Ice Cube: NFTs Are the ‘Ultimate Fuck You’ to Media Gatekeepers


In brief

  • Ice Cube spoke to Decrypt about the impact of NFTs on the entertainment industry.
  • He plans to release music NFTs, including from his new rap supergroup with Snoop Dogg.

Across 35 years in the entertainment business, Ice Cube has been involved in a wide array of creative projects, including numerous albums, dozens of films, TV shows, and more—even his own 3-on-3 professional basketball league, the BIG3.

But as Ice Cube told Decrypt, it’s the projects that didn’t get made through the traditional studio and label models that still weigh on him.

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“I’ve had to go through the system my whole career. The studio systems, radio—you know, gatekeepers that’s been in place,” said Ice Cube. “We produce a lot of good stuff, but what keeps me up at night is the things that we don’t get made—the good projects that we don’t get financed.”

That’s why Ice Cube is so excited about NFTs. An NFT works like a blockchain-backed deed of ownership to a digital item. While it can be used for things like social media avatars and sports collectibles, NFTs can also be tapped to fund independent projects, cultivate communities around a shared purpose, and give fans a stake in the success of creative endeavors.

“If the people want it, you can make it happen,” Ice Cube said of NFTs. “It’s the ultimate ‘fuck you’ to the mainstream programmers of the world, and it gives the power to the people.”

“If you know anything about me, I love that,” he continued. “I love the fact that now you’ve got studio execs pulling their hair out because creative people are gonna be going to the crypto world, you know what I’m saying? Going to the NFT world, blockchains, DAO systems. It’s just gonna be great for creators, and great for people who love good entertainment.”

Ice Cube spoke with Decrypt as his BIG3 league announced plans to decentralize team ownership by offering stakes in its 12 current teams in the form of Ethereum NFT collectibles. BIG3 will offer benefits to NFT holders such as entry to games and other real-world experiences, voting on team decisions, and even IP rights to create team merchandise.

Ice Cube took his first step into the NFT space last November with painter Trevor Jones in an Ethereum NFT project called Man vs. Machine, launched through Nifty Gateway.

Asked if he holds any cryptocurrency, Ice Cube told Decrypt that he’s acquired “a little bit here and there,” but that he’s still “getting his feet wet.” Ice Cube explained that he always seeks a strong understanding of a new space before truly digging in.

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“I want to learn the whole game before I dive in feet first. You’ve got to respect anything you get into or you will get hurt. That’s how I move,” he said. “When I get into an industry. I want to know it, understand it, and recognize what’s good about it and what’s bad—and then go from what I know.”

“That’s what I’m still doing with crypto—just learning,” Ice Cube said. “I love it. Everything I see about it, it’s just turning me more on and on.”

Ice Cube started his career in music with N.W.A., and to many is still best known as a rapper. The music NFT industry is starting to pick up steam, with artists like Snoop Dogg and Nas releasing tracks as NFTs, and platforms like Royal—co-founded by DJ 3LAU—offering a share of streaming royalties to token holders.

Ice Cube said that he definitely plans to release his own music NFTs, and that his new supergroup Mount Westmore—with Snoop, E-40, and Too Short—likewise plans to release music through NFTs. For Ice Cube, it’s yet another example of how the technology can eliminate middlemen and gatekeepers, generating more benefit for artists and fans alike.

“We’ve been creating for a long time, and not really getting the return that people expect,” he said. “You know, it’s these major corporations that are getting most of the returns.”

Ice Cube said that he’s been talking to Snoop a lot about NFTs lately, and Snoop’s interest in the space goes beyond music as a collector, a creator of various NFT projects, and a partner of upcoming Ethereum metaverse game, The Sandbox

Cube pointed to the possibility for NFTs to change the business dynamics in the music industry, not only providing more direct value to artists but also rewards to fans who get royalties or potentially see rising NFT valuations. It all fits with Ice Cube’s aforementioned ethos of pushing back against gatekeepers and rethinking inequitable entertainment industry models.

“It’s really reversing that whole system and turning it inside out—which is nothing but a beautiful thing,” he said. “We need more people like Snoop and Nas to lead artists to the promised land.

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