He’s hardly the sort of guy you’d expect to see in a family-friendly movie. In fact, if you heard the lyrics to some of his rap songs, you’d forbid your kid from listening.

But Ice Cube, 35, who made a name for himself in the 90s with controversial rap music and films about the inner city, is a father of four who’s been married for almost 13 years. When I met with him in Atlanta, he was reserved, polite and sublimely professional. He even smiled a few times. And now, he’s making movies for kids.

“Everybody wants to laugh,” the actor said, about his choice to do “Are We There Yet?” “Besides, it’s easier to get funding for comedies than drama.”

Cube, as he likes to be called, burst onto the scene in the late 80s with the influential rap band, N.W.A., then cut his first solo album in 1990. With its highly controversial lyrics about life in urban L.A., “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” proclaimed that women were “good for nothing, no maybe one thing” and joked about Snow White in bed with the Seven Dwarfs.

Hardly family stuff – but incredibly popular. Cube’s second solo CD, “Death Certificate,” sold two million copies. Subsequent albums have sold more than 10 million total.

In addition to making albums, Cube also discovered a slew of rap artists that include YoYo, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, K-Dee and Mack 10.

His films have been just as successful. His first, “Boyz ‘N the Hood,” by director John Singleton in 1990, launched a new genre about the harsh reality of gang life. Since then, Cube has appeared in more than 20 movies that range from thrillers like “Three Kings” and “Anaconda” to comedies, like “Barbershop” and its sequel. 

“Ice Cube has a wonderful ‘everyman’ quality, in the same sense as a Tom Hanks or a Jimmy Stewart,” said “Are We There Yet?” director Brian Levant. “We can relate to him because we see some of ourselves in him.”

With its PG rating, “Are We There Yet?” is geared toward families and younger children. Cube plays Nick, a beleaguered suitor trying to woo a single mom who’s been wooed too many times before. Still harboring the hope that their parents will get back together, her kids do everything they can to drive Nick away, while he drives them 350 miles away – in his brand new, luxury SUV.

“Doing all these crazy little things, getting vomited on and all that stuff, man, it was all part of the fun,” Cube said, with a shrug. “I would hate to be too cool to make the movie good. I had no problem with being the butt of a joke or two.”

He certainly is. In fact, his character even gets to watch his car, a brand new Escalade, go up in flames. But for Cube, it’s all about giving audiences what they want – something that has transformed him into not only a decent actor, but one of Hollywood’s biggest entertainment icons.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

You have a very original name, and I assume it’s not your birth name. Where did “Ice Cube” come from?

It’s a neighborhood thing. Everybody had a nickname, and everybody wanted a nickname. My older brother gave it to me. I was always trying to get him to […] come with me. He was trying to be cool and tease me with it, you know what I mean? And it just stuck.

So you never legally changed your name?