NEW YORK Moments before veteran rapper Ice Cube took his seat Monday at an autograph session for War & Peace Vol. 2 (The Peace Disc), released Tuesday (March 21), he effectively denounced the first part of the LP series.
"With the last record, I didn't focus as much because I was working on movies," Ice Cube, who has appeared in "Boyz N the Hood," "Anaconda" and "Next Friday," said, speaking politely and earnestly. But on Vol. 2, he said, he didn't have any distractions and could concentrate on making new songs and a better record.
War & Peace Vol. 1 (The War Disc) (1998) "was [mostly] songs I had accumulated. So it was a little strange," he said.
The rapper (born O'Shea Jackson), dressed in a white FUBU jumpsuit and a light-blue Los Angeles Dodgers hat, signed autographs for fans during a late-night appearance at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, in support of the new disc.
On Vol. 2, Dr. Dre and M.C. Ren, his partners in the reunited N.W.A, appear on the booming "Hello" (RealAudio excerpt), the lead track, which the prolific Dr. Dre produced.
Ice Cube said he and Dr. Dre are discussing a tour that would serve as a West Coast hip-hop tidal wave, one that would include Snoop Dogg, the other N.W.A. members, Mack 10, Dr. Dre protégé Eminem and others.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's Krayzie Bone sings the R&B hook on "Until We Rich" (RealAudio excerpt). Notorious B.I.G. cohorts Sean "Puffy" Combs and Carl "Chucky" Thompson, as well as fellow New Yorker Younglord, produced tracks for the album.
Songs from the LP blasted through the store as Ice Cube, sitting behind a table on a heavily guarded raised platform, signed photo after photo. Customers looked down and stared as they rode the escalators. Several dozen fans leaned over a railing on the floor above to take photos and acknowledge the rapper.
The line of autograph seekers who had to buy the rapper's album to see him slithered along the bottom level's back wall.
"His music is just raw. It's from the streets. I grew up in an urban area, and his music just spoke to me," said Joe Morgano, 19, of Brooklyn, who stuck around excitedly to take snapshots of his favorite rapper.
Sharelle Wright, 27, struggled to find words after meeting one of her heroes. She brought along a full-sized movie poster advertising 1995's "Friday," which Ice Cube wrote and starred in. The rapper couldn't sign it. Customers were allowed an autograph on one item.
"I said, 'I waited so long just to meet you in person,'" recalled Wright, who came to the event alone.
She and Morgano said their adulation dates back to N.W.A's seminal 1989 gangsta-rap album Straight Outta Compton.
Ice Cube sounded happy with his career direction as he spoke with reporters earlier in the evening. "Next Friday," which he also wrote and starred in, spent two weeks as the #1 movie in the U.S. in January. He said that achievement, like his hip-hop career, was the product of hard work.
"This is a maze," he said. "And the best way to get through a maze is to know what you're doing before you start."
He said he has mellowed out throughout the years and called hardcore hip-hop "a young man's sport."
"I've kind of retired from that part of the business," he said. "I'm concentrating on Ice Cube."