Ice Cube on his No. 1 hit ''Barbershop.'' The rapper-turned-actor explains how he made the feel-good comedy ? and where his music career is headed
Ice Cube
Credit: Ice Cube: Scott Gries/ImageDirect

Some 15 years after proclaiming himself a ”crazy motherf—er named Ice Cube,” the former O’Shea Jackson has finally let the last of that chilly gangsta front melt away. In his new comedy ”Barbershop” — which topped the box office with $21 million in its debut weekend — Cube stars opposite Eve and Cedric the Entertainer as the most soft-hearted character of his career. He tells about the movie’s acting challenges, the real-life role of barbershops, and the future of his recording career.

How did filming on location in Chicago help ”Barbershop” take shape?
Well, we filmed it in the South Side, and it’s pretty much the neighborhood that it seems like all barbershops are in. [laughs] We also went out to a place in Brooklyn, and they had a guy from Haiti in there cutting, just like [the immigrant character] Dinka in our movie. I come from L.A. barbershops — they’re the same as Chicago barbershops and New York barbershops. In fact, of all the barbershops I’ve ever been to — in Houston, Atlanta, D.C. — they’re all the damn same. It’s, like, this is the neighborhood teepee and all the stories flood in from the neighborhood to be discussed by elders and youngsters.

Your production company, Cubevision, was one of the forces behind ”Barbershop.” What did you want to accomplish as a producer?
We just wanted to make sure the movie stayed where we wanted it to stay, because sometimes you meet with a director, you have an understanding, and then you get on the set and everything’s different. We wanted to make sure the story didn’t get corny, and stayed true. We weren’t trying to do it with a lot of profanity, and we wanted to keep it at a PG-13 level — so it was like, damn, this could turn into an after-school special if you’re not careful. I wanted to make sure we stayed on that edge and didn’t fall over into an R rating and didn’t fall into the G rating, either.

Speaking of G ratings, how’d you manage to play such a cuddly character?
It wasn’t the hardest acting I ever did. ”Boyz N the Hood” was actually the hardest, because I was so new and I was just trying to learn the mechanics of hitting my mark and all that kind of stuff. But ”Barbershop” was challenging because I wanted to show a different side of what I’ve shown before. That was the challenge: How do you show more of yourself? But Calvin’s personality is not mine, necessarily — mine is more even-toned, not letting stuff get to me until I can’t help it any more. He’s a little more in tune with his emotions, letting them roll out.

MGM is supposed to be already at work on a sequel — what’s your involvement?
I don’t believe in talking about a sequel until a movie does what it’s gonna do. So I’m not listening to none of that sequel talk until the movie [has played] and the general audience enjoys it. They have to not only enjoy it, but basically ASK for a sequel.

It’s been a couple years since you released an album — what’s up with your music career?
I’m looking for a recording deal — not just any deal, but the right deal. I’m not gonna do records until I get what I want. I’m coming from an [indie-label] system, which was pretty much, ”Cube, do whatever you want.” Going into a major-label system, I want to make sure that I don’t have 50 people in the studio with me trying to hear what the hell I’m doing.

What would Ice Cube rap about in 2002 or 2003?
Not only how I feel about certain situations going on in the world, but just being honest about me, myself, what I’m about, the transformation that I’ve made — growing up. And I can still spit flame; I can still MC. If it’s all about bragging about who you are and what you’ve got, that comes easy. But I think with this record I want to go deeper than that. I’m not gonna rush it, though. I’ll do it as soon as everything is right. Anyway, I got more movies to do.

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