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Posted by Dave
Rap News Network
2/4/2004 9:06:09 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Ice Cube.

LOS ANGELES - Sitting across from him, it's easy to see how Ice Cube got his name.

He's dressed casual, but sharp, in a short-sleeve shirt; his close beard trimmed like a work of art. For the most part, he's serious - the man is working here, promoting his new movie - saving his smiles for moments of real humor, not false buddy-buddy intimacy. He's friendly, but he's definitely cool and in control.

That is understandable, because the Cube, at age 34, has about as much control of his film career as any African-American actor in Hollywood history. He's in this five-star hotel today surrounded by reporters, talking about "Barbershop 2: Back in Business," the follow-up to his 2002 hit "Barbershop," which cost less than $20 million to make and market and pulled in some $75 million at the box office.

Produced by his company, Cube Vision, "Barbershop" is actually the second film franchise Cube has managed, the other being the three low-budget "Friday" movies, which earned a profitable $117 million. While other aspiring players in Hollywood yearn for their big breaks, Ice Cube has gone ahead and made his own.

"I guess I'm persistent. I'm not going to wait for Hollywood. I'm always trying to put together projects myself," he says. "I think just by having that mentality and being willing to get my hands dirty to get a movie made, it's helped my career in film snowball."

At the same time Cube is making his own movies, he's working for others as well. Since the young rapper broke into the film game in 1991 with "Boyz N the Hood," he's made nearly 20 films, including everything from the scare flick "Anaconda" with Jennifer Lopez to the prestigious Gulf War critique "Three Kings" with George Clooney. Earlier this month, he starred as the leader of a biker gang in "Torque," now he's back as a good-hearted barber trying to keep the family business afloat in "Barbershop 2."

"If I get a call to do a 'Three Kings' or 'Torque,' it's kind of like icing on the cake," he says. "And I'm starting to get those calls more and more."

In typical diversified Cube style, his next two projects are the modest Cube Vision comedy "Are We There Yet?" which he co-wrote, and the big-budget thrill flick "XXX2" in which he takes over the action franchise from Vin Diesel.

"Barbershop," a turning point for Ice Cube, was a hit that broke across racial lines, even though it featured a mostly African-American cast. He says the studio behind the film, MGM, had no real idea how to market it. So instead of targeting it to a niche audience, like most black films, they opened it wide. And America responded.

" 'Barbershop' taught Hollywood a lesson," he says.

It also caused quite a commotion, thanks to the character of Eddie, a garrulous old barber with a gift for spouting politically incorrect, if consistently hilarious, dialogue played by Cedric the Entertainer. One particular line about Rosa Parks' role in the civil rights movement brought cries of outrage, but Cube wasn't bothered.

"We just wanted to be true to what a barbershop is, which is a place where you can go and be yourself and not have to be politically correct, say what's on your mind," he says. "The controversy came out of nowhere, and I thought it was really a lot of do about nothing. We've got bigger problems some of these leaders could have dealt with besides our movies."

Of course, controversy is nothing new to Ice Cube. Born in South Central Los Angeles as O'Shea Jackson, he first came to prominence in 1988 with the rap group N.W.A., the first gangsta rappers to gain national attention. He left the group in 1989, striking out on a successful solo career that has slowly given way to film since his debut in "Boyz."

Cube still remains active in music, however; "Terrorist Threats," his second album with Westside Connection, was released in December and currently sits at No. 19 on Billboard's albums chart.

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