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All About the Cube: A Conversation with Ice Cube and Mike Epps

‘It’s having some control of your own destiny in a way,’ explains rapper-cum-actor-cum-movie producer Ice Cube about his production company, which just put out All About the Benjamins. ‘In Hollywood, you can become a guy who’s just waiting for the phone to ring all the time. It’s never how I’ve done it, never how I’ve handled my career. I wanted to have a company that was dedicated to putting together things that I’m interested in. Not only on an acting level, but on a producer level… or whatever.’

How is Hollywood perceiving what Cube’s trying to do? Well, he’s had to kick in some doors, but it’s also getting easier for him with every successful film. ‘You’re dealing with millions of dollars dedicated to an idea that you might have in your head’ says Cube. But, as his roles have proven, Cube is not intimidated by a battle. ‘There’s always a fight… and I welcome the fight.’

Cube also finds it difficult controlling his visions in Hollywood as opposed to those in the music world. ‘With the music world, I had more control. If I wanted to do an album, I could go in there and do it with my crew. Five, six people help me with the record. Here, you’ve got over a hundred people working on a movie. Sometimes it’s hard to convince them that your way is the right way when there’s a board full of people saying that you should go left.’

But Cube’s career hasn’t permitted much time for music lately. Music, in a way, is on the back burner,’ he declares. ‘Right now it’s easy because I ain’t doing no music. I’m just doing movies.’ Despite his musical abilities, Cube says he would not score his own film. ‘Too much work,’ he proclaims. ‘When you try to put on too many hats, something’s gonna suffer. There’s professionals out there, all they do is score music everyday, so I turn it over to them.’

As one of the film’s producers, the actor is also selective when it comes to choosing music for the soundtrack. Usually people want to puts hits in there. I’m not really a fan of that. I’m more of a fan of putting the music in the movie that fits the scene instead of trying to sell a movie and an album.’ Despite his remarks, the hit rap song All About the Benjamins did find a place in the film’s soundtrack. ‘I don’t know if the writer was influenced by that song or not,’ Cube explains, ‘but I felt it was the perfect opportunity to use that song in this movie.’

Cube became friends with Mike Epps after working with him on the second Friday film. He feels their off-screen friendship has helped with their buddy charisma in the film. ‘Me and Epps, we’ve become good friends through this. Definitely, it helps us on screen with the chemistry.’

Raised in Gary, Indiana, Epps spent summers with his grandparents, where he shared a house with eight siblings and his mother. But no matter his circumstances, whether at home or in school, he was always cracking jokes and having fun. ‘I wanted to make some noise or crack some jokes,’ says Epps. ‘It just made me a little spontaneous about a lot of stuff.’

Looks like all the practice paid off. When he entered a standup comedy contest at an Indiana club, his success gave him the courage to strike out on his own and move to Atlanta where he began to make a name for himself at the Comedy Act Theater. The owner suggested that Mike travel to the Big Apple to build his career. Within a week, Mike packed his bags and caught a bus to Manhattan. He eventually landed a few gigs with the Def Comedy Jam tour. The rest is history.

Epps loves doing comedy, but he didn’t watch a lot of it growing up. ‘The first time I ever heard of comedy, the first time I ever heard of Richard Pryor, was when I was like twenty years old. I was never interested in comedy like that. When I first heard it, it just felt so close to what I’ve been through. I just started picking with it and playing with it. But I never watched it.’

Epps and Cube enjoyed ad-libbing much of their dialogue in Benjamins. ‘It’s about fifty percent scripted, fifty percent ad-libbed,’ explains Cube. ‘I believe when you hire somebody, you’ve got to let them showcase their talents. You cannot bottle them up, hold them back. It’s cool when you get somebody like Mike on the editing bed with all the material he gave. It’s hard to decide what you’re gonna use because it’s all so good. This dude is a gem when it comes to raw, true comedy.’

Looking beyond comedy, Epps is considering dramatic acting. ‘I think he’d be a hell of a dramatic actor,’ expresses Cube about his friend. But despite the support, Epps isn’t quite ready for a dramatic role yet. ‘I want to grow into it,’ he explains. ‘I don’t just want to come out and all of a sudden play one of Cube’s roles. Whether I can do it or not, I’m just gonna wait right now.’

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