Ice Cube knows what people probably think about him. So, he got it off his chest early Thursday during his first of two nights at Mystic Lake Casino Showroom.
People think Ice Cube is too preoccupied with making movies and running his Big3 basketball league for ex-NBA players to be a big-time rapper anymore, he proffered.
Well, Ice Cube, the rapper-turned-actor-turned-entrepreneur, set out to prove the doubters wrong. With a perma-scowl on his face, he brought a ferocious intensity for most of his 75-minute set. He convinced a capacity crowd that the OG’s still got it.
Accompanied by his sidekick WC and an offstage DJ, Cube, 53, surveyed his music career from his days as a pioneering gangsta rapper to his solo success. He opened with the fierce “Natural Born Killaz,” his 1994 hit with Dr. Dre, offered other solo material like the movie theme “Friday” and the George Clinton-spiked “Bop Gun (One Nation),” and sprinkled in some N.W.A. nuggets.
Dressed in a familiar black ball cap (over a blue bandana) and black shirt emblazoned with “Westside” and “Warlord,” Cube boasted about his deserved gangsta rap bona fides. Not that anyone doubted it. After all, he did a quick survey of the crowd and almost everyone was older than 40. They knew his history.
Sometimes, his patter felt scripted. For instance, WC told him, “I know you’re never corny” before doing a romantic number, “You Can Do It,” a party jam with thick beats.
“I’m never corny,” Cube responded, “but I might make a girl horny.” Ah, corny. But it rhymes, as Cube is wont to do.
He paused. “Y’all scared of me? I know I’m a little rough around the edges. Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you.”
That’s right. He’s the dude who starred in the lighthearted “Barbershop” and “Friday” movies series. And also the tough gangsta in “Boyz in the Hood.”
Cube acknowledged his early days in N.W.A., which ruled rap in the late ’80s and early ’90s and landed in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. He tore into the group’s signature “Straight Outta Compton,” with the faces of the six N.W.A. members on a giant video screen behind him, and then segued into the bouncy, agitated “Gangsta Gangsta.” Those classics fired up the crowd.
Afterward, Cube explained that he left N.W.A. because he wasn’t getting paid money commensurate with the radio play and success of the group. That set up rap’s ultimate dis track, the vitriolic “No Vaseline,” the fiercest number of the night with the fans as amped as the rapper.
Those were the high points of Cube’s first Twin Cities performance since 2015. The rest of set found him coasting, on the easy-listening “We Be Clubbin'” and the feel-good “It Was a Good Day.” It must have been a good day because during the song, Ice Cube smiled for the first time all night. And then when it was over, like a movie star, he blew kisses to the crowd.
Ice Cube performs again at 8 p.m. Friday at Mystic Lake Casino Showroom in Prior Lake. The concert is sold out.