NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ice Cube helped create gangsta rap, sold millions of albums, starred in numerous movies, and now he is dabbling in something new, film journalism, as he targets U.S. professional football and the fate of his hometown Los Angeles.
A die-hard football fan and supporter of the old Los Angeles Raiders, Ice Cube, whose real name is O’Shea Jackson, had never delved deep into the game beyond being a fan of the sport and the spectacle that takes place around it.
Then he began to wonder why, in 1994, the Raiders returned to their first home in the relatively small city of Oakland, outside San Francisco, from major metropolis Los Angeles where they had taken up residence for more than a decade.
Cube didn’t like the answers he found, so the rapper, actor and football fan turned to documentary directing with the hope he might be able to bring a team back to Los Angeles.
“I think the whole country is going to be interested to know that the commissioner wanted a (football) franchise, and was conspiring to get a franchise there,” Ice Cube told Reuters, referring to Oakland and to the head of the National Football League, which governs the sport in the United States.
Cube’s movie, “Straight Outta L.A,” had its world premiere at this week’s Tribeca Film Festival, and offers moviegoers a snapshot of Los Angeles and its rap music culture seen through the dual lens of the Raiders team and their rabid fans.
When the team’s owner Al Davis moved the them from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982, Cube was 13-years-old and rap was making its way onto city streets and radio airwaves.
As Cube began rapping, the tough-guy mentality epitomized by the Raider’s pirate logo and their silver and black uniforms became part of the image of his group, N.W.A, which scored a major hit with their 1988 album “Straight Outta Compton.”
At the time, N.W.A and “Compton” became symbolic of the style of gangsta rap that would become enormously popular, and the Raider’s gear began to be adopted by many Los Angeles rappers who liked the team’s tough attitude on the field.
“When we put on that logo it reinforced what we were about — that pirate mentality,” Cube said.
In the film, Cube reminisces about the team and the music of the day with fellow rappers Ice T. and Snoop Dog, also big Raiders fans at the time.
More broadly, the director shows the contrast between the African American rappers who became millionaires and music stars, even as the team they loved fell into disarray, began losing, and started to see violence among fans at their games.
In an interview with Davis, Cube depicts how the legendary and eccentric team owner threatened to leave Los Angeles unless more was done to accommodate his franchise.
“Straight Outta L.A.” might be seen by some as a sad film because 16 years later, Los Angeles still does not have a pro football team, despite the efforts of many civic leaders.
Cube told Reuters he reveled in making the movie and uncovering details about why his team was forced to leave through interviews with players and former NFL officials.
“A lot of people in L.A. lied, a lot of people in the NFL lied and conspired to get him (Davis) out of there,” Cube claimed.
Although he occasionally sees the Raiders play in Oakland, Cube is still bitter his city has no team.
“Hopefully it’ll bring a team back,” Cube said of the documentary, “we deserve a team.”
Editing by Christine Kearney and Bob Tourtellotte