Take a Lesson in Design from Rapper/Architecture Afficianado Ice Cube

It might be two years old, but that doesn’t make this video of Ice Cube driving through Los Angeles, pointing out the important architectural and design elements, and noting the fine attributes of the Eames house any less enjoyable.

Without further ado, Ice Cube on Eames:

Indie-Rock Quintet Milo Greene Harmonizes Across America

California indie-folk fivesome Milo Greene—consisting of Robbie Arnett, Graham Fink, Andrew Heringer, Marlena Sheetz, and Curtis Marrero—have had a banner year. Well, year-and-a-half, actually, as it was March 2011 that they officially emerged as a united front, after having each been part of other outfits. Since then, it’s been nothing but smooth sailing—audibly anyway. They’ve had a few hiccups, as you’ll learn a bit about below, but, as a professional collective, both commercially and critically, the quintet has situated itself quite nicely in the likeable limelight.

From Carson Daly to Conan, Letterman to who knows what’s next, Milo Greene has been repping themselves successfully on late-night TV, as well as at venues, where they’ve been consistently selling out, across North America. One song in particular, “1957,” has given them much mileage, as this catchy single at once tugs at the heartstrings and demands we dance. (I’m willing to bet you’ll play the addictive-meets-emotive anthem at least twice over before moving onto the next number on their 13-track debut, Milo Greene, which dropped mid-July on Chop Shop/Atlantic.)

As for the band breakdown, Arnett, Fink, Heringer, and Sheetz share lead and backing vocal responsibilities, reeling us in with melodious harmonies, and swap instruments ad nauseam during live appearances. Marrero foregoes the madness, manning percussion while the others expertly negotiate who will play what when.

For firsthand experience, tune in tomorrow evening at Housing Works’ Bookstore Café on Crosby. The West Coast act will be co-headlining a benefit concert alongside Texas-based singer-songwriter Kat Edmonson. Or, if Wednesday’s no good for you, consider catching their set the next night at Bowery Ballroom.

In the meantime, get to know these guys (and girl). While in New York for a one-off private performance at the end of August, I had the pleasure of connecting face-to-face with Fink the afternoon following the promo show. Over Coca-Cola and vegan chocolate-chip cookies from City Bakery, we talked all about the group’s meteoric rise, Fink’s relationship with fellow Cali talents Local Natives, and a near death experience that in hindsight proves more hysterically funny than anything else. Read on for a few laughs, including an entertaining back-story surrounding the faux—but impressive—persona that is their namesake.

First of all, how did this ensemble cast of bandmates come together?
We were all in different bands, but were getting to know each other [and writing music together]. Long story short, we found each other, and, after a few songs were written, we realized this band was special. We all quit the bands we were in, and here we are adventuring. We played our first show last March [2011]. That’s when we announced ourselves to the world, if you will. It’s been a pretty insane year-and-a-half.

What’s it been like, since things took off?
It’s been crazy. We did a tour with The Civil Wars, which was huge for us, because it gave us a fanbase throughout America. Their fans are amazing. And, our album’s out, which is really exciting. It seems like the response to this band has been overwhelmingly positive from the beginning, and that’s a nice feeling. We’ve all been [playing music] a long time and now we’re touring on our own and filling rooms in Madison, Wisconsin. Places we’ve never played are full. That’s what you hope for. It’s still a really tickling feeling.

Madison, huh?
That was the one place that stood out because we had never played there or even been there. We were like, “This is going to be weird.” We got there and it was sold out. Madison was awesome.

Experiencing a live set, there’s a lot of shifting instruments.
The four of us are guitarists first and foremost. When we started this band, we all had to adapt and play other things. We move around like crazy people. When we were getting the songs ready to play live, we jumped around and, when something felt right, we stayed there. We’re all on different stuff throughout the set.

But you’re all vocalists.
All four of us were lead singers in past projects. We knew we wanted to be harmony-based and vocal-based.

I have to admit, when I first listened to you, I heard Local Natives.
We get that a good amount. There’s harmonies. It’s pretty vibe-y. I think it’s a normal comparison. We have similar influences; Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Maybe it’s a product of California music-making. Funny thing is, those guys are actually good friends of mine. I’ve known [them] since we were teenagers. Before they became Local Natives, they had a different band. My old band and [their old band] would tour together. We played, like, roller rinks throughout California.

Small world! Roller rinks?! Dude.
The roller rink really takes the cake. There was a guy named Bruce, with a handlebar mustache, who ran the concerts at [one] roller rink. There were probably 25 people there. They set up this immense stage in the middle. I think people could still [skate] around [the stage] while the show was happening.

That’s a riot. I can just picture it. On the topic of Cali: L.A. versus New York? Go.
I’m biased because I’m born and raised in L.A. It’s not just L.A. It’s home. Family, friends, childhood, life. Everything. I love living in L.A. and visiting New York.

I’m just the opposite. Back to funny stories, anything Milo Greene, rather than roller rink, related?
We almost drove off a cliff in the Grand Canyon once. This bug flew into the van. It was, like, a winged prehistoric creature. It looked like a dinosaur-turned-fly. It flew onto Marlena’s hat. She was sitting right behind Curtis, who was driving the van and trailer and all of us. I’m sitting next to her and I watch what she’s about to do. I see her thought process. She thinks to shake it out the window. But, by shaking it out the window, she’s reaching over the driver’s head, who, you will find out, is deathly afraid of insects. She shakes it off over his head and it flies directly into his face. We’re going around canyons and this entire van and trailer is swerving back and forth. I think for sure it’s going to be the end of the entire band. Like a Billy Madison moment.

“O’Doyle rules!”
[Laughs] Luckily, we survived that.

Indeed. So, do you fight over what to listen to while driving?
Driver picks.

What do you pick when you’re driving?
I usually get Robbie to deejay for me and play, like, nineties hip-hop. He’s good at assembling nineties R&B and hip-hop. TLC, Eazy-E, Ice Cube. If I have my druthers, he’s pulling that up for me.

Amazing. Love the classic jams.So, this is a little tangential, but what did you study in college and does it apply anymore?
I studied psychology, and you bet your ass I use that on a daily basis being in a band with these bozos. It’s helpful to have that background because [of] interpersonal conflict and the stresses of being in close proximity all the time. I tend to be a moderator, a source of positive energy and sanity, when I can. I’m not perfect, but I try to be a calming force in the band.

Who’s the whip-cracker?
That would also be me. I’m the funny man, and I tend to, when we don’t have a tour manager, take over most of the tour manager duties by default. If anybody has to crack the whip, it’s usually me.

Lastly, why the name Milo Greene?
When everybody was in different bands, Robbie and Andrew didn’t have access to a real publicist, booking agent, or manager. [They had] an idea to [fabricate] a publicist to seem more professional. They invented him in, like, ’06. They made up an email account and a MySpace for a man named Milo Greene who would reach out to clubs and promoters to book shows for their separate bands. Then, when we started writing together, it made sense to pay tribute.

Was everyone down with it?
It was never really a conversation. It was just the name for the project from day one.

What would Milo Greene be like if he were real?
He actually has an identity. He’s British. He wears a three-piece-suit. He wears a monocle. He’s albino. He has chops, sideburns. Every time we do an interview, he gains attributes. When Robbie would originally make calls to booking agents and stuff like that, he would put on a British accent. It started British and it’s kind of evolved over time. But, he’s confident, charming, well read, well spoken. He’s a gentlemen, the kind of guy we all aspire to be. Other than Marlena.

Perhaps that’s whom she aspires to be with!
Touché! And Milo Greene’s partner is Johnny Lauderdale. He’s from Florida. He’s a very different persona. I can’t do it justice, but Robbie puts on this voice. [Proceeds to imitate.] That sounds more New York than Florida. You get the idea.

Photo by L Gray

Ice Cube Puts ‘Good Day’ Date Theorizing to Rest

Because the blogosphere is the blogosphere, lots of people went nuts a little while ago over the apparent revelation of the exact date discussed on Ice Cube’s "It Was A Good Day," that classic ’90s hip-hop yarn. (Clever writers noted that we had just missed the date’s 10 year anniversary, surely perfect material for a think piece.) Even when a counter-theory popped up, it seemed like there was solid proof for either truth. But while sitting down with Cube over interviews for the upcoming 21 Jump Street, the Huffington Post asked him directly about those theories and found that — surprise, surprise — there was never supposed to be a literal calendar analog. 

"It’s a fictional song. It’s basically my interpretation of what a great day would be," Cube told the HuffPost. "Do you know what I’m saying? So, you know, it’s a little of this and a little of that. I don’t think you can pinpoint the day." Besides the hilarity that it took 7 entire questions to wrench the complete answer out of him, Cube’s responses definitely indicated a little amusement at the lengths people go to in order to prove a theory, as well as an overall DGAF-ness to his consideration of the truth. "It could have been all of those days," he said, as though anything could be anything. I guess there’s a lesson here about not getting too excited about a silly thing, but uh… I lost it.

Behold Ice Cube’s Impressive Knowledge of Architecture

Did you know that before he became a rapper, Ice Cube studied architectural drafting? Well, he did, and Pacific Standard Time, a collaboration of arts institutions from Southern California, posted a video of the N.W.A. co-founder expressing his love for L.A.’s architecture, specifically the Eames House. “In a world full of McMansions, where the structure takes up all the land, the Eames made structure and nature one. "This is going green, 1949 style, bitch."

Besides elucidating Charles and Ray Eames’ resourcefulness, Cube lists his other favorite L.A. architectural landmarks and provides a helpful explanation of the difference between “bougie traffic” (the 405) and “gangsta traffic” (the 110). Rapper, actor, producer, Coors Light pitchman, architecture expert, and traffic connoisseur: Ice Cube is a renaissance man in the truest sense.

The only thing he can’t do apparently is figure out how Criss Angel crawled inside of his head and freaked his mind:

Nintendo Tries to Trademark Phrase ‘It’s on like Donkey Kong’

Nintendo is attempting to trademark the phrase, “It’s on like Donkey Kong.” Call me old school (like Donkey Kong), call me slow and simple (like Donkey Kong), but are you kidding me? Nintendo claims the five words constitute “an old, popular Nintendo phrase that has a number of possible interpretations depending on how it’s used.” To my ear, “old, popular Nintendo phrase” sounds like a euphemism for “something people used to say sometimes in the Nintendo office, we think, though we don’t have evidence, and we don’t know who made it up. We never used it in an official marketing capacity because we were just saving it until the time was right, which is now.” It’s not even clear whether the phrase originated with Nintendo.

According to the highly reliable Urban Dictionary, Ice Cube first popularized the phrase in his song “Now I Gotta Wet’cha” in 1992. “It’s on like Donkey Kong” is just an idiom that happens to include a brand name, like “jinx, buy me a Coke.” But perhaps the bigger question is, why does Nintendo even care? Even if another company used this catchphrase to promote one of their own products (e.g. “My sheer Victoria’s Secret thong is on like Donkey Kong”), Nintendo gets free publicity. Whenever people think of sheer thongs they’ll also think of an 8-bit video game in which a little Italian man tries to save a princess from a giant ape. Funny how the brain works.

The Roots and Ice Cube Perform ‘Straight Outta Compton’ Live

Fair warning, everybody—this performance is metaphorical crack for your literal ears. A few weeks ago, while warming up the audience on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, ?uestlove, the rest of The Roots, and Ice Cube busted out a cover of N.W.A.’s classic ‘Straight Outta Compton.’ It was the stuff of urban lore: unseen (except for those ridiculously lucky audience members) but powerful. Then, last night, ?uestlove tweeted a video of the performance. It is white smoking hot. The band is so tight, Ice Cube is so on-point, and ?uestlove just kills (per usual) on the drums. I love the original track’s dense Dr. Dre-produced sampled soundscape, but something about this performance just does it for me.

To be fair, one of hip hop’s most revolutionary qualities was its push to re-structure the aesthetics of authenticity—thanks to hip hop, a drum machine went from dumpster find to powerful aesthetic—and, in a lot of ways, live instrumentation is antithetical to the sound the movement championed. But, damn, if it doesn’t just feel good to hear someone actually hold down the classic ‘Straight Outta Compton’ rhythms live, with real instruments. I’ll be listening to this 100 times tomorrow. I suggest you do too.

Nike Gets a Triple Double

And Phil Knight didn’t even have to use his AK! Here’s the new Nike joint that just dropped featuring pro skater Paul Rodriguez Jr. (who looks a bit like Adrian Grenier) skating to Ice Cube’s classic track “Today was a Good Day.” Even if you’re not into skate vids, it’s a pretty ill video, and it might also be Cube’s strongest work of 2009, though I’m looking forward to his upcoming movie Janky Promoters based on the name and the concept alone. More than 20 years after they got Spike Lee to star in and direct all those classic Mars Blackmon Air Jordan ads, Nike once again proves there’s no corporation quite as talented at co-opting emblematic elements of mainstream black culture for their commercial gain and your viewing pleasure. Make sure to watch the whole extended version for the two cameos after the jump. Is it the shoes?