Ice Cube Talks "Peace" And The Future

For a man who introduced himself as simply that "crazy motherf***er named Ice Cube," O'Shea Jackson is making quite a nice go of it in the straight world these days.

The rapper jumped out at us as such on "Straight Outta Compton" with hardcore innovators N.W.A. some twelve years ago. Now, with critical praise coming his way for his role in "Three Kings" and the recent box office-topping success of his co-scripted, exec-produced starrer "Next Friday," the man who dubbed himself "Amerikkka's Most Wanted" (via a 1990 album title) and was once considered a menace to society in the heady days of the Bush Administration has the figureheads of mainstream American entertainment beating down his door, brandishing deals and cash.

Hopefully the hoopla surrounding "Next Friday" (now pushing $40 million in U.S. theaters) will die down soon, though, 'cause the man has an album to talk about.

Cube's turning his focus back toward hip-hop with "War & Peace Volume 2: The Peace

Disc," which is due out on March 21. True to its title, the follow-up to 1998's "Volume 1: The War Disc" promises to be a less dark, though no less thought provoking, excursion.

"I always felt, coming from N.W.A., [that] people wanted a hardcore record," Cube told the MTV Radio Network of his past solo work. "['The Peace Disc'] was a record where it's a couple of hard ones on there, but most of them were records not just talking about how it is, but maybe how it should be, how things can be different, things can change.

"There's party records on there," he continued. "I've had a lot of success with records like 'We Be Clubbin''

and 'You Can Do It,' and I wanted to

do a couple more of those to put on here. This is just a fun record. I didn't want it to be political. I didn't want it to just be over nothing. I just wanted to rap, do good music, and let people enjoy the record. And that's why I call it the 'Peace' album."

Gauging the response to "Next Friday," Cube Vision's first cinematic salvo, that shouldn't be a problem. The rapper is pretty pleased he's been able to strike a balance between "Billboard" and the box office with such success; in fact, he thinks of it as if he's testing his skills out in public.

"Most people don't have that comfort, to be able to slide back and forth and try to do it well," Cube said. "I still think I can become a better actor. I think I can become a better writer, producer, better rapper, and I'm always striving to

be better. So to be

able to bounce back and forth and kinda sharpen your pencil and make sure you tight on the mic here and make sure you tight in acting there, I feel blessed."

One of the few things Cube won't do these days is produce other artists, a job he picked up in post-N.W.A. 1991 with Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Yo Yo (known then as "the female Ice Cube") and working straight through to Mack 10's 1997 LP "Based On A True Story." The rapper has since developed a Machiavellian singlemindedness about working behind the scenes with other artists, opting to produce film rather than music.

"I just got burnt out," Cube explained. "I think when you produce too many acts, your music suffers, and I don't want that to happen. I want to still be able to put together quality music for people that wanna buy my records.

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I'm gonna let the people that's really got they head into that really take that over, 'cause I only have time for Ice Cube."

Cube, who hasn't toured since his stint on the inaugural Family Values tour in 1998, hopes to find enough time for himself to hit the road in support of the new album.