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Name: Adam Bernard
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When Words Speak Louder Than Actions
Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The other day I was interviewing Ice Cube when I realized something; his career and the career of Will Smith are strikingly similar with only one small twist. Yes, that’s right, Ice Cube and Will Smith have a lot more in common than most people think. Why then is Will the guy everyone wants to invite into their homes while Cube is still feared by so many? It all has to do with which medium they choose to be violent in.

Will Smith has always been known as a clean rapper. This isn’t a knock against him. I will always defend Will as one of the greatest of all time both for his skills and the doors he’s opened for Hip-Hop. As one half of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince Will was one of the first rappers suburban parents approved of. His albums showed an incredible amount of skill and were filled with fun topics like thinking one could beat Mike Tyson. Ice Cube, on the other hand, scared the piss out of suburban America.

Most people’s introduction to Ice Cube was through the seminal reality rap group NWA and their hits “Straight Outta Compton” and “Fuck Tha Police.” His anti-establishment rhymes were laced with the violent imagery of the streets and NWA quickly made parental advisory stickers a hot button topic. Well into both of their respective careers Ice Cube and Will Smith made the leap into acting. When they did this a trading of places began to happen, but it was a trading of places that didn’t change many people’s opinions of either.

Both Cube and Will have extensive film resumes, but lately we’ve been seeing family movies from Ice Cube and more violent fare from Will. Cube has been working his Are We There Yet? series of films, films which many of his fans from his NWA days love to criticize (although if they have kids they should probably love them since those films are about the only way your five year old is going to be exposed to something Ice Cube has done), while Will has done more violent, shoot em up, flicks such as Men in Black, Wild Wild West (sorry Will, it gets a mention), I Robot, and I Am Legend. With that in mind, why is suburban America still afraid of Ice Cube while Will continues to get a seat at the dinner table?

There’s an old adage that states actions speak louder than words, but in when it comes to entertainment the stories of Ice Cube and Will Smith show that’s not true. The visuals people have seen of Ice Cube involve him being a comedic family man, but no matter how many PG rated movies he makes nobody will ever be able to get the words “Fuck Tha Police” out of their minds when they see him. This is a fact he’s actually quite proud of… as he should be. When you pen something as important as “Fuck Tha Police” it should stick in people’s minds. Will Smith, on the other hand, can do as many sci-fi action flicks as he wants and shoot numerous weapons and kill hundreds of bad guys and everyone will remember him as the guy who told us “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Now, I know Will also had a sitcom, which is a visual medium, but it’s still interesting that after a 10+ year movie career involving quite a few gun toting roles Will is still considered the less violent, kind hearted man. This, my friends, perfectly illustrates the power of rap music… at least good rap music.

Within the world of good rap music words can create visuals so vivid and so indelible that they stick with us for a lifetime. Actions are supposed to speak louder than words. That’s why we have the saying. The truth of the matter, however, is that actions speak louder than words only if those words aren’t put to a beat. If you’re an MC, no matter what else you do in life you will (no pun intended) be remembered for your words. It’s something for all artists to think about when they’re creating their songs.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:48 AM  
  • At 4:32 PM, Blogger Claudia Alick said…

    branding branding branding
    image image image
    The rap music will always have the strongest branding in peoples minds becuase it's seen as autobiographical. Will Smith plays violence, Ice Cube is violent. I think it's also facinating to think about the power of names as well. The Fresh Prince vs Will Smith--Ice Cube vs O'Shea Jackson.
    This is highjly contested territory in an industry that's about "keeping it real" and storytelling. I always trip over the career of Ice T from cop killer to cop portrayer. Was he playing himself or someone else as the dude in the leather vest in Breakin Elctric 2 boogaloo? The line between character, persona, and self is slippery indeed.

  • At 4:54 PM, Blogger Ricardo Raínho said…

    "The rap music will always have the strongest branding in peoples minds because it's seen as autobiographical."

    Exactly. And yet, O'Shea Jackson was as gangsta as Kanye. Both have one thing in common: their mother was a school teacher.
    Not that that influences my perception of the music, for the record.

  • At 6:16 AM, Blogger Crew54 said…

    Claudia touched on it, its all Image. Whenever you see Will Smith outside of the movies he is smiling, with his kids or wife looking like the rap Obama or something. Ice Cube still mean mugs every camera he can, and is walks around portraying many of the same looks he did while was writing and "Fuck The Police."

    I think it's dope, feels like it wasn't all for show, but it just reinforces mainstream America's disapproval. Also, you can't forget the movie he REALLY gets acquainted with is Friday, violent or not, it's not gonna put you in the graces with the "good ol boys."

  • At 1:02 PM, Blogger redstinger83 said…

    If you’re an MC, no matter what else you do in life you will (no pun intended) be remembered for your words. It’s something for all artists to think about when they’re creating their songs.

    I've always had that mindset whenever I do a rap. I want to make sure that whenever my words come out in a rap verse, I want them to be genuine and real as possible. There are exceptions to the rule: if it's a battle rap, you know it's only to prove your worth in a competition.

    You know what would be cool to see? Ice Cube and Will Smith doing a movie together.

  • At 9:06 AM, Blogger Lee said…

    I was going to comment something that another reader said already: Cube's constant scowl may have a bit to do with how he is perceived as well too. But I did like the read.

    Another reader pointed out how cool it would be for them to do a film together and I agree. Fuck, they should do a song together. Now THAT would be cool. These two cats coming together to speak on the Black male's image in society and a host of other things affecting the Black community. I would rather enjoy that.

    What's also worth pointing out is that Will probably came from a rougher neighborhood. Someone can verify this. Oshea was a suburban kid himself while Will grew up - well, you all know where based on the hit TV show. So the contrasts are interesting.

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