Ice Cube: “There Would Be No Eminem Without N.W.A.”

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For the first time in 25 years, all living members of N.W.A. will be performing live, together. As part of the BET Experience taking place this weekend, the seminal Rap group will take the stage to perform some of their classic material and whether or not Heads are in attendance, it is a sure bet that all eyes and ears will be on the reunion. The group performed sans DJ Yella at the Up In Smoke Tour in 2000, making the upcoming reunion including Yella truly historic. The timing is part of what seems to be the Summer of Straight Outta Compton, as the historic performance will be followed by the release of an N.W.A. biopic on August 14.

While the whole ordeal isn’t without its hiccups (MC Ren voiced some frustrations about the film), the magnitude of the events is not lost on anyone, especially Ice Cube. The founding (and then departing) member and blockbuster movie star has enjoyed what is surely the most divergent career trajectory of the group, becoming an actor in family-friendly movies that seem antithetical to the crazy motherfucker who boasted of being “a young nigga on the warpath.” But despite his mainstream appeal, he has managed to retain the edge and strength he unloaded onto the unsuspecting masses in the late ’80s. And, as he shares in a new interview with Noisey, “You don’t have to be squeaky clean to be bigger than the squeaky clean guys.”

ice cube

Centering around the forthcoming reunion and silver-screen adaptation, the interview by Eric Sundermann uncovers Cube’s feelings, apprehensions, and excitement on topics like N.W.A.’s cultural significance, police brutality, and the legacy he and Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and MC Ren left behind. “Without N.W.A., there’s no Eminem. Without N.W.A., there’s no shows like ‘South Park’,” he argues. When asked if he feels like the culture which birthed N.W.A. is still resonant 25 years later, he responds “to the guy who’s getting beat up by the cops, he doesn’t think nothin’ has changed. But to the guy who don’t get beat up by the cops, he might think everything’s changed. It’s all in perspective. ”

Just last month, Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted turned 25, a milestone that had Heads wondering how far, if at all society has progressed. Now, as 2015 offers up more milestones for Hip-Hop, the opportunity for introspection about that progress (or lack thereof) will be brought to the forefront as we celebrate the contributions of N.W.A. Head to Noisey for the full conversation with Cube.

Related: Dr. Dre Says Straight Outta Compton Will Clarify N.W.A.’s Perceived Misogyny (Video)