Ice Cube (real name O’Shean Jackson) is a rapper, actor, writer, and producer who gained notoriety for his membership in the hip-hop group N.W.A. from 1987-89. During the 90s, he embarked on a successful solo career as a musician, releasing several albums and many collaborations with other artists like Ice-T, Tupac Shakur, and former N.W.A. partner Dr. Dre. Today, he is considered one of the fathers of gangsta rap.
Ice Cube was born in South Central Los Angeles in 1969, and grew up as part of a family that was no stranger to violence; his half-sister was killed by her boyfriend when Ice Cube was twelve. He turned to rap in high school, writing rhymes in keyboarding class, and eventually attended the Phoenix Institute of Technology in 1987, where he met Dr. Dre and began performing as “CIA” at parties. By 1988 the crew had expanded to include Eazy-E and DJ Yella and, as N.W.A., released Straight Outta Compton to commercial and critical acclaim. Ice Cube wrote most of the album’s lyrics, but left the group a year later after disagreements with their manager.
On his own, Ice Cube kept gaining momentum with his raw, violent, and often political lyrics. His 1990 solo debut album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted was an instant hit, which Ice Cube followed up immediately with a role in the now-classic movie Boys n the Hood and the release of Kill at Will, the first rap EP to go platinum.
Ice Cube‘s third album, 1992’s The Predator, was the first rap record to debut at number one on both pop and hip-hop charts, but his career was not always so rosy. Critics panned his next album, Lethal Injection, which experimented with funk grooves in the style of George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic. Ice Cube then turned his attention to making movies, and starred in films as diverse as Friday (the 1995 stoner comedy co-starring Chris Tucker) and Anaconda (the 1997 thriller co-starring a giant snake). Today he is known for both his contributions to music and his eclectic career in Hollywood.