A rash childhood decision nearly derailed Ice Cube from ever becoming the successful entertainer audiences have come to love for decades.
Opening up to journalist Graham Bensinger, the rapper recalled a time when seeking revenge meant he had to be willing to take another person’s life.
“Somebody I knew and went to [high] school with — who we knew was heavy on drugs — had went around to my house and gave my mother some cockamamie story, so she gave him $20, and I was so mad,” said Cube during the Sept. 8 sit-down for “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” show.
The “It Was a Good Day” rapper grew up in Crenshaw, California during the 1980s, when the Black enclaves of Los Angeles were hit with the crack epidemic and increasing gang violence. In the past, the rapper has said he recalled his childhood being good, but seeing popular ‘hood flicks such as a ‘Menace II Society” reminded him that not everything about his surroundings was good. But coming from a family with two working parents — his mother a custodian and father a groundskeeper for the University of Southern California at Los Angeles — the rapper could not help but to take offense to his classmate’s actions.
“You violated me and my family because you knew you weren’t gon’ ever give that $20 back,” he recalled. “So, me and friends was going around the corner to kill him, and he wasn’t home. Thank God.”
Whether it be divine intervention or just plain luck, the former N.W.A. member counts it as a blessing that fateful day did not end with him taking a life. “Thank God he wasn’t home. We were young and we was mad and we had a weapon and it was gon’ happen. It would’ve been stupid, and I wouldn’t be sitting here if it did happen.” That reality was one that reminded him of the true cost of senseless violence. “I’m glad he wasn’t there because nobody should die over $20.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Cube opened up about how growing up in Crenshaw made him aware of the fragility of life, but nothing rocked him to his core more during childhood than the death of his half-sister, Beverly Jean Brown, when he was just 12.
“It made me realize how cruel the world could be. It made me realize that something as precious as your life can be taken away by somebody you know,” he said. In 1981, Brown was fatally shot by her husband in their home a few short miles from Cube’s home. Her death left a lasting impression on him.
“It just made me realize life is not a joke, you know it’s precious, and you know it just made me a more serious person … It robs you a little of your childhood. You know it took away a little of what it is to be a kid.”