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The Onion’s AV Club blog yesterday published an interview with Ice Cube by resident film guru and hip-hop fanatic Nathan Rabin. He correctly notes that “Ice Cube has traveled a long, strange road from incendiary controversy magnet to kiddie favorite…[he] paved the way for an entire generation of rappers-turned-actors.” Rabin mixes questions about acting and music pretty equally.
That balance is artificial. A comparison of his IMDb and Allmusic entries confirms that Cube has gone from a rapper who occasionally does movies to an actor who occasionally records music. It almost warrants a comparison with 1960s Elvis…but Elvis always did his soundtracks. If you pick up Cube’s recent In the Movies compilation, you’ll notice how few of those tracks appeared in his own films, and of those few how old most of them are.
Indeed, even in the Rabin interview, questions about rap have an alarming tendency toward the past tense, while movie questions are decidedly present-tense.
There are a lot of questions to ask here. Setting aside the easy ones of onscreen vs. musical persona and whether a musical artist who spends proportionately little time on music can remain relevant, one of the interview questions raises an interesting point:
AVC: You’ve been very critical of the music industry for a long time. Do you think major-label hip-hop has a future? IC: I’m not sure. I’m not sure if music got a future. We have all these electronic ways to download and steal music and get music, but there’s no money in makin’ music. That money’s startin’ to dry up. So what’s gonna happen in 20 years, 25 years, when the new artists of the day are all “There ain’t no money in music, so I’ma go use my creative talents to do something else”?
Gary Giddins, among others, has remarked on the surprising number of rappers who’ve turned into talented actors. The question is, does that already qualify as an exodus of talent from an increasingly less viable music industry? Or at least as a clue to where hip-hop artists will go once commercial music is finally tapped out?