Ice Cube
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Biography
Ice Cube was the first member of the seminal Californian rap group N.W.A. to leave, and he quickly established himself as one of hip-hop's best and most controversial artists. From the outset of his career, he courted controversy, since his rhymes where profane and political. As a solo artist, his politics and social commentary sharpened substantially, and his first two records, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate, were equally praised and reviled for their lyrical stance, which happened to be considerably more articulate than many of his gangsta peers. As his career progressed, Ice Cube's influence began to decline, particularly as he tried to incorporate elements of contemporary groups like Cypress Hill into his sound, but his stature never diminished, and he remained one of the biggest rap stars throughout the '90s.

For such a revolutionary figure, Ice Cube (b. O'Shea Jackson) came from a surprisingly straight background. Raised in south-central Los Angles, where both of his parents had jobs at UCLA, Cube didn't become involved with B-Boy culture until his late teens. He began writing raps while in high school, including "Boyz 'N Da Hood." With his partner Sir Jinx, Cube began rapping in a duo called CIA at parties hosted by Dr. Dre, and he eventually met Eazy-E, then leading a group called HBO, through Dre. Eazy asked Cube to write a rap, and he presented them with "Boyz N Da Hood," which was rejected. Eazy-E decided to leave CIA and he, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre formed the first incarnation of N.W.A. Cube left to study architectural drafting at Phoenix, Arizona in 1987, returning the following year after he obtained a one-year degree. He arrived just in time for N.W.A.'s debut album, Straight Outta Compton. Released late in 1988, Straight Outta Compton became an underground hit over the course of 1989, and its extreme lyrical content -- which was over-the-top both lyrically and politically -- attracted criticism, most notably from the FBI.

N.W.A. may have been rivaling Public Enemy as the most notorious group in hip-hop, but Ice Cube was having deep conflicts with their management, resulting in him leaving the band in late 1989. He went to New York with his new posse, Da Lench Mob, and recorded his first solo album with Public Enemy's production team, the Bomb Squad. Released in the spring of 1990, his debut AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted was an instant hit, going gold within its first two weeks of release. While the record's production and Cube's rhythmic skills were praised, his often violent, homophobic and misogynist lyrics were criticized, particularly by the rock press and moral watchdogs. Even admist such controversy, the album was hailed as a groundbreaking classic within hip-hop, and it established Cube as an individual force. He began his own corporation, which was run by a woman, and he produced the debut album from his female protegee, Yo-Yo. At the end of 1990, he released the EP Kill At Will, which was followed in the spring by Yo-Yo's debut, Make Way for the Motherlode. That summer, his acting debut in John Singleton's acclaimed urban drama Boyz N the Hood was widely praised.

AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted may have been controversial, but it paled next the furor surrounding Cube's second album, Death Certificate. Released late in 1991, Death Certificate was simultaneously more political and vulgar than its predecessor, it caused more outrage. In particular, "No Vaseline," a vicious attack on N.W.A. manager Jerry Heller, was perceived as anti-Semitic, and "Black Korea" was taken as a racist invocation to burn down all Korean-owned grocery stores. The songs provoked a public condemnation from the trade publication Billboard. It was the first time an artist had been singled-out by the magazine. The furor over Death Certificate didn't prevent it from reaching number two and going platinum. During 1992, he toured with the second Lollapalooza tour in a successful attempt to consolidate his white rock audience. He
 
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