everybody else was trying to dress like Michael Jackson and Prince. So it reminded me a lot of high school and all the different flavors you come across.
When people talk about NWA, what memories jump to mind?
When I think of the group, when I hear it, I guess what comes back to my mind is Eazy-E. ‘Cause he’s not here no more. NWA makes me think of him. And he was a little sadistic. He had a dark sense of humor, but he was smart as [bleep]. He was ahead of everybody around him as far as thinking of the next move and he envisioned it before any of us.
What would the Ice Cube of NWA think of your family films, like “Are We There Yet?”
He’d probably like some of ‘em and hate some of ‘em. When I was in NWA, I used to watch family movies. I watched “Home Alone.” I liked that. I loved “Home Alone.” It was the [bleep].
How come it never appeared in the lyrics?
It might have. You gotta go back and listen to some of them albums. The thing is this: What would I have thought of myself if I was 20 looking at me now, what would I think? I always go back to, who was doing what I’m doing when I was 20, and what did I think of them? That’s kind of how I can gauge this. There’s people out there like Bill Cosby and Quincy Jones and people like that and I was like, “Damn, how did y’all get there?” I was more intrigued. [Not] “Y’all sold out; y’all ain’t keeping it real.” All that dumb [bleep]. I was looking like, “Damn, how did they flip this? And how did they stay entertainers so long? How did they work with so many people?” I was more curious.
If you could change one thing about the rap world, what would it be?
No downloading. The computer would be out—
Even for a fee?
Yeah, for a fee. No stealing movies. I mean music or movies. No piracy.
What are the chances of that happening?
Slim and none. Slim and none. But you know what’s a shame is people think entertainment is free and it’s not. And people got all these devices to play [bleep] on. And in the future how much stuff will we really gonna have to play on these things. One thing I know, less music is being produced now than it was. So that means in the future if things don’t change less music will be produced in the future than now. So we’ll have all these devices but we’ll be just looking and listening to old [bleep].
And once technology rises up and takes over the world, we’ll really regret it.
Yeah, it’s kind of like man vs. machine. And a man needs a machine to be a man now. It’s crazy.
On “Last Friday”: “We just finished our deal with New Line, I just finished my writing deal with them so it’s really about coming up with a good script and inviting everybody back and shooting a funny movie.”
On Chicago: “I love Chicago. I did a couple of movies here. It’s like one of my favorite towns. I can’t wait to come back all the time. I’m mad we’re only here a day. That kind of sucks.”
What he wants to do in Chicago: “Gibson’s, man. Go to Gibson’s. You got to get the steak. Seafood, they got the lobster, they got the Alaskan king crab legs, you get that. Or a big baked potato. [Bleep], man, you’re making me hungry.”
Guilty pleasure movie: “It’s a crazy-ass movie called ‘Man Bites Dog.’ It’s like a foreign movie and it follows a serial killer and it’s like a camera-crew with him and they just documenting him killing people and [bleep].”
On the Raiders next year: “I don’t know what to think about ‘em, man. I thought we was on the right track. And then they brought in all these new people. We back to hopefully 8-8 this year.”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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