An exclusive interview with the hardest working man in hip hop...Ice T... This interview comes courtesy of Maximus Clean from PROPS Magazine in Canada.. Sit back reflect and enjoy...
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PROPS: How is your outlook on music different since the "Cop Killer" controversy?
ICE T: I learned that the shit is more powerful than you can possibly believe. You can't come out on a record dissing the system and be on a label that's connected to the system. They can't allow that. I also learned that you don't have that many friends in life when shit hits. Hip hop as a whole will stand behind you, but to the masses, Hip Hop is considered one big nigga. If a hundred rappers stood behind me, it wouldn't matter. I needed guys like Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson to step up to support me. But to them, whether it's Ice-T or Ice Cube, we're all the same, their attitude is 'fuck all of them'.
PROPS: How did you get into acting?
ICE T: I got into acting kinda funny. I was in a club with some girl models when Mario Van Peebles walked over to me. He said 'I want you to be in a movie' and I was thinking, 'yeah right, you just wanna get down [with the girls]' The next day, I got a phone call from him and he told me to come and read for a movie called New Jack City. So I went over there and they told me I was gonna wear dreads and play a cop. I was like 'do I gotta own slaves too?'. I was really scared of doing a movie because it was my first test of branching off. I didn't want to fuck up my rep with no wack movie, but everybody I talked to told me to do it, even though I was playing a cop. After I did it, I got mad love and it gave me confidence. That's when I really knew that people will always judge you for what you do, but as long as you do it well, ain't nobody's gonna be mad at you. I've never read for a movie, I've always been given them. I worked with Denzel Washington on Ricochet, Ice Cube on Trespass, I did Surviving The Game, Johnny Mnemonic, and Tank Girl. I had a reason for every movie I did, especially Tank Girl because I'm into horror. I was a big kangaroo in that movie. It's funny because I was on this one interview show with a hardcore Hip Hop muthafucka who was dissin' because of my role in Tank Girl. Then I told him I made $800,000 and all he could say was 'Damn! Next question...' ...For that kind of money, I'd play a piece of shit!
PROPS: Is it hard to be an actor?
ICE T: It's not really hard as far as lines because they shoot it from four different shots. You do the whole scene like a play, then again for close-ups. Out of those takes, they will compose the full scene. So from an actor's perspective, you really have no idea how you're acting. It's as fun for the actor to watch as it is for the audience. It's more scary but a little more fulfilling than music to me because music is audio excitement, but film is more dramatic. When I make records I have full control of everything and I know how it sounds before it comes out, with films it's outta my hands.
PROPS:How much improvisation are you allowed during the shooting?
ICE T: As an actor, you can do what you want with your role. That's why they hire you; to take the role and make it real. You seldom have a writer that will harp you from line to line, you just have to make sure the main points are there and the delivery is on time.
ICE T: Tell us about the new album.
PROPS: It's called Ice-T Six: Return Of The Real. It's early Ice-T. When I first started, I had this grasp on how I saw things. As I got into music and wanted things to change, I put a lot of hope and messages into my music. At this point, I've come up with conclusions that certain things will change while others will remain as they are. I made this album about myself. It's a hard record, and it's not just Hip Hop, it's straight criminal shit. It's Ice-T. There ain't no "rock on" shit, it's drug deals and maniac crazy shit. I said to myself, "this is my sixth album, what is it that I do that makes me different from Snoop or Tha Dogg Pound?" It's like crazy shit. It's violent and the whole album is like that.
PROPS: Are you worried about controversy this time around?
ICE T: I don't care, man. I'm at a crazy part now where I don't give a fuck what it does. If they're going to censor it, they will. If it sells, it sells. If it doesn't sell, I'll go make a movie. I really don't give a shit. I've hit this level of success where I'm more dangerous than ever because I don't have to sell a certain amount of records. I'm just going to make an ill-ass wild record. But even with the craziness, it's still Ice-T. It's real. It's a double album with 24 songs that took 2 years to make. With this album, if you like me, you're gonna love it. It's not for niggaz that don't like Ice-T. I'm a big fan of all styles, even Biggie and Wu-Tang, but I gotta do my thing. The main producer or 'chemist' who worked with me on this album is Ace, who was a DJ for a group called Rhyme Poetic Mafia. He's got his shit together. I also have Sandman, E-A-Ski, SLJ, and other producers that I worked with.
PROPS: The last time we hooked up, you said something that really stuck in my mind when I asked you about your advice for new rappers. Can you recall that for our readers?
ICE T:I always question people who want to get in the business. They say 'I wanna be a singer' and I say 'Can you sing better than Mariah or Whitney? Let's get real right now. You say you can sing like Mary but there's already a Mary and who's to say that she can't sing as well as Mariah?' What I'm trying to say is that you not only have to be unlike somebody, you have to be better! You have to come in on a professional level to make it, otherwise you just can't get into rap. When I was first getting a record deal, I met with the A&R lady who said 'What's the title of your third album?' What she was saying to me was that this is a deep game and just coming in with a couple of rhymes or ideas won't get you in, you have to be deep!
PROPS: Now that you're dropping your sixth album, how have things changed?
ICE T: I'm still up there in numbers. It's like me, Too $hort, KRS One, Run DMC, LL, and Public Enemy still makin' albums after all this time and all my records have gone gold or platinum. I want rap to last. I'm not doing it as an egotistical thing. I want to be able to say that a rap career could be ten albums. That will help others when they get their record deal because that won't make the label think it's going to be one or two shot deal. That makes the labels give up more money up front. Everything we do helps the new artists in the long run. If every rapper only came with one or two albums, they couldn't get money because people would think this doesn't last. So we're trying to keep the longevity in it.
PROPS: Are you competitive?
ICE T:I've never been competitive with anybody but myself. I don't compete as far as record sales. Whoever sells more records or has more money, I don't care. I just want to outdo what I did last night. I'm competitive in that I would like to outsell my last record. I'll never sell 14 million like Hammer, I just wanna do a good Ice-T show. One thing I think is important is that rappers do not compete against each other. Just because I sell a million records, it doesn't mean you can't sell a million. Vanilla Ice can sell millions of records and somebody can still go out and buy Dr. Dre in the millions. You don't not buy Dre because you bought Vanilla, it's not like you run out of money. It's not like if I dropped an album at the same time as Mobb Deep that one of us would get the money and the other wouldn't. If both albums are good, both albums will sell! So this is really not a competitive sport and rappers need to know that. We need to get together and chop it more and be friendlier toward each other because I'm not competing with you.
PROPS: So what do think accounts for the ongoing east/west battle?
ICE T: Those are the people who aren't in the game. I'm on the front line and I am a rapper. When I go to New York, I get love, not a bunch of rivalry. Kids who don't have record deals are mad at kids who do. That's jealousy, but once they get the deal, ain't nobody trippin' off others and there's no more rivalry. When I'm on stage, some kid watching who doesn't have a deal could be playa-hatin' but that's understandable. I think the main problem in this rivalry, if you wanna find a culprit, has to be New York radio which does not play anything other than New York rap. On the west coast, we embrace everything! Any New York group can come to L.A. and sell out every show, but an L.A. group who goes to New York might not do the same because the audience hasn't been introduced to the group [through radio]. So it hurts the fans. You can't be mad at New York kids because they don't know the west coast material, it's the radio's fault. Radio DJ's out there need to stop frontin'. East coast jocks must be scared. They must put on a Sir Mix-A-Lot record and then New York flips on them but they gotta be strong. After a while, they'll get requests for some of those records. It's healthy for Hip Hop. I ain't got no beef with east coast, I think it's just being hyped up. Suge and Puffygot beef but Puff don't represent all of New York and Suge don't represent all the west coast. I wish they would just squash it because they got power and if they connect, it's on and we'll have a real black Hip Hop power base. If they connected, maybe they could be the basis of a new Motown-like label for Hip Hop. How could a kid from Compton dislike a kid from Brooklyn, they don't even know each other!
PROPS Aren't you originally from the East Coast?
ICE T: I was born in Newark, but I went to school in L.A. so ain't no sense in me claiming New Jersey, I didn't run the streets there. I'm from Earth. I play the whole map. What is beef? That's like gang-banging saying "I don't know you but I got beef with you.", that's stupid.
PROPS: What are your thoughts about Eazy-E's passing away last year?
ICE T: That's the most real shit that's happened in Hip Hop in a long time. Me and Eazy were okay, but we weren't business partners 'cuz we had a falling out over something back in the NWA days. So I was like 'Okay, me and you will be friends, we just can't fuck around over this money.' I never hated Eazy or wanted to see anything terrible happen to anybody. It was a wake-up call for everybody. AIDS is such a scary thing and it's also the kind of thing that you think won't happen to you. It can happen to you and it's deadly serious. It's the worst disease because it gets you when you're having the most fun. What was God was thinking about when he said '... I'm going to make a disease that kills you when you're making love'? That's like two opposites! I think about Eazy every day and every time I'm dealing with any woman. I'm sayin' "Yo, my nigga Eazy's dead so I gotta strap up". I ain't gonna front, men say they wear rubbers but when the shit's right there and you ain't got one, it's hard not to go up in it. Then you lie to your buddy saying you wore one. You just gotta really think, even if it's a cold conversation when you're with a girl 'cuz you gotta wear the rubber and look at her like she's dirty or something. But it's the times we live in. It's scary because nobody knows if they got it, the shit can be layin' dormant on your ass.
PROPS: What's the true history of Gangsta Rap?
ICE T: Here's the exact chronological order of what really went down: The first record that came out along those lines was Schooly D's 'P.S.K.' Then the syncopation of that rap was used by me when I made Six In The Morning. The vocal delivery was the same: '...P.S.K. is makin' that green', '...six in the morning, police at my door'. When I heard that record I was like "Oh shit!" and call it a bite or what you will but I dug that record. My record didn't sound like P.S.K., but I liked the way he was flowing with it. P.S.K. was talking about Park Side Killers but it was very vague. That was the only difference, when Schooly did it, it was "...one by one, I'm knockin' em out". All he did was represent a gang on his record. I took that and wrote a record about guns, beating people down, and all that with Six In The Morning. At the same time my single came out, Boogie Down Productions hit with Criminal Minded, which was a gangster-based album. It wasn't about messages or "You Must Learn", it was about gangsterism. That was the New York shit. So there's no question that I was before Eazy because if you go back to 1982 with Cold Wind Madness, I was talking about being "the pimp, the player, the woman-layer", but Six In The Morning would be the first "Gangsta Rap", so to speak. After that, Cube wrote Boyz In Tha Hood which was like a bite of Six In The Morning [with the syncopation]. It's like "Six in the morning, police at my door..." and "The boyz in the hood are always hard...". If you play Boyz In The Hood at the same time as Six In The Morning, you'll hear they even break at the same point. I had my Rhyme Pays and Poweralbums before the NWA album came out. But NWA did it louder, more crazy, and better for what it was. They took gangsta rap to a whole other level. So I'll split credits with NWA but it was kinda happening on the east coast too with Schooly and KRS-One. But it was us four groups who really got it going. I also wanna include Too $hort because he was he was doing shit so I connect him in with that flavor at the time.
PROPS: At a time when Too $hort is putting out his final album, do you have any plans to retire?
ICE T: I've retired from putting out an album a year. I don't have to put out another rap record. I can do it at my casual pace. I might do these shits until I'm 60 and break it down to where I'm selling three thousand records, I dunno. I'm at a point where I don't have to wait for the income from the record to survive, so I'm in a comfortable zone, but I'll make rap records as long as I feel I have something to rap about. If you're really a rapper, you can't stop rapping. Like Rakim said, "...I came through the door, I said it before, never let the mic magnetize me no more..." Although, if I ever made like $50 million cash, I'd be outta here and you'd never see me again. I'd go to Maui, build houses, and grow kids. But right now, I gotta remain employed. I'm living a dream. I get to do with my life everything anybody ever dreamed of doing (short of playing pro-sports). Make records, be in a rock group, be on TV, in the movies, all that so I ain't bitchin', it's good!
PROPS: What about the Rhyme Syndicate? Will there be another project?
ICE T: When I first got into the rap game, I had an early dream of unifying rappers. I was following the Zulu Nation ideal so I wanted to create something but Zulu was too afrocentric for L.A. so I used the word "syndicate", meaning a group of groups with one common goal. We started with Everlast before House of Pain, Def Jef, Donald D, Muggs, all of them. I never had the time to run a label, but the thing about me was that when I got my label deal, I just hooked up my homies, I didn't care if they could rap, I just hooked up everybody I knew. I got mad niggaz record deals, I must have gotten over 20 record deals. Right now, however, I'm getting ready to start a new label called O-Positive. It's my blood type, but it also means nothing's positive. I don't think I'll be rapping like this for another six albums, so I'm more serious into the business aspect of it now, so you'll see a whole new Syndicate come out.
PROPS: What do you want people to know about your upcoming album?
ICE T: That the Ice-T album is based around the words, not as much the music. It's never been based on me trying to outskill another MC, it's based on the context and theories of life. My shit is for players. If you never got into the life, you wouldn't understand what I'm rapping about. My shit makes sense to niggas that's lived. My fans are adults, they're 25 and up. They're brothas that moved weight and had long money or dealt with the FBI before. It's not based around the kid who drinks 40's and stands on the corner shooting at everything that rolls by. We have groups that do that, but I can't rap with the mentality of an 18 year old when I'm in my 30's. I'm living a whole different life now. I have to grow with my audience. My audience started listening to me when they were 18, now they're 25. You don't want me to rap to you like you're 18. I gotta grow with you. The best way to listen to the album is to put it on, get some Moet, lay back with your boys, and kick it. It's like a film. You ain't gonna dance, don't get no bitches in the room, you might miss some game! Each song appeals to a different player. My album has a gangsta side and a playa side so for gangsta niggaz, all the violence is on the first record, for playa niggaz, all the pimpin' is on the second record. But it's all real! Every song you hear, you'll say "That's real! That was real... ooh that was really real!" I bet you'll say "real" 20 times when you listen to my record or send it to me and I'll give you your money back. I'll re-wrap that shit and put it back on the street.
PROPS: How's Darlene?
ICE T: She's cool. She helps me with what needs to be done. When we put her down with the Power campaign, we were dealing with the power of sex. She got a big fan base from that. I refer to my girl as my wife, but we ain't married. I'm not being disrespectful, but I don't want nobody to run out and get married because they think I'm married.
PROPS: Any final comments?
ICE T: In closing, thanks for everybody who's stayed down. You pick your player buddies and you stay down with them forever. I know I have real players listening to my records and that's why I've been able to keep it going for so long. You gotta fight to like Ice-T, because I'm not trendy. Don't worry about other suckers not liking me, they're going to jail soon. But once they go to jail, they start liking me and writing me letters saying "Oh, Ice, big baby!" and that's how it goes. -