One of the most powerful and uncompromising artists in rap music, Ice Cube enjoyed a surprisingly smooth transition into a career in motion pictures, first distinguishing himself as an actor and later branching out into writing, producing, and directing. Born O'Shea Jackson in South Central Los Angeles on June 15, 1969, Ice Cube came from a working class family, with both his father and mother employed by U.C.L.A. Ice Cube began writing lyrics when he was in ninth grade; a friend in a high school typing class challenged him to see who could come up with a better rap, and when he won the contest, Cube began honing his hip-hop skills in earnest. Before long, Ice Cube had formed a rap group called CIA with a friend, a DJ known as Sir Jinx. CIA began playing parties organized by Dr. Dre (born Andre Young), a member of a popular local hip-hop group called The World Class Wrecking Cru, and Cube and Dre both got to know Eazy-E (born Eric Wright), a rapper with a group called HBO who had started his own record company, financed by his successful career as a drug dealer. In time, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E joined forces with DJ Yella (born Antoine Carraby) and MC Ren (born Lorenzo Patterson) to form the group N.W.A. With their 1988 album Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A.'s profane and provocative lyrics (particularly the infamous "F -- -- Tha Police") made them one of the most controversial groups in the history of rap music, and if they weren't the first gangsta rappers, they certainly brought the sound to a mass audience for the first time.
In 1989, Cube, dissatisfied with N.W.A.'s management (and the fact he had been paid a mere 30,000 dollars for writing and performing on an album which sold three million copies), decided to leave the group and strike out on his own. He released his first solo album, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, in 1990, and the disc's blunt, forceful sound and aggressive blend of street life and political commentary proved there was life for the rapper after N.W.A.. The following year, after releasing the follow-up EP Kill at Will, and a second album, Death Certificate, Cube made his acting debut in John Singleton's gritty look at life in South Central Los Angeles, Boyz N The Hood, which drew its name from an early N.W.A. track. Cube received strong reviews for his performance as ex-con Doughboy, and a year later starred opposite fellow rap trailblazer Ice-T in Walter Hill's Trespass. In 1995, Cube reunited with Singleton for the drama Higher Learning, and, later that year, expanded his repertoire by starring in Friday, a comedy he also wrote and produced.
With his career in the movies on the rise, Cube spent less and less time in the recording studio, although he often contributed to the soundtracks of the films in which he appeared, and recorded with the L.A. all-star group Westside Connection. In 1998, Cube added directing to his list of accomplishments with The Players Club, for which he also served as screenwriter and executive producer, as well as played a supporting role as Reggie. The same year, he released his first solo album in four years, War and Peace, Vol. One: The War Disc. Cube went on to write and produce sequels to both Friday and All About the Benjamins, which co-starred his Friday sidekick, Mike Epps. He also continued to work in films for other writers and filmmakers, including Three Kings, Ghosts of Mars, and the extremely successful urban comedy Barbershop.
In 2004, Cube's career continued to pick up steam. He appeared in the motor-cycle action thriller Torque, as well as Barbershop 2: Back in Business. By the next year, he was taking over for Vin Diesel, starring in XXX: State of the Union, as well as branching into the realm of family comedy with Are We There Yet?. Both were box office gold, and Cube went on to follow up the latter with 2007's sequel Are We Done Yet?.