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Ice Cube, born O'Shea Jackson, was raised in south-central Los Angeles, California and began writing raps in high school, most notably "Boyz 'N Da Hood", a song which later became famous when done by NWA. Cube and a friend, Sir Jinx, rapped as a partnership called "CIA" at parties hosted by Dr. Dre. After a brief stint in a group called "HBO", Cube showed Eazy-E "Boyz 'N Da Hood" and the pair, plus Dr. Dre, formed N.W.A. Cube took one year off to earn a degree in architectural drafting in Phoenix, Arizona in 1987 but returned in time to participate in NWA's debut album, Straight Outta Compton. The album was a masterpiece of old school rap and attracted much notoriety for the group, from the FBI and concerned citizen and parent groups.
Ice Cube left NWA due to financial and personality conflicts in 1989. With Da Lench Mob and the Bomb Squad (Public Enemy's producers), Cube recorded his debut album in New York City. AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted was released in 1990 and was an instantaneous hit as rap's popularity increased in mainstream society. Though he was criticized for allegedly misogynistic and violent lyrics, even critics had to agree that the album was a groundbreaking, innovative piece of work. Partially to help deflect criticisms, Cube appointed a female rapper named Yo-Yo (who guested on AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted) to the head of his own record label and helped produce her debut album, Make Way for the Motherlode. That was followed by a critically acclaimed turn in Boyz N the Hood, a film by John Singleton. Cube's 1991 follow-up, Death Certificate was even more controversial. "No Vaseline" and "Black Korea" were allegedly racist, criticizing NWA's former Jewish manager and Korean-owned grocery stories, respectively. The album was still a hit.
Cube toured on Lollapalooza in 1992 and gained a significant white following. Later that year, he converted to the Nation of Islam and released The Predator. The album debuted at #1 on both the pop and R&B charts, the first album in history to do so.
After The Predator, Cube's audience began to diminish. Lethal Injection (1993) was not very well-liked by fans or critics, and Dr. Dre and the West Coast G-Funk sound was dominating American hip-hop. Taking a break from his own albums, Cube assisted on debuts from Da Lench Mob (Guerillas in the Mist) and Kam (Neva Again). Cube appeared in John Singleton's Higher Learning (1995) and then dueted with Dr. Dre on "Natural Born Killaz". Cube gained a new cult following with his film Friday, which he wrote and starred in. With Mack 10 and WC, Cube formed the Westside Connection in 1995, releasing their debut album Bow Down later that year. Sales were brisk but did not establish a large audience. After a turn in Anaconda and Next Friday, Cube released several more solo albums; however, he is now known more for his movies than his original, groundbreaking music.
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