One of the many reasons I love the film school at LMU is that they do an unbelievable job of bringing the Hollywood community to our campus. The Hollywood Masters series provides talks where renowned film makers, actors, producers, writers and directors meet with a small group of film students and share their experiences. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Jake Gyllenhaal, Sean Penn and Clint Eastwood speak, but the Hollywood Master who is most prominent in my mind is Ice Cube.
Ice Cube was the most memorable because he was so unapologetically honest; he attributes this honesty to his success with NWA. He explained that he garnered so much attention because his lyrics were “vivid” and “unapologetic.” Ice Cube didn’t try to sugarcoat anything. His great character probably comes from the fact that he had to grow up at a very young age. “When I was just 13 years old,” he explained unflinchingly, “my sister was murdered by her husband.” Instead of turning to a life of violence, Ice Cube decided to embrace the struggles he’d gone through and channel them into his music.
Ice Cube stated his opinion that the root cause of all evil is money. He explained that society is divided up into a pyramid. Those at the top wouldn’t be able to be at the top without those at the bottom supporting them, but those at the top continue to remain at the top because they care very little about those at the bottom. Ice Cube said that even though he’s made it, he still identifies with the bottom of the pyramid because, “as a black man in this industry I still have to prove myself twice as much as a white man.” Ice Cube explained that people look at him with more scrutiny because of his race; producing "Straight Outta Compton" is not enough. People expect him to produce another powerful film, or he will be discredited. When he was asked about the sensitive topic of the “all white Oscars,” Ice Cube was classier than he probably should have been. He explained that he doesn’t necessarily think it’s a race thing as much as it’s a taste thing. A bunch of straight, old white men are never going to watch a film about a group of rappers from Compton and love it because they can’t relate to it. “Like if I was voting on the Oscars the 'Danish Girl' would go straight to the bottom.” If it does have to do more with taste than race, than how about “liberal” Hollywood stepping up its game and putting people of color, more women and people of different ages and sexualities into that Oscar voting room!
Ice Cube talked about the progression of rap, and how much it has changed from the early days of NWA. “Rap today is about escapism. It’s about your women, your booze and your money, rather than addressing real political issues. I think more people should be doing what Beyoncé has done with "Formation." People should be addressing political issues through music.” Ice Cube digressed into the topic of Beyoncé and all the uproar over her Super Bowl performance. Ice Cube exclaimed, “I mean who else is Beyoncé supposed to represent? She’s black!” When he said this I wanted to leap out of my chair and yell, “Amen!” but I figured that was a bit much.
Though Ice Cube is not the biggest fan of escapism rap, he has focused his career in film on comedies because they provide entertainment and escape from the real world. He explains that where he grew up people relied a lot on humor to get by, because constantly talking about the turmoil around them could get exhausting. If Ice Cube wasn’t saying something prophetic he was saying something funny. “Do you read the Bible?” inquired Stephen Galloway. “Not as much as I should,” admitted Ice Cube. “What’s your favorite part?” questioned Stephen. Ice Cube grinned and stated, “The part where God made people and shit.” I laughed because this statement was so true. God may have made people, but with people came a whole lot of shit.
Though Ice Cube is known for a lot of different comedies, he is very proud of his involvement in movies like "Straight Outta Compton" and "Boyz n the Hood." "It was great to do a character like Doughboy [in "Boyz n the Hood"], because it was the first time we showed the world that these kids out of these neighborhoods have hearts and they are real people and they're not just statistics that you see on the news."
The whole time my eyes were fixated on this incredible man. A man who’d worked his way to the top and still didn’t feel like he’d made it because of people putting him down for race. A man whose film "Straight Outta Compton" was hands down one of the best films I’d seen all year and still hadn’t won an Oscar; a man who despite being oppressed, still had a wonderful attitude and outlook on life. Ice Cube’s words still ring clear as day in my head, and I hope we can all learn something from them. How is it OK that we live in a society where some voices are seen as more important than others? We are all part of one race, the human race. We should be lifting one another up and celebrating our differences.