As much as technology, business and society have changed since the 1980s, one thing has remained constant: Ice Cube has been a premier cultural watchdog, astutely commenting on, examining and detailing the breadth of the American experience in uncompromising terms with an unflinching honesty and a sobering perspective, as well as a deft comedic touch that has endeared him to several generations of fans.
Indeed, growing up in crime and gang-infested South Central Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, Ice Cube learned how to navigate a world where the lines between right and wrong shifted constantly. Equally importantly, the Los Angeles-based entertainment mogul also found a lasting way to present the comedy that exists in the midst of difficult situations.
After penning the most memorable lyrics on N.W.A’s groundbreaking songs “Straight Outta Compton” and “F Tha Police,” Ice Cube left the group at the peak of its popularity because he was not being paid correctly. That move that led to one of the most successful careers in music history. As a solo recording artist, Ice Cube has sold more than 10 million albums while remaining one of rap’s most respected and influential artists.
Beyond music, Ice Cube has established himself as one of entertainment’s most reliable, successful and prolific figures. In the film arena, he’s an accomplished producer (Friday, Barbershop 2: Back In Business, Are We There Yet?), writer (Friday, The Players Club, The Janky Promoters) and director (The Players Club) who is best known for his acting.
One of the most bankable actors in cinematic history, his films include the acclaimed Friday, Barbershop and Are We There Yet? franchises, as well as star turns as a conflicted teen in Boyz N The Hood, a greedy soldier in Three Kings and an elite government agent in xXx: State Of The Union. Ice Cube’s ability to bring a natural, everyman aesthetic to any film genre makes his characters compelling and memorable, whether he’s playing a confrontational career college student (Higher Learning) or skeptical football coach (The Longshots).
As a television producer, he took the Barbershop and Are We There Yet? series to successful network runs and also enjoyed success with the controversial Black. White., among other programs.
In 2012, Ice Cube appeared in the blockbuster film 21 Jump Street and the independent thriller Rampart. Other film projects in development include a biopic on N.W.A and another Friday film. He’s also a pitchman for Coors Light and has been featured in various commercials for the brand.
Most recently, Cube found major success with the box office hit “Ride Along,” which his company Cube Vision produced. The film was #1 at the box office for three consecutive weekends and was the highest grossing movie in history over Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. An equally popular sequel was released in 2016, proving once again that Cube is the king of the franchise film category.
While Cube loves making movies, his first passion will always be music. His forthcoming album, Everythang’s Corrupt, will be his eighteenth release as a solo artist or a member of a group (N.W.A, Da Lench Mob, Westside Connection) and is slated for a release later this year.
On his new LP, Ice Cube highlights the evolution of the United States of America, a land where honesty, love and respect have been replaced by a meaningless, fruitless pursuit of material spoils.
“Everybody’s trying to come up with more than they really need and it’s driving people crazy,” he says of the mentality that inspired the piano-accented selection “One For The Money.” “If they can’t attain it, then they look for escape in another way, whether it’s drinking, drugs, dancing, having sex, whatever. Everybody’s trying to be somebody, which is cool. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you are somebody. You’re somebody before you’re trying to be somebody. I know a lot of famous dudes who aren’t good people. I know a lot of people that aren’t famous that are cool people, who set a good example and do the right thing.”
But doing the right thing seems much more difficult for people whose sole purpose in accumulating money and power. On the ominous “Everythang’s Corrupt,” Ice Cube explains how money is often the answer to questions about why things work the way they do. “You can never let the world puzzle you,” he explains. “All you’ve got to do is follow the money and you’ll see why things don’t get done or things get done. It’s a shame that the dollar has become more important and more precious than life itself to so many.”
So as much of popular rap focuses on trite topics, Ice Cube remains raw and uncompromising. It’s a stance he’s held since the mid-1980s when he broke through as a member of gangster rap pioneers N.W.A. On the funky, “Can I Hit Some Of That West Coast Shit?” Ice Cube dares the new generation of artists to push the genre forward, something he’s been doing throughout his entire career. “It’s basically saying, what you’re about to do, I’ve done it already,” he reveals. “It’s like, ‘C’mon, man.’ Come new. And if you’re new, you’ll stand out.”
To his point, Ice Cube has stood out throughout his remarkable career. His ability to adapt to new trends and styles and put his twist on them without losing his own identity puts him in an elite class of recording artists of any genre. With the bouncy “Sic Them Youngins On ‘Em,” he showcases an undulating delivery that counters his typically stoic, commanding flow.
That type of artistic alchemy also allows Ice Cube to craft a song like “The Big Show,” where he lets the world know that in the real world, he’s going to remain true to himself regardless of whom he’s interacting with. “I just be myself man, and you’ve just got to take it or leave it, whether you’re the homie in the hood or Obama,” he says. “You’ve just got to take me how I am. Where I come from, it makes me real equipped to deal with everybody.”
As a multi-media juggernaut, Ice Cube has built a career that remains robust, if difficult to categorize. “It’s hard to define,” he says. “My brand, if I could put it in a nutshell, is I believe that I’m a solid artist. I always go back to that word solid. Solid like a Harley Davidson is solid. I hope people trust that when I put my name on something that it’s not just garbage. I’m not just throwing it at you. I’m trying to give you an experience.”
And he’s excelled at that, time and time again.
Jeff Kwatinetz is the Founder and CEO of The Firm, a film and television production company, music management firm and record label that he re-launched in 2015. In addition to television and film development at multiple networks and studios, The Firm is currently producing five on-air series across multiple networks and platforms, two films, and is COO of Ice Cube’s Cube Vision. As the CEO of The Firm, Kwatinetz is the steward of one of the industry’s most powerful entertainment management, film and television production companies, and record labels—responsible for engineering the careers of prominent figures, and programming across the recording, motion picture and television sectors.
Throughout his 30 year career, Kwatinetz has anticipated, defined, and contextualized market trends inclusive of generations of consumers. In doing so, he has gained a unique understanding of how the confluence of marketing, marketplace and media invoke emotion and a call to action among a global constituent.
As part of The Firm, Kwatinetz’ helps run Cube Vision, the highly successful production company formed by Ice Cube, which produced the 2015 blockbuster Straight Outtta Compton, which grossed more than $200 million worldwide. As part of their nearly two decade long partnership, Cube Vision and Kwatinetz have over twenty-five film projects in active development, with upcoming projects including: Rocky Mountain High set at Universal, Oliver Twist set at Disney. This doesn’t include The Firm and Cube Vision’s long list of television projects in various stages of production and development, including Hip Hop Squares, which airs on VH1 in March 2016.
The Firm’s Film Division, run by Dallas Buyer’s Club producer Robbie Brenner, is producing such highly-anticipated projects as Tribes of Palos Verdes starring Jennifer Garner, Burden starring Forest Whitaker, and The Paladin.
On the television side, The Firm has projects in development at nearly every major broadcast network, including Netflix (Haters Back Off), ABC (Notorious), Lifetime (Midsummer’s Nightmare) and WGN (Salem). Kwatinetz also produced the long running television series, Wilfred and Royal Pains. The company’s record label, responsible for numerous gold and platinum records, achieved its first #1 album and fifth top five debut with Got Your Six, the latest release from Five Finger Death Punch.
From 1997-2008, Kwatinetz founded and led the previous iteration of The Firm that grew to become the world’s dominant music, film and television management company with more than 30 multi-platinum, platinum and gold artists and a diverse roster of clients across the industry. Kwatinetz developed innovative campaigns to for artists such as Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Backstreet Boys, Kelly Clarkson, Korn and Jennifer Lopez and transformed them into global brands. The Firm later entered into film and television management, representing such artists as Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Vin Diesel, Rachel Weisz, and Cameron Diaz. Films in which the company’s clients appeared grossed more than $20 billion at the worldwide box office, earning 30 Academy Award nominations and winning seven.
In addition, Kwatinetz was the architect of the 2004 purchase of Warner Music from Time Warner by a private equity consortium led by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital. The deal resulted in more than a $1 billion profit for investors. Leveraging his M&A work, he also helped launch VMG Partners, a $325 million private equity fund focused on consumer brands and acquired the majority stake and successfully relaunched Pony, turning around the iconic footwear and apparel lifestyle brand.
Kwatinetz earned his J.D. with honors at Harvard Law School and holds both a M.A. and B.S. at Northwestern University where he has been a guest faculty member and frequent lecturer. Kwatinetz is also a courtside seat season ticket holder for the NY Knicks.
Respected sports executive Amy Trask worked with the Oakland Raiders for almost 30 years, serving as CEO from 1997 to 2013. In her role, she was involved in all non-football business matters and operations for the team, including team representation at league meetings. She joined the Raiders as an intern while she was still a law school student in 1983, and worked her way up to become the NFL’s first female front-office executive. She is the author of You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League and serves on the board of directors for Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation and the advisory board of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission. She is currently a football analyst for CBS Sports Network and will remain with the Network in that role.
A member of the James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Clyde was a 10 time All-Star, an NBA champion and a Gold Medalist on the 1992 Dream Team. After retiring from basketball, Clyde has been involved with numerous global business ventures as well as a wide range of charities.