Just about every prominent black celebrity from Chicago gets a shout-out in Barbershop: The Next Cut, from Oprah Winfrey to President Obama to R. Kelly. But not even the embattled King of R&B gets raked as hard by Ice Cube’s comedy sequel as Chicago’s own Kanye West—Barbershop 3’s favorite target.
Ice Cube reprises his starring role as Calvin Palmer Jr., whose family shop has now become a co-ed salon where ladies and fellas both flock to get their cuts. Within the script by Black-ish’s Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, Calvin’s ensemble of barbers and hairdressers trade barbs, ideas, and heated discourse over a variety of hot topics.
These include the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement, urban gentrification, and the unrealistic expectations of the male gaze in the Instagram age, a subject whittled down to its core thusly: “For years there has been a war between the good girls and the hoes,” one character declares, “and the hoes finally won.”
In many ways, Barbershop 3 is Ice Cube’s Chi-Raq—at once a cinematic love letter to Chi-town and a rallying cry against the rampant gang violence that continues to ravage the city. It’s also a Kanye shade factory that, not coincidentally, happens to star not one, but five fellow rappers—Cube, Eve, previous Ye collaborators Common and Nicki Minaj, and Kylie Jenner’s beau Tyga, who’s all but part of the extended Kardashian clan.
Kanye is far and away the barbers’ favorite comedic target. Cube drops the first mention in an opening crawl voice over praising Kanye as one of Chicago’s favored sons and daughters. In one scene, the women of the barbershop wage a gendered war of words with the men, referencing Kanye’s relationships with Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose, criticizing his perceived preference for lighter-skinned women: “You’d drop-kick Lupita to get to Kim Kardashian.” “Even Kanye got rid of Amber for Kim.”
Later, when the barbershop staff decides to throw a charity hair-cutting drive to stop gang violence for a weekend, they brainstorm how to get the word out.
“I think we should just call up Kanye,” someone suggests.
Enter old-timer Eddie, played by Cedric the Entertainer. “Kanye’s a Kardashian now. Rob got fat, Lamar on crack, Bruce done turn into a woman. I’m worried about Kanye,” he quips, referencing that leather skirt and leggings ensemble that sent gawkers into a tizzy back in 2012. “Now he wears dresses.”
Your move, Yeezy.