Since he declared he was 'The Wrong Nigga 2 Fuck With' a few years ago, Ice Cube has always been one of rap's elite, with the ability both to whisper and to shout, to tell a modern urban folk tale or growl a few slogans-worth of consciousness-raising doctrine. He graces the main stage at the Reading Festival tomorrow, then heads straight for Brixton for a date at the Academy on Sunday.

It promises to be rap's big night out of the year. Cube's greatest strength is his range - he's equally at home wearing a mask of declamation or of intimacy, from the John Carpenter soundtrack-style menace of 'Really Doe' to the gentle exposition of an ordinary day in south central LA in 'It was a good day', in which he doesn't get any hassle from the police, wins at the crap game and makes it with the girl he's lusted after since eighth grade. Besides: 'Today I didn't even have to use my AK/I have to say it was a good day'.

He has acquired a more playful persona of late, hanging out with the Methuselah of funk, George Clinton. Cube's latest single, 'Bop Gun', from his fourth solo LP, Lethal Injection, features Clinton and his old Parliament/Funkadelic pal, Bootsy Collins, helping out on a cover of the old Parliament track, with new words on top. It sounds less distinctively Ice Cube, more like your average Clinton work-out. For Cube, it's another mask worn well, though. He's been busy lately, appearing in the John Singleton film, Higher Learning, with another in the offing, Fridays, written by himself. For now, though, sample his glowering presence at the Academy.

Ice Cube, Brixton Academy, Sun (071-326 1022) Single: 'Bop Gun' (Fourth and Broadway/Island)