Legendary artist Ice Cube began his rise to fame as a member of N.W.A. with the debut of their album "Straight Outta Compton" in 1988. Two years later, Cube would embark on a solo career with his first album "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" followed by "Death Certificate" in 1991, "The Predator" in 1992, and "Lethal Injection" in 1993. This run of albums was one of the greatest of all time and solidified the Los Angeles rapper as one of the most celebrated artists in West Coast Hip-Hop history. However, in 1991, Ice Cube also began his acting career, which has since spanned decades and become just as illustrious as his musical endeavors. Let's take a look back at some of Ice Cube's greatest acting roles.
Boyz in the Hood
Ice Cube's first role as an actor when he played "Doughboy" in the classic film, "Boyz in the Hood". It was directed by John Singleton. The film's cast was star-studded. It featured actors such as Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, and Angela Bassett. Despite Cube's inexperience in acting at this point, his performance is one of the most celebrated and remembered in the entire film.
In the film, Cube's character Doughboy serves as a foil for Tre, played by Cuba Gooding Jr. While Tre has a strong connection with his father, and is taught about the proper values and respect within the world, Doughboy does not have that luxury and shows the pitfalls men can fall into without proper male role models. Doughboy ends up a member of the Crips and is arrested and forced to serve time in prison for stealing. Ice Cube's background as a rapper who actually grew up in Southern Los Angeles adds a believability to the role. This could not have been captured with many other actors.
In the climax of the film, Doughboy kills Ferris, avenging his brother Ricky's death after Tre decides not to retaliate against Ferris. After the murder, Ice Cube delivers a classic line. He says American media "don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the hood". In "Boyz in the Hood", Cube proved that he could act in a serious, major role. His performance probably ranks as one of the greatest film debuts of all time.
Perhaps Ice Cube's greatest and most remembered performance came in the 1995 film "Friday", directed by F. Gary Gray. "Friday" is one of the best comedies in the last thirty years. The lines from the film are still quoted regularly today. Many moments of the film have become relics of Black culture. In the film, Ice Cube plays "Craig". He is a down on his luck young adult who was just fired from his job on his day off.
Craig, alongside his best friend Smokey, played by Chris Tucker, decide to spend their Friday off getting high on Craig's front porch. Throughout the film, Craig and Smokey encounter crackheads, overly sexual preachers, and girls in their neighborhood they have interest in. Craig and Smokey are also terrorized by Deebo, played by Tommy Lister Jr. throughout the film, whose violence and affinity for stealing cause problems for everyone in the neighborhood.
Ice Cube's performance in "Friday" is much different from his more serious portrayal of "Doughboy" in "Boyz in the Hood". Cube was able to show his comedic side throughout the film. His chemistry with Chris Tucker elevated the film to exceptional heights. It was in "Friday" that Ice Cube showed the acting world how much range he had and allowed for him to escape the "typecasting" void that many celebrities turned actors can fall into if they are not able to diversify their performances on screen. The success of "Friday" led to two sequels in "Next Friday" in 2000 and "Friday After Next" in 2002. However, it is the original film that is the most beloved and celebrated by society today, which is in large part due to Ice Cube's performance.
In 2002, Ice Cube also starred as the lead role in "Barbershop". His performances throughout the entire "Barbershop" series rank as some of his best. In the original film, directed by Tim Story, Cube plays "Calvin", a young man who inherited a struggling barber shop in the south side of Chicago from his father and is forced to decide if he should keep the shop or sell it. "Barbershop" mixes the genres of comedy and drama. Ice Cube's roles in the "Friday" series and in "Boyz in the Hood" influence and morph his portrayal of Calvin.
It is in "Barbershop" that Ice Cube gives a full display of his acting abilities as he combines humor with drama. Cube also shifts away from his portrayal of younger, coming-of-age-esque characters. Instead, he is portrayed as a mentor and leader to other characters in the film. While both "Doughboy" and "Craig" were young adults in need of guidance, Calvin is a character who provides guidance to other characters in the film. This is especially true of his relationship with Ricky, who is played by Michael Ealy.
"Barbershop" was a display of Ice Cube's growth as an actor with age. He proved that he could enmesh his comedic and dramatic portrayals into a mix of both. This created a more two-dimensional film. "Barbershop" was an instant commercial success, grossing $77 million in the box office on a $12 million production budget. The film also received many positive reviews from critics. It's lasting legacy was proven when "Barbershop: The Next Cut" was released fourteen years after the original film in 2016.
In more recent years, Ice Cube starred in "Ride Along", directed by Tim Story, alongside Kevin Hart. In "Ride Along", Ice Cube plays a veteran cop named James. He gives Hart's character Ben a chance to upgrade from being a security card to a police officer. The dynamic between Cube and Hart in this film is similar to his role alongside Chris Tucker. Hart is the over-the-top comedy figure, while Ice Cube is the straight man with moments of humor in different places.
"Ride Along" also features a second film in which Ice Cube and Laurence Fishburne star together. Fishburne portrays Omar, the lead villain of the film. The LA native is able to combine a realistic portrayal of a tough guy while providing lots of comedic moments. "Ride Along" was a great box office success, as it grossed $154.5 million on a $25 million production budget. The success of the initial film also led to a sequel, "Ride Along 2". It was directed by Tim Story and featured Ice Cube and Kevin Hart in similar roles. "Ride Along 2" also grossed over $100 million at the box office.
While Ice Cube may be primarily known for his musical success, his acting career is also full of legendary performances and classic movies. Even with his creation of the "BIG3" basketball league in 2017, Ice Cube has proven that his genius extends far beyond the musical realm. Ice Cube's roles in films such as "Boyz in the Hood" and "Friday" have provided audiences with some of the most memorable quotes and scenes of the last thirty years and Cube's legacy as an actor proves just as iconic as his musical career.