Highly successful rapper/actor Ice Cube recently expanded his brand into the visual arts. For his collaboration with RareInk, artists from around the world were enlisted to create a series of limited edition artworks inspired by the legendary rapper. The artists involved are MiQ Willmott (TWEEQIM), Kerry Laster (Phantom Kay), Mark Sgarbossa, Grzegorz Demoradzki (Gabz), Leon Bedore (Tes One), and Patrick Hoelck.
Ice Cube explained that the impetus behind the partnership was to benefit fans: "When you're a fan, you want to be as close to the artist as possible." Not only does the sale of the art benefit fans, but also charity, with 10% of the sales donated to the Minority AIDS Project.
I recently spoke with Ice Cube on the phone to discuss his interests in art, charity and Chinese theater. Read the full interview below the slideshow.
How did the collaboration with RareInk start?
They contacted us at Cube Vision that they had this bright idea to consolidate memorabilia and they showed us they had a history in baseball cards and sports memorabilia and they wanted to do something with entertainment and we thought it was a great idea. Them having artists from all over the world do different renderings of my work and see if the real connoisseur kind of fan would want something like that so you know it's authentic and legit. Sometimes you go to a memorabilia store and you're not for sure.
Is that why you wanted to get involved with this project, to give fans an opportunity to purchase authentic memorabilia, or were you more interested in the creative aspects of the project?
Well you know, I just really wanted to do a couple of things: consolidating your memorabilia to me is a great idea because you can have all different kinds of things out there, you might not even know the art that's out there. And for a big fan of any artist, this is something to have -- a must have. It's just another way to give fans a piece of you and something that's authentic. And you know it gets your fan base going and energized and all that good kind of stuff.
It was launched recently, could you discuss the reception or is it too early to tell?
It's too early to tell, people love the work, people love the pieces, but we'll see really you know a little down the road once the concept's picking up and people know what it is and also when more artists come along and join in and then we think we'll have something really attractive. The art is great, getting people who are great artists and a lot of these guys are fans and it's cool because proceeds of the money goes to the MAP charity - Minority AIDS Project of Los Angeles. To me as an artist, it is something more to give my fans to make sure things I've done in the past can get immortalized in a way, it's cool.
Were you involved in the creative process or did you leave the artists to do their thing?
I just left the artists to do they thing. To me, that would mess up the process if I told people what to do or how to do it. If it's got something that the fans will dig then I'll approve it, if not then it can just be a nice one shot piece of art.
Did you meet with the artists before they created the works -- did they ask you any questions about what your favorite albums or videos were? Or were the artists just chosen and left to make whatever inspired them?
I think they were just chosen. I met one or two artists after I approved their work. These are guys like I said all over the world and to me the pieces talk for themselves, there's really nothing to talk about, either the pieces jump out at you and feel interesting or it's not. Not every piece that was done was picked to be a part of the memorabilia. We definitely had to comb through it.
What made you decide which pieces would ultimately be for sale? What was different about those versus the ones that weren't chosen?
To me they kinda popped, I thought the first run that we do should pop. The photographs are different, Im just talking about the artwork. "It Was A Good Day" one was a very good one. Some of the renditions of my album covers are great, because they accented them and made them pop from what they were originally. To me they're just great pieces and when you see them up close you see the detail and all the hard work that was put into them. I love 'em.
As you mentioned this is more than just a collaboration bringing art to fans, part of the contributions go to Minority AIDS Project (MAP), could you discuss your involvement with MAP and what this charity means to you?
Well, you know, of course AIDS and HIV is a major factor in the black community and not a lot of programs out there are geared toward the people of my own community, so I've been involved with them since the 90s. I think it's a great charity. It's not one of those high publicity charities but it does great work with people of the community that I grew up in.
What made you decide to apply your handprint in addition to your signature for two of the different portraits?
It was actually an idea from one of the guys at Rare Ink, he had saw sumo wrestlers in Japan doing their signatures and kinda topping it off with their handprint, and he thought it would be cool for my fans to have my handprint. I'm really surprised artists hadn't thought of it before. It reminded me of Chinese theater or something like that. It has kind of that flavor to it. To me it was a great idea to give it that little extra pop, to make it a little more authentic, to give fans a little something more to get excited about.
I read an interview where you mentioned you studied architectural drafting, so you have an interest in the visual arts; might there be a career switch in the horizon to making art, not just music?
Yeah, to me it's one and the same. I was a very interested arts student, I was always into that part of school and when I got into high school I went into architectural drafting. It gave me an understanding of how to build things and it's really helped me put things in perspective. With my music and my movies, to me it's all art.