Black Ice: Raise Up

When you’re driving in a cold highway, you never see Black Ice coming. It can throw you from the road, and it can shake your consciousness just enough to provoke a reformation. Black Ice is a fitting title for Philadelphia poet and artist. For the last five years, he’s been shocking fans with blunt artistry […]

When you’re driving in a cold highway, you never see Black Ice coming. It can throw you from the road, and it can shake your consciousness just enough to provoke a reformation. Black Ice is a fitting title for Philadelphia poet and artist. For the last five years, he’s been shocking fans with blunt artistry on Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam stage. Now, through a Koch record deal, Black Ice has that surprise to go.

The Death of Willie Lynch is a dense title for anybody’s album. Black Ice, proud of who he is, kills the theories of Black inferiority in title and in deed. Fresh off touring with Mary J. Blige, Black Ice reflects on his rise in the rap-poetry ranks, and the city that never saw him coming. What’s it been like going on a nationwide tour with Mary J. Blige, the Queen of Hip-Hop R&B?

Black Ice: Crazy. It’s been fun. The crew out on tour is really cool and down to earth. It’s a great experience and I couldn’t imagine anything better. How have you been received by her audience?

Black Ice: The word is what it is. People were pretty receptive and once it started coming out everyone was taking it in, digesting and appreciating it. The feedback’s been good. What I have to say is relevant. What’s the hardest part about touring?

Black Ice: Being away from kids and family. Everything else I’m built for; the hustle and bustle, being in and out of hotels, I’m in love with that relationship of it. I just miss my kids and the regularity of everyday life. That’s the hardest part. But when you get off the road, it’s a beautiful thing. Like any job, at certain points you get tired. But I really can’t complain. It’s been a blast. It keeps you on swivel; you’re switching up [surroundings] daily, so it’s a physical reminder to stay present. You’ve come a very long way. At one point you were a barber in Philly…

Black Ice: In Germantown, yeah. What does the city of Philadelphia mean to you?

Black Ice: Everything. For the learning it put me through and the growth it gave me… The more I’m away, the more I appreciate it. I realize that when I go and meet other cats out of state, like my man Malik Yusef from Chicago, who reps his city so eloquently. Philly is a very dynamic city; socially and politically. It really shaped and molded a lot of my philosophical views. Talent-wise, it’s a zero tolerance city. You can’t get up on stage and be half-assed. So it’s molded me into being an above average artist. It’s trying because I feel my city as a whole embraces me. The artist-world of my city is a little stand-offish. I would love to do more work with my artistic community. I’m actually in love with every artist in my city. It’s a beautiful thing. What does Black Ice represent?

Black Ice: That surprise factor. Never let them see you coming. Because you look a certain way doesn’t mean you have to think a certain way. Let’s look frozen and bust ’em in they heads when they pull up! That was the description of Black Ice when I first started. You never have to be what they say you are because of the way you look. In some ways we can be better. You’ve just got to deny the ignorant s**t that they try to attach with it. From HBO to Broadway and a nationwide album release, did you ever imagine any of this?

Black Ice: I remember when I was doing poetry at the local cafes I always had the dream of being the first spoken word artist with a label deal. I felt the art form could be taken to another level where it would be marketable and still hold onto its integrity while being accepted by a mainstream audience. I put a lot of work into maintaining my passion for the art itself. It was a dream executed. When I got the Hip-Hop quotable for The Source a few years back, that was a dream. It was a dream to perform with Public Enemy. Working with Jazzy Jeff now is a dream because I remember seeing him introduce the transformer [scratch] to the world back when I was 13 years old. I’m still a big fan. This is where I’m supposed to be. I’ve put in the work that God needs for me to put in and this is just the fruition. Well, congratulations! How do you feel about your debut album being out?

Black Ice: The Death of Willie Lynch. It’s a lot. I feel gratified, satisfied, vindicated, hungry… It’s like that perfect balance of peace and anxiety. I’m relieved. This is the end of the incubation period and the birthing of something new. I went to Best Buy and was looking at it and that was crazy. The most meaningful congratulation I received was from my children. They called me up and congratulated me on it. How did The Death of Willie Lynch come about?

Black Ice: I always had that in the back of my head as the title of my album. For awhile, I had been reading that the Willie Lynch theory was a fact. A couple of college professors put me on to research to find out how questionable the thesis was. The majority of English language used, quoted as verbatim in the text, was inaccurate for that period in time. So it symbolizes the death of that myth. So it’s like “Hey, we’re not what this bulls**t says we are. We’re not genetically inferior; we’re not psycho-sociopaths.” That was just a myth, now let’s see our shine. We don’t have to be ignorant, street n***as or deadbeat dads. We don’t have to concede to that lower self. We can be way bigger than that. So the album represents the death of all those beliefs. Looking at the songs on the album, explain the “Ugly Show”…

Black Ice: It’s premised around the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. It’s really a song about the fleecing of America’s core by America. This government has f**ked over its own poor and this is a divine order. It’s almost like you have the drug dealer around the way that can’t be killed. He’s too smart for the n***as and too fast for the police but God is always gonna put that Karma on you so he might go out getting hooked on his own s**t or dying in a car crash. That’s the same thing with America; we’re the thug of the world, no one can stop us, so God steps in and smacks us in the face for all to see. The “Ugly Show” is basically telling us not to forget. You’re providing the insight and inspiration. It’s a powerful track.

Black Ice: There is a Hollywood mindset in place because they commercialize the biggest tragedy and now it’s forgotten about. A year later, Spike Lee comes out with a documentary, When the Levees Broke, in order for us to keep it in our heads. The song is the same reminder that all is not forgotten and we still are very concerned about the state of being for people in this country. There is a miracle in every truth. And last year was a very ugly truth. But the miracle is that the world sees that we’re not divine, we got our own bullsh*t. The government keeps in place a certain percentage of people in America that are not meant to succeed, dream or prosper. You need that underclass in order to keep this capitalist society from water. We are that underclass, we want better and we’ve had enough.