It’s difficult to put into words just how impressive and imposing the figure of Ice Cube has been on the world of hip hop. As one member of N.W.A., it was Cube who delivered the searing attitude and rapping credentials that the rest of the group couldn’t, and soon after leaving the group; he became an icon in his own right.
Born in South Central Los Angeles in 1969, Ice Cube spent much of his early life in a hostile neighbourhood that, as he grew older, was increasingly shaped by the presence of drugs and violence. Cube’s parents knew that if their son stayed in the neighbourhood, it would only be so long before he wound up with a bullet in his chest.
They decided to pull him out of his local school and place him in a suburban high school in San Fernando Valley. All Cube had known of LA was his crumbling neighbourhood until this point. But in San Fernando, things were different. Arriving in this affluent part of Los Angeles every morning, he started wondering why the violence that marred his home affected certain areas of the city and why it wasn’t being discussed more widely.
To secure a better life for himself, Cube decided to enrol at the Phoenix Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a degree in drafting in 1988. At the same time, he’d continued pursuing music, with the blossoming world of rap making a huge impact on him while he was studying in Phoenix. By the mid-1980s, he already started his own group known as CIA, which quickly caught the attention of Andre Romelle Young, an ambitious young rapper going under the alias Dr. Dre. The pair joined forces with a local crew composed of DJ Yella, Eazy-E and MC Ren, and so N.W.A. was born. They were about to take the world by storm.
But before he would become his own icon, Cube was rest like the rest of us, tuning into his radio and hoping to catch the freshest new tunes. Like so many rappers, there was a single moment that he remembers pushed him into making music, or, should we say, two moments.
During a conversation with NME, Cube confirmed that there were two songs that encouraged him to begin making his own music, from two hip hop pioneers, no less. The rapper selected the brilliant ‘8th Wonder’ by The Sugarhill Gang when posed the question before admitting that there is another song that also gave him the inspiration he required: “It’s kind of a tie between that and ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash, but I’ve got to go with The Sugarhill Gang. When I heard it, it put me on a path. Everything changed when I heard that song. I wanted to rap just like that. It’s an awesome party song. I still love it.”
Below, listen to the two songs that made Ice Cube want to start making music.