February 28 will be a good day for the lucky few hundred who get to listen in when hip-hop legend Ice Cube accepts an award and sits down for a “fireside chat” with UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.
The Anderson School will give its annual Game Changer Award to the music and film icon at the PULSE Conference, an annual event where executives share insights on trends and challenges in the entertainment, sports, and technology industries. The award recognizes an industry executive who has pushed the frontiers of innovation in the entertainment industry — something Ice Cube has done not only in his film roles and music, as the Anderson School’s Jay Tucker says, but also as the founder of BIG3, a three-on-three basketball league that will begin its fourth season in 2020.
Ice Cube, Tucker says, is the “living embodiment of innovation.”
“He launched his career as a teenager, telling stories about his neighborhood and his community in a genre of music that was still in its infancy,” Tucker says. “Today, he’s widely recognized as a pioneer in music, a Hollywood icon, and a game-changing entrepreneur in the world of basketball. We are thrilled to present Ice Cube with the award.”
ICE CUBE: NOT JUST A MUSICIAN & ACTOR
PULSE is now in its 11th year. The Game Changer Award is given to business leaders who have distinguished themselves “by radically improving the customer experience, forging powerful partnerships, developing technology platforms and building businesses models that embrace the ongoing evolution of the industry,” according to the Anderson School. Past recipients include Hollywood icons Jeffrey Katzenberg and Jerry Bruckheimer; last year’s winner, Dan Beckerman, is a 1996 UCLA MBA and president and CEO of AEG, one of the world’s leading presenters of sports and entertainment programming.
But Ice Cube is on another level altogether. The 50-year-old has been a staple of popular culture for decades, having begun as a member of groundbreaking hip-hop group N.W.A. before launching a solo music and film production career. Ice Cube has produced nearly 20 films; among his more recent credits is “Straight Outta Compton,” based on his early years as a member of N.W.A. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017.
More to the point of receiving a business innovation award: Ice Cube is the co-founder of the BIG3, a basketball league that is being hailed as the pioneer of a completely new take on a familiar sport.
“Ice Cube has been in the L.A. community and has really been an icon in this community for some time,” says Tucker, executive director of Anderson’s Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment & Sports (MEMES), which chooses recipients of the Game Changer Award. “Everybody’s really excited.
“There’s a generation of people who the first thing they think of is his music. And there’s a generation where the first thing they think of are his media appearances, and as an actor. And now with the BIG3, obviously there’s a whole lot of people who realize and recognize that he’s just a brilliant entrepreneur. And obviously for our standard and for what that award symbolizes, he’s basically the poster child. So we’re thrilled to offer him the award.
“But more to the point, I think there are windows, perfect circumstances where we get to honor somebody who really symbolizes what the award means, and also is an iconic part of the L.A. cultural landscape. This is one of those circumstances.”
THE HEART OF THE CONVERSATION
Following presentation of the Game Changer Award, about 400 will be able to attend the fireside chat between Ice Cube and Jeff Moorad, former part-owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres and now Anderson adjunct professor and MEMES board member. It won’t be the first time the two have met — or collaborated. Moorad has invited Ice Cube to speak to his MBA classes, an invitation the superstar has accepted.
“Jeff has actually invited Ice Cube to come talk to students directly in his class in the past.,” Tucker tells Poets&Quants. “And so yet another reason to honor Ice Cube is that he has actually come out and donated the time to speak to our students in a much more private setting, really for no recognition, just to support the MBA program and to support the students. It’s one of the things that probably doesn’t get talked about enough.”
What will they talk about? “I can’t say for sure what direction the conversation will go. I’m leaving it to Jeff, who’s spoken with Ice Cube many, many times, to drive that conversation,” Tucker says. “I will say that thematically, the heart of the conversation is going to be about Ice Cube’s career and perspectives and about his impact on the industry. Because the guy who fundamentally changed the way we think about the music industry, he changed his own image in part as he evolved as a songwriter and as an actor, and got into film and television from the perspective of being a producer, and stuff like that too.
“And then there is this thing, BIG3, his really recent enterprise. I think the way we traditionally think about sports and why people follow sports, I think BIG3 has a very different take on that. And so we’ll ask him about all that stuff. We’ll ask about BIG3, we’ll ask him about his career, we’ll talk about music and culture in L.A. In terms of specific questions or topics that will come up, I leave that to Jeff.
“But we want to make sure that folks get a better sense — so basically the goal of the conversation is to help people understand, one, why is it that we’re honoring Ice Cube? I think it’s a no-brainer, but I want people to know about the stuff that he’s done. And two, to help people see around corners a little bit, because there are some things that Ice Cube has figured out that other people haven’t really given much thought to.”
For his part, Ice Cube says he’s honored by the recognition. “I’ve always tried to be a game changer through each step of my career, and to be honored with UCLA’s Game Changer Award in my hometown is incredibly meaningful,” he said in a news release following the announcement of the award. “Thank you to the UCLA Anderson School of Management for selecting me and providing me and my family with this remarkably proud moment.”
Tickets to the PULSE Conference are still available by clicking here. Student tickets are $25, $15 for Anderson students.