Ice-T: High Roller

Rhyme pays, but TV pays better. In 2006, Ice-T has little to no reason to still be making records. Between a leading role Law & Order: SVU and hosting Hip-Hop Honors, the original gangsta is a well-paid household name, who never lost one bit of his outspoken, street image. But for the love of the […]

Rhyme pays, but TV pays better. In 2006, Ice-T has little to no reason to still be making records. Between a leading role Law & Order: SVU and hosting Hip-Hop Honors, the original gangsta is a well-paid household name, who never lost one bit of his outspoken, street image. But for the love of the Hip-Hop he helped advance, Ice-T has returned with his eleventh album, Gangsta Rap.

The Ice opinion leaves nothing unturned as Tracy Marrows touches on why he chooses to work with rap veterans, why today’s youth can’t relate to him, and why Flavor of Love has him shook. Ice-T says he’s never portrayed himself with a woman that wasn’t his, or rhymed about a car he didn’t drive. When it comes to questions on the state of Hip-Hop, the 48 year-old icon keeps it just as real. On the cover of Gangsta Rap you guys are in bed, naked. Is that a play off of a John Lennon, Yoko Ono album cover from back in the day, where they did something similar?

Ice-T: I wasn’t dealing with them. Somebody told me about it. I never saw that cover but mine was just [the film] Superfly. I just knew Superfly, when he went to lay back, he had the White girl on his chest, he was in the bed kicked back, talking s**t, and The Mack too. Hasn’t the cover alone been creating controversy?

Ice-T: You know, controversy, it’s marketing. Point blank. Somebody like me, I’m not gonna do a two million dollar video. I’m not gonna come out here and spend all my money promoting on a record. I’m like we’ll just put out something that people will talk about, that will create a buzz. Hopefully people will come to the website and listen to it. You and your wife are naked on the cover.

Ice-T: Yeah, it’s real. One thing about me, I’ve never taken a picture with a girl that wasn’t my girl. I’ve never done a video with no cars that weren’t my cars. That s**t is wack. “Real” is really an important word to me. If I don’t have no Maybach, I’m not gonna be posing near one. I come from a different code where the cats I mess with come from the penitentiary or the streets and if I say a word on my record that ain’t true, n***as will get at me like “Ice that ain’t real, n**ga, you didn’t do that.” I don’t really fabricate s**t, that’s corny. But that’s how we look every morning in the bed [laughs], just that sexy. And, I put a pistol on the mantle piece because it’s kind of like, although this looks so sexy and fly, it’s gangsta. This is the lifestyle. On the topic of being an OG, I know you have production from Grand Daddy I.U., and appearances from Smoothe Da Hustler and Trigga Da Gambler. Why did you choose to work with these artists?

Ice-T: Because I only work with cats I know. I only deal with people I know. Me and Trig and Smooth have been friends since “Broken Language”. I was in New York one time doing an interview and I was at one of the radio stations and they asked me who was I feeling right now and I said, “This guy named Smoothe Da Hustla.” I mean, I had just heard it, the record is so bananas, and before we got out of the radio station, they were downstairs. They were so happy because I was the first person to say they name on the radio. They were so real, you could sell it. And I’ve been dealing with them for years. They’re the truth. So of course when I’m doing my record, I’m not gonna have my manager say, “Who’s hot on the charts? Call Nelly.” That s**t is corny. Rap with the n***as you f**k with. To me, Hip-Hop is supposed to have some realness to it. It’s not pop music. When you start hunting down the hottest producers and all that, now it’s very pretentious and fabricated, that’s corny. It’s not necessary. The producers I got are all unknown producers, and the tracks are dope. How connected do you feel to other veterans in the game?

Ice-T: I’m very connected. I talk to all the people. By doing Hip-Hop Honors, that was really a reunion. And I’m friends with Big Daddy Kane, I talk to KRS-One, Melle Mel, Chuck D, Ice Cube, Dre. I got a good rep. Do you see that show as a vehicle for gaining new fans? Not just for you, but for all the artists involved?

Ice-T: Not really. I just think it’s a good vibe. You guys are on the Internet, but you gotta know man, live Hip-Hop performance on TV is rare. There are no more Arsenio Halls. Every once and a while somebody performs but you don’t get to see them live. You got kids today that are really Hip-Hop fans that have never seen Ice Cube live, they’ve never seen MC Lyte, they’ve never seen The Beastie Boys; they think Eminem is the first White rapper, and The Beastie Boys sold 11 million records. After I did my show, I got people emailing me talking about I look like 50 Cent. 50 Cent? Huh?

Ice-T: Like I was trying to be him. But how can I be him when I was out 10 years before him? You gotta track the movement of who’s copying who. And I’m not saying he’s copying me, I’m just saying their image of what it is; they only can date it from a certain person. Like when I did Rap School, I asked the kids who was the first rapper they had ever heard of and they said Nelly so, we’re dealing with that. That’s why it’s good for people to see Afrika Bambaataa and breakdancers, and Salt N Pepa, and Wu-Tang Clan, you know? It’s a good vibe. It’s a good show. The vibe of it and the intent of it is good. Is your original fan base is still loyal?

Ice-T: I wouldn’t know who’s loyal anymore. I don’t really know what’s up. We’re gonna just wait and see. To me, music is music. The first word in Hip-Hop is “hip.” It’s not really easy for a 17-year-old or an 18-year-old kid to listen to me because I’m a little bit older than them, and the girls can’t really like me. But I also believe there’s an adult Hip-Hop audience, a Hip-Hop audience over 25 who really can’t listen to an 18-year-old rapper tell them what’s up. If you’re a woman and you’re 30, and you’re listening to rappers who are 19 telling you they want to take you to bed, I don’t know if that’s child abuse. So I think you do need a Big Daddy Kane, you do need an LL, you need somebody who is talking something you understand. Basically, my fans are people that like me. Being that you’ve obviously grown and evolved since you first came out, how do you look at your older music?

Ice-T: I think the difference between old Ice-T and the new Ice-T is old Ice-T is [shouting] “I’ll kill everybody,” and the new Ice-T is like [smoothly] “By the way, you know I’ll kill you, right?” So I think that’s the way the music is. The music was just really aggressive and ag because of the youth and the energy. As you get older, you get more focused. I learned that it’s not really about being mad at everything, it’s just being mad at the right s**t. Focus your energy. Everybody is not your enemy, pick ‘em and get ‘em. Going back to you being a veteran, is veteran synonymous with old school? Method Man was recently had on a T-shirt, I believe it was at Hip-Hop Honors, that read that he was not an old school artist. How do you feel about that?

Ice-T: Today, old school is two years old, the way [the fans] got it. I heard a n***a tell me Nas was old school. So, Jay-Z is old school. It’s like if you’re not out in the last two years, if you’re not Jeezy or a Yung Joc, or basically a new artist, you old school. It’s like, somebody like Ludacris is getting close to old school. That’s how quick they turn it over. But the beauty of Hip-Hop is if Hip-Hop embraces brothers like Ice Cube, Too Short, E-40. They let them make a record today, which they are doing and they’re hot but, what hat that does for the rap artist is say you can have a 20 year career. So it’s kind of like the kid sitting in the audience hating on the old school rapper, really is creating a situation that won’t allow him to exist for more than two years. Ah, I see.

Ice-T: Exactly. In other words, it’s more beneficial to have rappers rap for long distances because it lets you believe your career can last longer. When radio starts playing those records, like if radio throws an Ice-T record on, that means everybody between me and now could possibly have a hit if they just put the right record together. If they won’t play my record, that’s to say if they ain’t within the last two years then they won’t play you, they wouldn’t play Method Man’s s**t [because he’s considered old school]. He wasn’t getting no main radio rotation because they’re only looking for the flavor of the month. I think I have a reason for that, do you want to know why? School me.

Ice-T: The reason is, radio phone lines are only hit by kids below 20 years old. Nobody over 20 got time to be calling no g####### radio station. [Laughing] I saw where you were going with that. That’s an excellent point.

Ice-T: A Chris Brown or somebody like that would get a lot more hits or requests than somebody a little older, so that young age bracket is really, really important because that’s where all the little girls will blow up. Now if you go to the Law & Order website, where I take a million hits, those are all adults who will email and write in. Some of them don’t even know I rap, so you got a whole ‘nother bracket. But the thing is with radio, anybody who’s ever called radio knows that they put you on hold and the only person who has time to hold for a request is a child. There is it, the science of young hype. How are you transcending young hype?

Ice-T: I don’t care about it. The beauty of where I’m at in Hip-Hop right now is another platinum record, or gold record is not gonna change anything. It’s really just another statement from Ice-T. Hip-Hop has just been waiting, wondering if I’m done and I’m like, “Hell no, I ain’t done.” I would quit, but these n***as just don’t rap that good. It’s not like I can’t out rap a lot of these cats. If everybody rapped like Twista then I’d quit. How many more albums do you think you have in you?

Ice-T: They’re easy to me now. I don’t know. We’ll see what this Gangsta Rap album does. The results of it will let me know. But Chuck D told me, “You shouldn’t do it if you ain’t having fun,” I’m like this s**t is fun. But n***as is hearing me, I just got a call from Lil’ Wayne to do something on his joint, and I’m on Snoop’s s**t [Blue Carpet Treatment]. Who is the scariest person in Hip-Hop right now?

Ice-T: I think Flavor Flav right now. I mean scary in the best way because we don’t know what Flav is gonna do next. That Flavor of Love show is just f***king bananas. Wait, I think the scariest person in Hip-Hop is New York, f **k the rappers. As a matter of fact, let’s put New York’s mother down. The scariest person in Hip-Hop is New York’s mother.