I’m Not Afraid of Ice Cube Anymore: Questlove offers some food for thought

I came across this missive from Questlove of the Roots today on twitter… I read it, then peeped the video he linked to and my mind went racing in a few directions all at once. First, I looked at the video from the perspective of the disgruntled fan. In today’s society so many of us attach ourselves to celebrity so much, that our identity gets caught up in what they do or don’t do. This is especially true if that celebrity fills an important void that society refuses or doesn’t seem to have the capacity to fill.When this happens we don’t want our celebrities to change. When they fall short we take it personal. I seen this happen with everyone from Public Enemy to Jesse Jackson.

The second angle I explored was how so many of us are allowed space to grow and evolve. Sometimes it’s our own fault. We don’t wanna take responsibility. We don’t want to endure the pain that comes with growth so we get caught up in what has often been described as the Peter Pan syndrome.

On the other hand , we live in a society that often doesn’t want us to grow. We’re to forever be child-like in our thinking and entertainment minded versus business minded. We’re to forever be the buffoon and never the scholar. When we stray away we get smacked down into place and severely criticized even from our own. So in this case ice Cube at age 40 is still supposed to be a hardcore gangsta riding around with an AK versus maybe be a family guy…For him to grow, he’s considered a sellout.. and not a fully well-rounded thinking man.

Third and most disturbing, is something that author/scholar Adam Mansbach often talks about. He describes the proverbial suburban white Hip Hop fan who grew up fascinated and intimated by Hip Hop which they fully equated with the totality of Black culture. He talks about how many would live vicariously through the words and videos of street oriented rap groups to the point that they would start mimicking them and adapt a worldview that would be warped to the point that anything not falling into the mold was somehow out-of-pocket.

Mansbach describes how those suburban white kids would listen to these records, watch those videos and not ever have to full experience the realities depicted in the songs. This would lead them to feel comfortable and believing that they were not only part of but definers of the culture. They would become embolden and ‘no longer afraid of the ghettos they vicariously visited..

Here’s what Questlove had to say…


tryna tell yall: this is why i cry out against the press/blogger minstrelsy embrace of hip hop (if its “scary” or “bright” “clownish”/”funny” or “oversexed” or “watered down apolitically” (no balls/opinion/position/eager to pleaseisms) its minstrel!!!! read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minstrel_show

point is: this song is cute http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cjx8wg0hmY&feature=player_embedded#

but TRULY it is the answer to all the questions we had about hip hop’s demise.

it would be nice to say “oh…its an art form and treated as such” (remember that@harryallen quote about “hip hop is treated like its disposable. its not even considered ‘art'” on our Things Fall Apart intro?–well this is the dangers of embracing something for the wrong reasons:

hip hop’s MASSIVE success was running on the fumes of the “horror flick/roller coaster” syndrome: something scary and exciting you are curious about…but something you don’t take all that serious.

in other words: lets look at sting and lil wayne:

if both figures (both are massive sales figures in pop music)—if both made announcements that they were quitting music for a career in politics: and them in office position effected your life and you had to chose one—who would you be more inclined to take seriously to run your government?

(ill leave it up to you to get my point….but for those who say wayne, i can pretty much also guess that you too dont take life all that seriously or being contrary is how you differentiate yourself from others)

anywho….watch that clip.

reveals ALOT


Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

23 comments on “I’m Not Afraid of Ice Cube Anymore: Questlove offers some food for thought

  1. I’m really not feeling the overall commentary of the article. While I completely understand whats being said, to say or imply that HipHop as a whole and Ice Cube in general came of as some sort of bogey man as being the only reason the white boys got into HipHop really diminishes the work that was being put in around that era. Having come up in So. Cal during the Reagan & Bush years with the crack and gangs and police brutality I was a mad individual by time I got to high school. When Death Certificate was released my sophomore year I was astonished that someone had the nerve to articulate what myself and a lot of other cats was feeling on these streets out here. To this day it remains my favorite album. The pure anger that Cube had in his rhymes and voice is what shook ameriKKKa, not that it was some hollywood script to frighten you into seeing what was happening in the hood. I hate to use this terminology but it was “Real”. Then after the riots and the FEDS forced Cube(my thoughts behind the change) in a different way then, Pac started expressing those sentiments. The anger that was out here and still is. The only problem is that there is no one today who is daring enough to put themselves out the and express that. Maybe seeing what happened to both those brothers, death & chastisement so they like fuck it. With all due respect to Chuck D with his intelligence I just never really felt like he was mad enough. I went to him for lessons but when I was upset that when the Cube cassettes came out. It’s on us as a whole if the white boys took what he was saying and doing and somehow flipped it into a gangsta minstrel show.

  2. Point well taken Derek.. but recall I said proverbial surburban kid.. and sadly that proverbial kid is the one who is singing that song and demanding that Cube and Hip Hop not evolve and they along with it.. Cube is not the angry guy he was 20 years ago..but did his anger inspire us to change or was it a joy ride through the hood? Thats a personal question everyone from all backgrounds has to answer.. I can’t speak for u but we can both speak to the issue at hand..
    thanks for replying to this..

  3. I have valued your opinion for years Davey D and I have to ask, could you get somebody to proofread your writing before you publish it? It weaves back and forth between profound and incomprehensible. Too many misspelled words and incomplete thoughts. And it could be cleared up easily by proofreading. I say this in love, and the spirit of Hiphop, and as a Hard Knock Radio listener. Just ask or designate somebody.
    “When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” – George Washington Carver

  4. There are several problems here.. One I have severe carpo tunnel and type alot with alot of pain..I do this along with maintaining both my websites and doing all the editing on my video and audio pieces…

    As I am typing this its with one finger because my left hand can not move on keyboards fluidly.. I am often typing with serious time constraints.. Over the years I’ve communicated this with folks and there’s been offers to ‘proof-read’ ..sounds good until you see the amount I’m putting out and the strange times the writings are done…ie. 3 and 4 in the morning.. For example, I had no plans to to put out a couple of todays pieces until an hour b4 my radio show..

    Lastly I do try to proofread.. but sadly many things are not caught.. I appreciate the concern and would love not to have this be the case. Lots of people make snap judgements and assume its me being lazy when in fact its closer to me being in horrific pain and incapable of using one hand after an hour of typing.. sorry for the problems this causes.. but its just me holding all this down..

  5. Add me to the list of volunteers cause you are one of the sharpest voices on Hiphop personalities, history, and issues. Proofreading is my day job, I do graphics and web work too.

    Possible relief for for carpal tunnel which is a tendinitis of the hands – http://bit.ly/d39y0y

  6. HaveNcredible.. Thank u I appreciate the offer.. by all means if u catch something please let me know.. Its one of the more frustrating things I have to contend with..

  7. How will we know if he’s truly unafraid of Ice Cube until Ice Cube confronts him in person? And when that happens, don’t worry, it will be on youtube, too.

  8. WOW….Davey, as usual, you bring us dope shit to ponder; this one evokes so much for me…

    I got all ready to unleash my well-rehearsed rant–easily rattling off my bullet points about the sorry state of commercialized Rap music for the better part of the last 15 years.

    But what if this is just us folks in our 30s and 40’s suffering from a good ol’ case of nostalgia blues? Check it out….

    O.k., first off, the clip is mildly cute, clever, etc. And yes, for me it immediately brought to mind my own personal biases and longings for what used to be in this almost 40-something genre we call Hip Hop.

    I also get the point Questlove was makin’ about a certain mindset that does not allow the historically and mostly Black male rap artist population from the “Golden Era” of Hip Hop to develop and grow into mature, capable, and competent men–regardless if they chose to remain in the music industry or not. And some of our brothas from this same camp have not always made life decisions that prove that they are mature, capable, and competent.

    But personally, I AM depressed by the current state of the music biz in general, and Rap in particular. As someone who did the whole “please listen to my demo/ got signed to a lousy L.A. label deal/ ended up working in the business end of music and radio” thang, I can tell you that I realize I have been sounding like a bitter old man for too long when it comes to reminicsing about how it “used to be” in Hip Hop. Probably due to the fact that I spent the last 20+ years hunched over drum samplers, mixing boards, and dusty record bins honing a craft that has become nothing but fast food–a commodity that now functions largely as background noise in commercials and ipods. Hell, people don’t even want to pay for music anymore!

    So, how did we get here? White corporatization? Restricted representation of the genre ? Inferior production and writing? Yes–probably all of those have contributed to some degree. I also think part of the problem was the complete and total shut down by the white establishment (major labels) of any other form of Rap music other than ‘gangsta’ once they realized that it made them loot hand over fist.

    But, at the end of the day, maybe it’s just that the music that you grew up with in your formative years will always be the soundtrack to your idealized youth. My mom and all of her same aged friends and family all lament about “Motown…yeah, that was the shit–won’t never be REAL music like that again!”

    Mmmmmm…..do I see a pattern here? Jus somethin’ to think about party peoples; we’re getting older. One luv.


    founder/ Outwest Entertainment
    urban staff writer/ SoulsandSounds.com

  9. J. Fresh, people never wanted to pay for music. What it is, is people no longer have to pay for crap that the music industry itself doesn’t value enough to market honorably (payola and price fixing still in effect).

    Anyway, growin up is not about moving from gangsta to heart-warming, profitable comedies or moving from scary to sell-out or timeless to disposable. it’s really about becoming more empathetic and effective, right? Well, wasn’t DEATH CERTIFICATE straight up gangsta against the Beast AND empathetic to us who were gettin slammed by that Beast. I mean relisten to that joint. He planted a seed that has grown into Pharaoh Monche!

    If you own DEATH CERT chances are you wouldn’t vote for Rand Paul, even though he’d probably love that DEATH CERT cover (except he’d toe-tag Ice Cube too). Rand Paul wouldn’t care much for what’s in the album because he benefits from what/who it was attacking. For that matter so does Obama. This is day 35 of ecological armageddon in Gulf of Mexico and Obama still ain’t listened to DEATH CERTIFICATE, feel me?

  10. I somehow mirror J.Fresh’s commentary in regards to age. This “fear” can be applied to all sorts of people in many different genres. There are/were plenty of artists (not just hip-hop) that made me take a step back due to their positions in life. As we age and mature, we eventually see the reasons behind such positions and look at the ones that really do need our attention. Those that were feared are usually on our side!

    I suppose the hip-hop during those days of PE and Cube were part joy-ride (admit it: those beats/rhymes we’re bangin’) and part info-tainment (made me dig deeper into certain issues). Maturity isn’t a bad thing. I wouldn’t want the same mind-set I had in jr high over the one that’s in grad school today! This, of course, changes as the years (and decades) go by…

  11. Pingback: Hip Hop & Political News: Freeway Rick Set to Sue Rick Ross/ Latina Professor Booed at Arizona Graduation « Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner-(The Blog)

  12. Davey
    You have allot of colleges in the bay. Get yourself an unpaid intern and start dictating.

    youtube is blocked @ my work so I have no informed comment on this. Will that stop me? NO.

    It’s not just white suburban kids we’re talking about I know plenty of black men pushing 40 that fit the description.

    I was deathly afraid of Queensbridge NYC when I was young. Mob Deep’s “the infamous” was terrifying. Knowing there were 17 year olds who could even imagine the picture they painted really opened my eyes. A couple years latter I saw them live and they’re like 6 feet tall combined. I haven’t “feared” a rapper since. 🙂

    I’m a white fan but the opposite of the one above. I allow an artist one maybe 2 albums about living in the ghetto and selling drugs. If after that you still haven’t evolved you’re the minstrell and I’m not interested. I even call my rule the “Mobb Deep” rule. MOP and Freddy Fox are the only exeptions to this rule.

  13. “So, how did we get here? White corporatization? Restricted representation of the genre ? Inferior production and writing? Yes–probably all of those have contributed to some degree. I also think part of the problem was the complete and total shut down by the white establishment (major labels) of any other form of Rap music other than ‘gangsta’ once they realized that it made them loot hand over fist.”

    J-Fresh, you hit it right on the head. Plus there has been the total disregard for classic Hip Hop in all its forms on terrestrial radio. There are classic rock, R&B and even country stations. But the Hip hop that alot of us 30+ year old cats came up with has no place in the mainstream and so many of us gave up on those artists that are still doing it (alot of fools don’t know DeLa Soul and Jazzy Jeff are still making records, for example) or don’t know about those who picked up the torch and maintained some true school sensibilities (Dilated, J5, J-Live, Reef Tha Lost Cause to name a few). And many damn sure aren’t exposing their kids to it. Classic Rock fans play Zepplin for their kids, are we playing PE for ours?

  14. Suburban white kids have and will always live vicariously thru gangster rap, just as many young people of color from the hood have long lived vicariously thru the Soprano/Scarface type mobster movies. When it comes down to it, it’s about the consequences of those actions. White suburban kids who grow up imitating the hood and pretend to be “hard” or “thug” can most of the time fall back upon being white, or privileged. Whether mommy and daddy bail them out of trouble, or they simply receive different treatment for their troublesome behavior. Short of shooting someone, they often getaway with acting a fool. I grew up with these kids in San Mateo county. Many of the suburban kids who claimed to be gangsters or gangster rappers in high school (not all of whom were white) went on to four year colleges, or inherited stable jobs, while the kids that were bussed in from East Palo Alto had much greater difficulty overcoming the real violence and poverty that surrounded their neighborhoods. Most of these white kids inherently knew they had “the invisible knapsack” to fall back on and could afford to playfully act like a thug. The kids from the hood didn’t have that luxury and many didn’t make it past their sophomore year in high school. A lot of the kids from the hood that did make it past just wanted to get their diploma, they didn’t have the time or the money to front like Al Capone or Ice Cube.

    So, today we should not continue to be worried about whether Ice Cube is keeping it real or not, or whether white kids in the burbs are watering down hip-hop culture. Indeed the real problem is with the current Minstrel Show that has been allowed to flourish and thrive regardless. Questlove can’t say it, so I will say it for him: Lil’ Wayne is the Minstrel Show. He’s ManTan, he’s Bamboozled. So is Drake, and tons of these other cats. Did we all forget the Drake & Lil Wayne performance on BET with the 12 year old girls dancing around to “I wish I could f*ck every girl in the world”? That was on BET. That was on the same show that gave tribute to the passing of Michael Jackson. The Minstrel Show that exists today and thrives on the radio and live concerts is no longer white people in blackface, its black people in blackface, entertaining other people of color that have no idea they are all part of the act.

  15. HaveNCredible–“Well, wasn’t DEATH CERTIFICATE straight up gangsta against the Beast AND empathetic to us who were gettin slammed by that Beast…”

    My Man!! So funny you should mention that record; it was the last Cube album that I purchased AND loved every cut. Death Certificate indeed exemplified Cube’s ability to viciously point out the ills of the institution of Amerikkka, while at the same time serving a much needed dose of tough love to the Black community. Disagree with you though on folks not paying for music: there was definitely a time when an album (10 solid jointz, NOT 22 crappy ones!) could play from start to finish and was bangin’, and you happily plunked down your 9.99. There are business reasons why most albums used to be around 10 songs, but I won’t digress here. And yes, I remember gettin’ that cassette dub off a friend when you didn’t want to spring for a particular record–but it was an inferior recording, not a perfect digital copy. Alot of times I wound up buying a 12″ or a Cassingle anyway. As for Mr. Obama being exposed to Death Cert, we can only hope! By 1991 he was in Chicago keenly aware of his desire to build a public persona–he’d never cop to it, or his dealings w/ Farrakhan.

    I’m not advocating stunting an artist or group’s personal or musical development. But I DO think that you should grow from a foundation of what made you hot in the first place. A few examples: PUBLIC ENEMY, PARIS, and RAKIM. Are they million sellers nowadays? No, but they are still viable, talented artists who grew within the context of their original sound and they still have shit to say.

    R-SON made an excellent point not to be missed: Hip Hop is one of the few musical genres that has not properly preserved a place in the market for it’s classic stars. Classic Rock, Jazz, Showtunes….all still sell relatively well right alongside contemporary artists of their genres (just check with the estates of Elvis, Hendrix, and Miles Davis; they still rake in millions a year in catalog). We should be ashamed of ourselves for not carving out a viable niche for the Classic Rap market. I am constantly shocked by my kids and their friends’ positive reaction to some of the jointz by the pioneer crews of Hip Hop…they just need to be exposed to it. Of course, this comes with the caviat that the old skoolers need to get their biz right so that it’s not just the labels reaping the rewards of these new-found fans.

    My last word on this: In my perfect world, we could return to that brief period in the late 80s when you had on the shelf a well rounded mix of Rap records…KRS, Fresh Prince, NWA, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, De La, Too Short, XClan…all at the SAME DAMN TIME!

    At least then those proverbial “suburban white kids” we keep talkin’ about actually had a choice of which sub-set of the Black culture they wanted to imitate! Those were the days…

    Peace Out

  16. ok, so we know what the problem is…but is hip-hop the answer anymore? yes and no. hip-hop, by itself, as a form of entertainment? no. hip-hop, from a community perspective, as a form of edu-tainment? yes.

    but we knew this back in 1990, when KRS made the Edutainment album. Next year Amerikka’s Most came out. guess which one caught more listeners?

    at this point, gangsta rap is both relevent and irrelevent–it creates a situational context but offers no solutions.

    conscious rap has basically been banned from mainstream airwaves.

    and Quest is right, Ice Cube ain’t scaring anyone these days. OTOH, Oscar Grant scares plenty of people.

    Wanna know what’s even more scary than a kid from the hood with a Tec-9? a kid from the hood with tech skills.

    i think hip-hop can still be part of the solution, but we’ve got to start thinking outside the box and not expect music alone to solve everything.

  17. Add me to the list of volunteers cause you are one of the sharpest voices on Hiphop personalities, history, and issues. Proofreading is my day job, I do graphics and web work too

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  19. hey derek i got your whiteboy right here you black assed monkey ass nigger.ice cube and 50 cent are both faggots who take it up their bubble butts.fuk rap and fuk niggers,you are the dogs of society.always will be.

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