Ice Cube, after more than two decades in the music business, is enjoying his independence. The veteran rap star who’s known for his work with the influential N.W.A. and subsequent solo career can record what he pleases now that he’s no longer affiliated with a major label.
“The thing about being independent is you can do what you want, instead of worrying about radio or A&R,” says Cube, who performs 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, as part of the All Stars of Hip Hop.
Cube will be featuring 20 years of his music from “Straight Outta Compton” to “Everythang’s Corrupt,” the title track from his forthcoming record.
Joining him on the bill are other veteran rappers, including Eve, Fat Joe, Doug E. Fresh, Eu and DJ Kool.
Starting with 2010’s “I Am the West,” Cube has had complete control over his musical output.
“It’s a lot of freedom, and you can make a true connection with true fans — Ice Cube fans,” he says. “When you first start off, you’re trying to do a song that everybody in the world will like. You realize once you’ve been in the game for a long amount of time, you have to get it to the people who love what you do.”
As one who’s known for making strong political statements, especially via early records such as “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” and “Death Certificate,” Cube sees his next set as reflecting the country’s recent economic woes.
“All of my records have political undertones,” he says. “All of my albums really give a stamp of where my head is at the moment. This record is basically about the last two or three years of how things have been going.”
While Cube continues to assert himself musically, he’s more of a team player in what has come to dominate much of his time: his movie career.
He’s currently appearing in the cop buddy comedy “Ride Along,” co-starring Philadelphia native Kevin Hart. The project is the latest among more than two dozen roles for Cube, including his debut in the acclaimed “Boyz in the Hood,” as well as parts in “Friday,” “Barbershop” and “Are We There Yet?”
“When I first started, I was focused, I had the blinders on — I wanted to be the best rapper in the world — nothing else mattered,” he says. “I didn’t really think about movies. I had never been trained as an actor. I didn’t think I was qualified, until I met John Singleton, the director of ‘Boyz in the Hood.’ He opened up a whole new world for me, to entertain on this level.”
Cube’s music and movie worlds are set to come together, via the long-awaited film about N.W.A. titled “Straight Outta Compton.”
Cube is on board as a producer, with F. Gary Gray (“Friday,” “Law Abiding Citizen”) set to direct. Casting has begun, with Cube hoping one of his sons, O’Shea Jackson II, will get to play him. But the producer in him says his son must win the part on his own.
“I have to be fair to the process — I can’t let nepotism hurt this project in any way,” Cube says.
With filming set to start in April, Cube is understandably excited to see his story told on the big screen.
“This is the story I thought would never be told on this level,” he says. “I knew a documentary would get made, but a feature film is something totally different. I’m really proud and excited, and I’m ready to go.”
Still, rap continues to be his touchstone.
“Rapping definitely keeps my sanity,” he says. “I really love hip-hop. That’s what I started off doing, and when it comes to music, I don’t have to deal with studios and meetings and producers. I can go make a record myself if I wanted to. That’s an incredible amount of freedom.”
Eve just wants to have fun
Eve doesn’t have anything left to prove, except maybe to herself.
The Philadelphia native, who was the first female rapper to top the charts, is now based in London, where she recently got engaged to British designer Maximillion Cooper.
“I feel competition toward myself, but I don’t have that competition toward anyone else,” she says. “I’m not as stressed now. I just want to make good music, and I want to have fun doing it. I want to make sure I’m having a good time. My life has been amazing. Music has given me so much. I definitely don’t feel like in that position to try to prove anything to anyone. Just myself — I’m always trying to make myself better.”
The Grammy-winner — for “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” with Gwen Stefani — is another hip-hop star who has successfully crossed over into acting, but she says it wasn’t by design.
“It was pretty much an evolution — it wasn’t something I ever thought about,” she says. “It was something my manager at the time suggested. Once I got into it, I really liked it.”
Despite roles in “XXX,” “Barbershop” (with Ice Cube) “The Woodsman” and a recent guest turn in “Glee,” Eve says she still gets butterflies when she goes on set.
“It’s something I take seriously,” she says. “I get really nervous when I go on a set, but I just really enjoy it.”