Ice Cube’s hot Hollywood career

Ice Cube in his Sun Valley studio
Ice Cube in his studio in Sun Valley.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

“I’m straight outta Compton,” Queen Latifah cheerfully exclaims in an introductory scene from the action-comedy “22 Jump Street.”

Pointing at Ice Cube — who plays her glowering spouse (a police boss whose primary function seems to be ridiculing and shouting down the movie’s stars, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, in every scene) — the MC-turned-actress adds almost apologetically: “He’s from Northridge.”

It’s one of a number of sly, inside jokes in “22 Jump Street” — the sequel to Hill and Tatum’s hit 2012 adaptation of the cultishly popular Fox TV series “21 Jump Street” — that directly reference Ice Cube’s ancillary career. That is, as the guy who set the sonic template for gangsta rap as chief lyricist for the firebrand Compton rap crew N.W.A, the group responsible for the song “Straight Outta Compton.”

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Before portraying a snarling authority figure with a cadre of undercover operatives and the mother of all bad attitudes in “Jump Street,” Ice Cube (government name: O’Shea Jackson) in reality was cautioned by the FBI in 1988 for penning the song “F— tha Police.”

“They like to play off my real-life persona. They’re always jabbing,” he said with a small laugh of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who were responsible for “21 Jump Street” and this year’s animated hit “The Lego Movie.” “The thing about Capt. Dickson, you want him to be wicked, prickly, thorny, abrasive. I’m trying to push that in every scene. I want to be the best, stereotypical mean captain that has ever been on screen.”

While “21 Jump Street” follows Tatum and Hill’s characters as they go deep undercover as high school students to bust up a designer drug ring, the sequel makes certain allowances for the passage of time.

Since that film came out, Hill has gone on to become a two-time Oscar nominee (most recently seen in “The Wolf of Wall Street”) and Tatum a mini-mogul with a string of hits across genres, including the male stripper romp “Magic Mike” and the romantic drama “The Vow.”


Ergo, the two can now be found undercover as college students to crack a fraternity crime ring in “22 Jump Street” (opening June 13). But even with the A-list co-stars installed as producers on the film, Capt. Dickson remains an invective-spewing thorn in their sides.

“I was in their ass from day one,” Cube said with evident pride. “I think the crew gets a big kick out of it. Jonah and Channing — they tell everyone else what to do in the making of the movie. I get to come in and get on them and say things the crew might want to say.”

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He hasn’t forsworn his musical career and has an album called “Everythang’s Corrupt” that gets back to his gangsta rap roots due out in May.

In further testament to the authority Cube commands on screen, “22 Jump Street” marks the third movie franchise in which he continues to prominently feature — more than any other American actor working today with the possible exception of Marvel Studios’ go-to guy, Samuel L. Jackson.

Earlier this year, the rapper-turned-actor’s buddy cop comedy, “Ride Along” (in which he stars opposite Kevin Hart), shocked Hollywood by taking in $134 million domestically and immediately spawning a sequel. Moreover, that film’s robust box-office performance also resulted in another long-stalled, Cube-starring project getting the green light: a third installment of the 2002 ensemble “Barbershop.”

But that goodwill toward the hip-hop star did not extend as far as one of his most cherished projects — a fourth installment of the 1995 stoner farce “Friday” that he co-wrote and in which he stars (in addition to serving as a producer on the two most recent two sequels). It’s a franchise that launched the careers of a constellation of movie wise guys while establishing Ice Cube’s bona fides as one of the most enduring straight men since George Burns.

“For some reason, New Line and Time Warner just won’t step to the plate and treat the movie like it should be treated,” said Cube of “Friday.” “I want to bring everybody back: Chris Tucker, Katt Williams, John Witherspoon, Mike Epps. That’s going to cost some money.


“I thought with the success of ‘Ride Along,’ that would be a no-brainer. But I guess it’s more than a no-brainer. This ain’t 1994, you know what I’m saying? You can’t get a 2014 movie for a 1994 price.”

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