Ice Cube & DeRay Davis Talk VH1’s ‘Hip Hop Squares’, Tupac’s Rock Hall Induction & Possibility of Another ‘Friday’
On Monday night (March 13), Ice Cube will unveil a new version of Hip Hop Squares on VH1. With Cube serving as the show’s executive producer, he hopes to remix the game show, which was on-air for one season in 2012 on MTV2.
Hosted by comedian and actor DeRay Davis, Hip Hop Squares follows the blueprint of the popular TV staple Hollywood Squares. While the format of the program will be similar, Hip Hop Squares will implement a tinge of diversity by nabbing stars from the worlds of music, sports and entertainment. For the show’s inaugural season on VH1, Cube enlisted a bevy of hip-hop favorites including T.I., Fat Joe, French Montana, Remy Ma, Wale, Machine Gun Kelly to bring the humor and personality to his newest endeavor.
Billboard recently spoke with Ice Cube and host DeRay Davis on the creation of Hip Hop Squares, Tupac’s legacy, their memories from filming Barbershop, Chance the Rapper‘s philanthropic efforts in Chicago, and the possibility of another Friday movie.
Cube, what made you decide to make a hip-hop version of the Hollywood Squares?
Ice Cube: Well, you know, there was a version that MTV2 did awhile back and we had did something cool with VH1 when we was doing Barbershop 3. We did a town hall meeting in Chicago with VH1. It went so well that when they brought up this Hip Hop Squares idea, they asked if we can come on and just help give it the flavor that it needed so that it can work this time a little differently.
How will this version be different from the MTV2 version that Peter Rosenberg hosted in 2012?
IC: I think VH1 gotta be the top cable station right now. So, I just think the timing is right. Plus, we got DeRay and we got different stars who have a higher profile. We’re dealing with some reality stars, too. I just think the energy is perfect this time, so hopefully, it’ll work.
So DeRay, when the show approached to you, what were your initial thoughts?
DeRay Davis: I was excited about it because I knew what potentially it could have been before. I knew that once Ice Cube got a hold of it, it put a different brand on it. Before, it was just called MTV’s Hip Hop Squares. When you hear Ice Cube produced [the VH1] version, that solidifies the hip-hop in it. It’s like if a homeless person is trying to sell you a house, you’re not paying attention to it as much. [Laughs.] But if you have somebody that’s a realtor like Cube in the hip-hop world, you’re willing to buy a house [from them]. So I think that definitely got me excited about it.
Did you go back and study previous hosts from Hollywood Squares after you took the job for Hip Hop Squares?
DD: I had watched it before so I knew who the hosts were. I didn’t want to get too tainted by watching it and Cube, or somebody telling me to do something totally different. You know what it is. You know how to play the game. It’s like the evolution of basketball. It’s the same game, but the shoes have changed, the highlights are different, and the dunks are different, so I didn’t have to research that.
IC: Having DeRay was great because he not only knows his comedic timing, he could snap with the best of them. He can keep the game going and professionally moving. We wanted somebody like DeRay who can master all three of those phases, because we don’t want nobody that’s like Alex Trebek and shit, just delivering lines. We don’t want somebody who’s too into joking around instead of being a serious game show host. When we found out that DeRay was perfect at all three angles, he just fit it like a glove.
When we previewed the first two episodes, we noticed how unrehearsed the show was. How much leeway did you decide to give DeRay and even the stars who participated?
IC: The only thing that was really set up were the questions. Everything else was the flavor and the flow that we wanted. We wanted people to be unhinged and unscripted, of course, and to be themselves. The bar that we had backstage didn’t hurt either. [Laughs] People got loose and that’s what we wanted. We had the biggest names in entertainment. So, we wanted to treat everybody right, make sure that they had a good time, and set the tone and all. Let them know that this ain’t no stubby game-show. This is like playing cards with your homie. Y’all gotta let loose.