Rapper and movie star Ice Cube is back where he likes to be, in the middle of controversy, in “Barbershop 2,” the sequel to the 2002 hit comedy about a barbershop owner trying to save his business in Chicago.
The original “Barbershop” created a stir when the cantankerous but fatherly barber Eddie, played by Cedric the Entertainer, vulgarly dismissed Jesse Jackson’s reputation and made light of civil rights icon Rosa Parks, and the new movie is sure to touch a few nerves as well.
“I like the fact that the movie showed that black people don’t all have the same opinion,” Ice Cube said in an interview ahead of the sequel’s Feb. 6 release.
“I’m always looking to spark thought and conversation,” he said. “What good are you if you don’t?”
This time around his character Calvin, the barber shop owner, faces competition when a fancy chain barbershop pops up across the street.
The block is on the way up and Calvin, threatened himself and surrounded by old friends who could be priced out of a gentrified neighborhood, must decide what to do.
“Maybe he’s a little nicer than I would be about things,” Ice Cube mused, comparing himself to his character.
“I probably would have sent somebody over to the shop,” he said, concluding with a profanity that underscored his point about being a little less nice.
The jokes fly as the plot spins around a much more serious topic than the original movie, which began with a bungled robbery.
From rap star to film mogul
Ice Cube, born O’Shea Jackson, made a name for himself as a member of the pioneering late-80s gangster rap group N.W.A. before taking off on a solo career which has included fiery albums like “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” and the recent Westside Connection collaboration “Terrorist Threats.”
Since his acting debut in the 1991 classic “Boyz N the Hood,” his film career has blossomed, although he finds comedies easier to get made than dramas, especially for blacks.
Ice Cube’s company, Cube Vision, produced both “Barbershop” films, and the actor has plans for other humorous roles.
“In Hollywood as a black actor you got to start off on the path of least resistance, or you are going to find yourself a starving artist. As things do well for Cube Vision, maybe people will be willing to take a chance on more dramatic movies that may or may not have a political edge to them,” he said.
“I want to do a good, entertaining movie, and if it happens to be provocative or sparks your interest, sparks your thought, then so be it.”
The 34-year-old actor lives in a well-off Los Angeles suburb but says he had no trouble playing a character from an area closer to the one he grew up in.
“I’ve been on that side of the fence longer than I’ve been on this side of the fence,” he said, adding that he still spends a lot of time in his old neighborhood, south central Los Angeles. “Everybody in my whole world is still right there.”