WITH 800,000 UNITS shipped and reorders already pouring in, Ice Cube’s new Priority Records album “The Predator” seems likely to follow the success of last year’s platinum release, “Death Certificate.”But the record also breaks new ground for Cube, nee O’Shea Jackson. A former member of N.W.A (coauthor of that group’s “F*** tha Police”) and the solo voice of the equally controversial “Black Korea,” Cube wants the new record to reflect that “I’m not pissed off 24 hours a day. Some days go perfectly well,” a mood captured on “Wicked,” one of several noisy party jams on the album. “I don’t want to be stuck in the same mode,” he adds. “I’m a rapper and I wanted to demonstrate my skills as a rapper.” “The Predator,” which gives a stylistic nod to the Geto Boys and Cypress Hill , reunites Ice Cube with Lench Mob members Pooh and Jinx and producer Torcha Chamber, who laid the tracks for “Wicked.” Cube plans a 30-city tour to start early next year. A hometown stop is hoped for, but “it’s hard to get a venue in L.A.” Having made a big screen acting splash in John Singleton’s “Boyz N the Hood,” the 23-year-old Cube now hopes to act in his own screenplay, “Amerikkka Eats Its Young,” which has found a home with Universal and is now in rewrite. N.W.A has likely disbanded, but Cube holds no grudges against his former colleagues. “They paid me the money they owed me,” he says, adding he has “no problem with doing a reunion album,” about which there has been some “small talk” for the future. BUENA VISTA Entertainment is producing a two-hour country music special to air Dec. 10 on ABC, and producers hope to turn the concept into a weekly country music countdown. “Best of Country ’92: Countdown at the Neon Armadillo,” will begin taping today in front of a live audience at the Nashville Convention Center. Hosted by Clint Black and Mary-Chapin Carpenter, with backstage reports by Billy Dean, the show will feature a tribute to Garth Brooks (who will perform live) and music from Billy Ray Cyrus, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Suzy Bogguss and Brooks & Dunn. Don Weiner is exec producer. The show also has a dance troupe–the Bad Girl Dancers — choreographed by Anthony Thomas (who lists Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” on his resume). a “When we first said ‘dancers,’ we all cringed and said ‘Solid Gold,’ ” Weiner says. Despite initial doubts, the dancers will try to capture the song themes and feelings, Weiner says. Amy Sacks, BVE senior VP of programming, said Disney is passionate about the show’s concept, although its exact future beyond the spec isunclear. But “ABC wouldn’t commit to a two-hour special if they didn’t think there’s more down the road,” she said. Sacks and Weiner emphasize their sensitivity to concerns of the Nashville music industry. It’s widely known in Nashville that Music Row was peeved at NBC-TV’s decision to produce the weekly country performance program “Hot Country Nights” in L.A. DESPAIR-DRIVEN Vic Chestnutt often jokes about how R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe wanted to get a record out of him before Chestnutt killed himself. Several years ago, Stipe discovered the wheelchair-bound singer/guitarist, partially paralyzed in a 1983 car accident, playing in clubs around Athens, Ga., during what Chestnutt calls his “self-destructive down spiral.” One night after a Chestnutt solo gig, Stipe informed Chesnutt he’d booked studio time for the next day. “I thought we were cutting a demo,” Chestnutt says, but their daylong collaboration yielded Chestnutt’s 1990 debut album, “Little,” released on the Santa Monica-based Texas Hotel label. Stipe also produced the followup, “West of Rome,” a wistful piece peppered with lyrical gems both deeply personal and witty. Sparse instrumentation and intriguingly imperfect vocals help capture his charm and quirks. Despite critical praise, Chestnutt still is painfully self-critical and “consumed with thoughts of suicide,” he says, tongue loosely in cheek. Yet somewhere in this gloom lies an irrepressible spirit. “To get better as an artist, that’s my reason to live,” he says. Chestnutt appears Nov. 28 at McCabe’s with his wife Tina on bass and Jeffrey Richards on drums. FORMER NEW EDITION members Michael Bivens, Ricky Bell and Ronnie DeVoe of Bell Biv DeVoe are still putting finishing touches on their second MCA album, “Hootiemack,” causing the release date to be pushed back yet again. Sources say the delays are the result of a late start and difficulty in getting clearances for some of the album’s music samples. The disc is now set for a late December release. A burgeoning management company and record label run by Bivens helped spark rumors that the trio was disbanding or that the remaining members of BBD were planning to replace Bivens. Not so, says Bivens, whose Biv 10 Records has a deal with Motown. “(The album) wasn’t delayed because I was kicked out, or I wanted to leave,” he said, adding that his business had recently taken up much of his time outside the group, accounting for some of the delay. SOME DEMONS can’t be killed. Twenty years after Mike Oldfield sold 16 million copies of his “Exorcist”-fueled “Tubular Bells,” the album that launched Virgin Records, he’s returned with a sequel, recorded over nine months in a house in Beverly Hills. “I kept hearing music that sounded like ‘Tubular Bells’ and I found myself trying to avoid sounding like the people who were sounding like me,” Oldfield explains. “I thought that was a crazy situation, so I decided to do a sequel.” Among the new touches on “Tubular Bells II” is the help of producer Trevor Horn, the ex-Buggle/Yes keyboardist who has given the record “a more updated element,” Oldfield says.
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