"Look," Cube says, leaning closer to allow his jewelry to momentarily fall from his chest, earrings catching the sunlight, "everyone’s talking about keeping it real and all this stuff, but when you’re black in America, you don’t really have any choice but to keep it real. There’s no option. You can’t just wake up and say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to keep it real today.’"
In person, Cube (not Mr. Cube) spins his usually harsh poetry into philosophical prose. He’s got it all figured out. This is a man who knows where he came from and, more importantly than where he’s going, those who came before him.
"On Martin Luther King Day, I usually take the day to talk to [my four children] about his legacy. Most of them know about him but my youngest, the 4-year-old, doesn’t know it. So I break it down: why we celebrate this man’s achievements and how I would not be where I am today without him. I don’t think we’re at that point yet where I can say, ‘Yo, it’s MLK Day, let’s barbecue!’"
Cube is much more understanding with his own children than the brood he has to deal with in his latest outing, Are We There Yet?, currently in theaters. The tagline asks, "24 hours. 350 miles. His girlfriend’s kids. What could possibly go wrong?" The answer, of course, is everything imaginable, as well as a kickboxing deer, a deranged trucker and Jay Mohr.
"I’ve grown up," Cube offers to those who question what happened to Doughboy, his character from his first film, 1991’s Boyz in the Hood. "I’m a father now, a husband, I got my own production company – Cubevision – and the world’s more serious than it was then. I’m more mature.
"This movie’s right in line with what I was trying to do with Boyz – promote myself as an actor. You have to pay attention to the kids if you want longevity in this business, they’re the new moviegoers that will allow you to continue your career."
They’ll also allow Cube to kick back in the Bahamas when the time comes. "I plan to pass Cubevision on to my sons and then sit back and collect checks on some sandy beach," he says.
For now, though, the Barbershop star plans to continue improving – in all areas. "I’m never satisfied. I’m always critiquing myself and thinking that next time I could do better. I’m hard on myself when it comes to my acting and rapping. It’s just got to feel right to me. There’ve been some movies where I’ve not liked my performance and I’ll not even watch it. A few of ’em – I’m not going to say which."
Being true to himself is the way Cube has always attempted to live his life, and he says that this is why the "street" continues to love him.
"Because I’m not putting on airs. I’m just who I am, and people just accept that. I never worry about my image. I have no image. I’m just going to be me to the day I die. Hopefully people accept it, but maybe I’ll lose some fans on the way. But I’d rather lose some fans than lose myself."
Are We There Yet? is currently in theaters.