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Ice Cube as Urbanist

Ice Cube as Urbanist

Who observed "in a world full of McMansions, the Eameses made structure and nature one"?

It wasn't architectural historian Thomas Hines or publisher extraordinaire Benedikt Taschen, but rapper Ice Cube.

Yes, that Ice Cube, co-founder of gangster rap superstars N.W.A. In a video that came out this week, he can be seen giving architectural tours of a misunderstood Los Angeles as part of a promotional campaign for Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA, 1945-1980, a dizzying art world collaboration that will bring together more than 60 cultural institutions (from the Vincent Price Art Museum to MOCA) across Southern California.

The Eames House, Case Study House #8

PST's previous promotional videos have featured actor Jason Schwartzman on John Baldessari and rocker Anthony Kiedis on painter Ed Ruscha. Ice Cube was a natural, if surprising, choice to promote the city's built environment. Not only is the rapper a fan of architecture, he explains in the video, but "before I did rap I studied architectural drafting."

Who knew? Reminiscent of critic Reyner Banham's (who once wrote "I learned to drive in order to read Los Angeles in the original") wacky yet endearing drive through the city's crazy quilt of architecture in 1972, Ice Cube name checks everything from Baldessari's scary ballerina clown to the Watts Towers while cruising westward toward the Eames House. He admires the husband and wife team for their resourcefulness and credits them for "doing mash-ups before mash-ups existed."

"A lot of people think L.A. is just eyesore after eyesore, full of mini-malls, palm trees and billboards," sais Ice Cube. "So what, they don't know the L.A. I know." And what he does know is absolutely worth a look.

Allison Arieff is a contributing writer to The Atlantic Cities. She writes a column about design and architecture for The New York Times and is editorial director of SPUR. All posts »

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