NEW JACK 2000 – THE ICE OPINION.
INTERVIEW BY BRYAN STAHEL AND DAN LEVY
PHOTOS BY BRYAN STAHEL
I’d heard of Ice T before, but it wasn’t until I saw him on Oprah Winfrey that I first really appreciated the Ice phenomenon. That was circa the early days of the PMRC and Jello Biafra and Tipper Gore were also on the show. When grilled by Oprah about his lyrics, Ice said something like ”You don’t understand, I wasn’t raised like Bryant Gumbel. If I was, my rhymes might be different. My family was more like Good Times. except we didn’t have that much furniture.” Ice pretty much blew my mind on the spot. Once again that incident proved to be the spark that set off some serious transfer of knowledge.
How did you get along with Jello Biafra?
My main opinion has always been that people like us have similar enemies. Divide and conquer is a major piece of the making of the machine. Can’t let you know me. You might realize that you like me, then it’s a lot harder to go to war against me. If you don’t know about somebody, some idiot can come tell you about them, y’know, but I think one of the major things in the last 15 years that drew people together was hip hop. Hip Hop is a real ill art form. To me, it’s another morph of rock. When hip hop came out, the way white kids embraced it was just natural, because kids wanna experiment and do new shit. It was like a double rebellion back in the day because y’know when white people listened to stuff like Slayer that was like rebelling, they were like “I’m gonna double rebel, I’m not only gonna go with Slayer, I’m going to go with Run DMC.” A lot of white kids dug the fact that their other white buddies may not have been ready for it so they were like “Y’know I don’t care what you want.” It took a lot of nuts for white kids to be into hip hop in the early days and those kids really got a lot of stripes for it. Now, it’s very cool. It’s almost understood. Me, back in the day, connecting with Jello Biafra was just natural. I already was listening to the Dead Kennedys, I had Holiday In Cambodia, Frankenchrist. I knew all about his shit. I said this guy is on the same channel, just coming from a different zone. We became really good friends. I clicked with all those powerful cats. Rollins, (snaps), like that. In this game, you got soldiers and you got pussies. Bottom line. You got people that will stand up and say ‘fuck you’ and you got people who won’t. Takes as much nuts for me to say I’m down with Black Flag as it does for Henry Rollins to come onstage to a Public Enemy record to all his hardcore fans. If you’re truly punk, then you’re doing what you wanna do, not what the punk culture says is right. That’s not punk, man you’re following. Punk is not about following, it’s about individualism.
Blazing your own trail.
Exactly, to have the nuts to stand alone is the way people get stripes out here in the world. So, I had respect for Jello, he has mutual respect for me. Tipper Gore on the other hand was some bitch caught up in not knowing and wanting to put blame on music that she’s never listened to. That’s the problem of the world.
There’s a real parallel between the punk rock and hip hop scenes.
Yeah, there’s a parallel between aggression and non-aggression. A parallel between people who want rights and people who don’t. It’s a parallel of anger. Thing of it is, if you sit down, you’re probably angry at the same shit, know what I’m saying? There’s a lot of confusion. A lot of black people think everybody white got money. That’s not true, you’ve got to travel, got to see poor white people. They’re niggers too, in the eyes of the man, they don’t care. They don’t want you in their hotel if you ain’t got no money. Get ‘em out of here, y’know. The more you travel and the more you experience the less you hate. We have a saying “judge the Devil by his deeds” I’m not gon’ look at you and say ‘well I got a problem with you’ y’know you ain’t done shit to me. I gotta watch my boy, y’know probably went to school with me, he might have more larceny for me, know what I’m saying? That’s something you learn, but if you grow up in Newport Beach, if you grow up in South Carolina and you never leave, you don’t have any concept of the world or understand people. You just understand whatever the guy down the street told you and you’re a pretty dangerous character at that point, whether you’re coming out of South Central LA or coming out of the Ozarks. You just do not know shit, you’re just stupid. Y’know kids in South Central are stupid, they can’t see that there’s more to this. I was one of them kids.
How did you get involved with hip hop?
Hip hop is just a musical form that popped up, I was out in the streets hustling. I was pimpin’, doin’ all kinds of different shit to make money. I had girls boostin’, all kinds of shit going and the music just came out. Sugar Hill Gang put out Rappers Delight and I flipped it over and I tried to say some rhymes, but I was saying rhymes about street life, it was something to do. Something I would do on the weekends after I had done crime all week. I would go to the club and get on the mic, say rhymes and get girls. I was trying to get pussy, so y’know most of the stuff guys do is to impress chicks anyway so that was my way and before I knew it somebody said ‘let’s record this’ and started recording and it sold. I really never thought I’d make money off it but I think that’s the truest way to get into music is to kinda fall into it.
You got to do it for the right reasons.
Yeah, you got to do it because you love it. Or you know, or you’re trying to get some pussy. (everybody laughs) That’s more realistic; got to be famous so you can get laid.
If hip hop was your kid how would you guide it?
It went through infancy, that was when the first rappers got in the game and everybody got screwed, nobody got any money and everybody got ripped off ‘cause they didn’t know any better. They never had heard of a contract that didn’t pay, shysty lawyers and agents and shit. Then it went through adolescence, that’s when it tried to kill itself. That’s what adolescents do, that’s when we had to stop the violence, everybody would go to the concerts and fight. We were radical. Then it hit it’s maturity when Biggie and Pac got killed. That’s when everyone in hip hop woke up. Yo, shit is dead serious. The thing about hip hop that people don’t understand is that it’s not so much a movement of music as it is a dream out of the ghetto, y’know? When kids spun, every DJ in the Bronx thought that one day they would make a record. Every breakdancer thought that one day they would be in a movie, every rapper thought y’know, one day. It was a dream, gonna make it out of here. Yo, but you got black kids coming out of the ghetto, man. Guys got to get paper. Nobody twenty-six got no time to be rappin’. You got kids, know what I’m saying? So, now I’m happy about hip hop ‘cause it’s full grown. It can co-exist and we don’t have to dis each other. That’s a mature way of looking at it, and I think that’s where hip hop had to make it so that it could live forever and grow and stay out there. It’s at a point where it’s branching off on a whole lot of different levels so that form of funk will probably be around forever. One day, hip hop will be retro. Those beats still move the crowd. As long as those beats make people move, there will be hip hop. I’m happy for it, I’ve been doing it twenty years, I’ve been in the game and seen it grow, new artists come out with new skills and are inventive. It almost seems to be alive, and you see it kind of mellow out. You’re very rarely gonna interview cats that are going to talk bad about people, ‘cause we saw where that got us. We got two of our pioneers killed over a bunch of bullshit. Too much ego.
What made you want to do Body Count? I saw you guys on the first Lollapalooza and the show was pretty intense.
Yeah, yeah. I had three, four cats I grew up with that played instruments: Ernie C., D Roc, Moose and Beatmaster V. They all played and I rapped. Ernie had been carrying his guitar around since high school. D Roc was like his buddy and protege. Ernie had taught him to play, now he was as good as him. Mooseman was our friend. When I would go to a recording session, they would come over just in case I needed guitars. They were my live instruments. One day they were just crying, like ‘let me play here’. I was like ‘no, this is hip hop, I don’t want that much shit on it. I want to keep it sparse, I want them to hear the words. Why don’t you make a band, I mean look, you’ve got one right here. Why don’t you do some live shit. Y’know we were listening to Slayer in the studio, and lot of people don’t know that Public Enemy used Slayer for Channel Zero, they used the breakdown of “Angel Of Death”. (hums the riff) I had been in Europe doing hip hop, we played “Colors” and people would start a pit. So I wanted something more fast and aggressive, let’s cross a little Black Sabbath, a little Slayer, keep it punk. Keep a sense of humor to it, but keep it dark. Body Count was supposed to only play around LA, but then when I got the chance to do Lollapalooza, I said let’s split the set, see what you can do on stage. And we nailed shit. Right now we’ve taken off a little while. We did lose our drummer, Beatmaster V passed from leukemia. It was a big blow to us. So we decided to wait, regroup, get hungry and come out. I think sometimes stopping a band is good because music is kind of like jumping rope. You know before you jump the rope you kind of watch it, you got to know when to come in. Even with this rap record, I waited. I kinda waited out Mase and Puffy, and all that kinda shit, everybody was in that super pop stage. Now I think people are ready for something hardcore, y’know? OK, you’ve heard enough of that, you’ve heard every R&B record remixed. I want to hear some beats and some raps, guns and shit, y’know to play in my car. It’s timing. My thing is that I don’t want to do something and have someone go ‘uh, this sounds like Korn’. Come on, man. I love ‘em and all that but Body Count, motherfuckers are gonna die in the pit. I want it dark, evil sounding and we’re gonna keep it like that. Let’s bang these motherfuckers hard.
When you wrote “Cop Killer” were you surprised that it became the poster song for the whole censorship battle?
Oh, hell yeah, man. I mean I knew about Millions of Dead Cops, I knew about all these different groups. Black Flag was always dissing cops. I was like, it’s a rock record. And to be able to play it for a whole year on Lollapalooza, no problem. Then a year later they come and say I’m causing riots, I’m like ‘oh God’. Then they called it a rap record which was really a racist maneuver because if you say rap, a lot of people immediately don’t like it. If you say rock, people think ‘well I like Jefferson Airplane’, you don’t get that immediate response if you call it rap. It was just a bunch of nonsense to me, they’re gonna pull a record I made a year ago, now I gotta fight it. I was so far beyond it, I was on to the next album. It staggered me for awhile, y’know I had to make the right moves, do what I thought was right. Retreat and return with superior firepower and let ‘em have it. I wasn’t really set and ready to go to war, y’know.
The lines between us and them, people and the man seem to be drawn a lot clearer now. Like NYC in the wake of the police brutality, people seem ready for shit to go down. Do you think that’s inevitable?
Most definitely. I think world chaos is unavoidable. I don’t think people are going to remain in a world that’s happy and OK. Bullshit, it’s like a natural transition, like evolution. You can’t fly a thousand miles in any direction without hitting a war. So, in the streets y’know, it’s gonna go down. All it takes is one big global mistake, one maneuver, one third world country to launch, one strain of hepatitis, one little Y2K bug, one little thing then everybody starts making ill moves and you’ve got a real problem.
Yeah, global anarchy. You’ve got major shit. It’s like everybody wants to run down to that jewelry store and get them jewels, they just think they’re gonna get caught. Give ‘em a chance to get that shit, they’re gonna loot like crazy. It’s kind of like in a holding pattern, the lull before the true storm. It may not come for fifty or a hundred years, but it’s coming. Even if they go into a peacetime mode, they’re gonna pay for the evil in the past. Even if they never launch another bomb, there’s too much evil that they’ve already done, they can’t clean it up. Like you’ve been fucking around and putting condoms in a sock somewhere, stop fucking around and there’s still that fucking sock full of condoms, and she’ll find that shit in five years. And it doesn’t matter that they’re five years old, you’re gonna pay for that. (mass laughter) It’s gonna go down, there’s just too much dirt that’s been done already.
Are you stoked on 7th Deadly Sin?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is the best one definitely since OG. Y’know to be an artist, it ain’t that easy, you do your thing. It’s like riding your skateboard, every time you try to do your best trick. You may do it ten or fifteen times and eat shit. Every time you tried, but sometimes you just stick it and whoa! So this album right here is a good one. To me one thing good about it is that it’s a hardcore rap album, not a fake hardcore rap album. It’s an Ice T album. My thing is, I’ve been doing this for a while, so I’m not really in competition with new rappers. I’m someone you’ve been listening to all your life. I want to give you something that you can walk away with, a little knowledge, a little game. Not so much I’m the toughest guy on the Earth. Kinda like someone that’s seen what goes on in the streets.