Soundtrack Of My Life – Ice Cube On The Power Of Marvin Gaye And Explosive Brilliance Of Public Enemy

As NWA biopic ‘Straight Outta Compton’ readies to hit cinema screens, Ice Cube talks NME through the tracks that have influenced him along the way – from Curtis Mayfield to The Sugarhill Gang…

The First Song I Remember Hearing

‘Kung Fu Fighting’ – Carl Douglas: “I remember being a kid, getting in my family’s car, turning the dial on the radio and ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ just hitting me. It was so dope. It wasn’t anything to do with love, like most songs – when you’re a kid, you don’t wanna know about that. It was about having fun, this crazy rush of blood. For me, it soundtracked growing up in the ‘70s. Too dope, man.”


The First Song I Fell In Love With

‘What’s Going On?’ – Marvin Gaye: “My parents always played ‘Let’s Get It On’ in the house but this was my favourite. It’s got so much soul, but it’s also politically conscious and talks about real things happening in society, on the street. It started me thinking about those things. Before long, when my mom was working nights, I wouldn’t be watching cartoons – I’d be watching the news. Marvin told me what’s going on.”

The First Album I Ever Bought

‘Run-DMC’ – Run-DMC: “I had all the singles but I just had to buy the album. Problem was, I didn’t have the money – I only had half. So me and one of my friends went halves on it. I got it Thursday, Friday and Saturday, he had it the rest of the time. I couldn’t believe how every song was so dope – song after song, all amazing.”


The Song That Made Me Want To Make Music

‘8th Wonder’ – The Sugarhill Gang: “It’s kind of a tie between that and ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash, but I’ve got to go with The Sugarhill Gang. When I heard it, it put me on a path. Everything changed when I heard that song. I wanted to rap just like that. It’s an awesome party song. I still love it.”

The Song I Can No Longer Listen To

‘Drunk In Love’ – Beyoncé: “So fucking catchy.Too fucking catchy, man. That and ‘Happy’ by Pharrell – it’s been a good year for hooky pop songs that don’t leave you alone. On the radio all the time, everywhere, going, “SURFBOARD! SU-SU-SURFBOARD!” It’s a good song but I could do with a break now.”

The Song That Makes Me Want To Dance

‘(Not Just) Knee Deep’ – Funkadelic: “Let me make this real clear – no DJ about to play in a club should leave home without this. Ev-er! It’s one of the best songs ever, this funk jam that just gets better and better the longer it rolls on. It’s so funky. Just thinking about it right now make me want to dance.”

The Song I Do At Karaoke

‘Superfly’ – Curtis Mayfield: “You sure I can’t say [my own song] ‘It Was A Good Day’? Alright, I guess that is cheating… ‘Superfly’ is a classic. I love it so much I sampled it [on ‘The Nigga Ya Love To Hate’]. So maybe I’d get on the mic and do that song.”

The Song That Best Sums Up NWA

‘Fuck Tha Police’ – NWA: “It was something the entire universe wanted to scream out. Although we were coming from a very specific place, with problems specific to Compton, ‘Fuck Tha Police’ was so universal at the same time: authorities stepping on people was something going on ’round the entire world.”

The Song I Wish I’d Written

‘Bring The Noise’ – Public Enemy: “Take your pick of Public Enemy songs, I wish I wrote ’em all. It’s the attitude, the energy they bring. I learnt so much from them musically, in terms of having a voice and having a say on things that matter. This track’s got so many good lines, I don’t know where to begin. It’s like an explosion of thought.”

The Song I Want Played At My Funeral

‘Flash Light’ – Parliament: “I want my funeral to be a party, a real fucking happy occasion – people eating, talking, dancing, all that. I want a DJ there spinning all my favourite shit as I’m lowered into the ground – all these songs I’ve been talking about, but especially this one. It’s perfect.”

This piece originally appeared in August 23 issue of NME

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