Hot Picks: Keeping cool with Ice Cube

Question of the day: Why do rappers always look so grumpy? Would it kill them to smile once in a while?

Maybe. It might kill their careers. A clue to the answer may be found in the movie Goodfellas, when Joe Pesci’s character says: “I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to f—in’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?” And so on until he hits the guy in the head with a baseball bat. Wait, maybe that was Scarface. Point made, though.

From gangsters to gangstas, seriously, there isn’t much comedy in rap music. Not if you want to get taken seriously. So forget all of Ice Cube’s enriching media adventures, many of them in comedy – movie star, television producer, clothing designer – because the guy still keeps it real when he’s rapping. Find out when he performs tonight at the Empire Ballroom (details here). Like a lot of rich rap stars, Cube draws from personal experience, mainly from the potent memories of his childhood back in South Central Los Angeles, with its all gangs, crime, drugs and innumerable references in West Coast rap tunes. Cube’s escape route was an influential little rap group called NWA, which stands for “Niggaz With Attitude,” which featured the great Dr. Dre, and whose groundbreaking gangsta rap music spawned another question: Is gangsta rap just perpetuating a stereotype, glorifying gangs and drugs and causing more harm than good?

A clue to the answer may be found in Cube’s 2008 track, Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It: “I can act like an animal, ain’t nothing to it, gangsta rap made me do it. If I eat you like a cannibal, ain’t nothing to it, gangsta rap made me do it.”

Grim sarcasm – yes. Comedy – no.

He’s got a new record now called I Am the West – in case anyone had any doubts whether Cube was an “east coast” or a “west coast” rap star – where he’s STILL talking about the old neighbourhood.

He’s keeping a really straight face about it, too.