“We got a new dog He’s even cra­zier than the other one. So I live with my wife Coco and my dogs. But at the same time, I am still the same cat”

The god­fa­ther of gangsta rap tells Tara Brady why hip-hop mat­ters, why it will never get the re­spect it de­serves, and why he’s like Frank Si­na­tra

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

got op­por­tu­ni­ties and took ad­van­tage. But you have to be aware that you can be a guy work­ing at your auto dealer fix­ing cars, and at the same time chop­ping up bod­ies for the mob. You just don’t know who peo­ple are. You re­ally don’t know.”

He has, he ad­mits, mel­lowed out. But aged 54, he sug­gests, he’d look “ridicu­lous” if he were still the an­gry young man he was dur­ing the late 1980s and early 1990s: “I’ve done what I’ve done over a 30-year pe­riod. I don’t think I could have come out and been a TV cop when I was 25. It would just have been too con­fus­ing. But the fans that come to the con­certs are the peo­ple who watch Law & Or­der. They’re okay with me mel­low­ing and go­ing into an­other zone. The same au­di­ence that liked Ice-T have grown up. They like Law & Or­der and Ice Loves Coco now. They sit at home play­ing XBox. My fans fol­lowed my arc of ma­tu­rity.”

If he could meet his younger tear­away self would he have any ad­vice to im­part?

“No. I wouldn’t change any­thing. I was who I needed to be. I can’t tell my kid to carry him­self like me. He has to be more en­er­getic at that age. Even as a woman, you know you have to be a lit­tle more ag­gres­sive at that stage. That’s what it is. As you get older, you can lay back. But when you are liv­ing in the

irish­times.com/cul­ture

neigh­bour­hood I lived in, you have to deal with the gangs. You see it ev­ery day. When you get older, you move. You have your condo. You just don’t have to deal with that. My thing has al­ways been to keep my mu­sic and my life hon­est to my growth and never be some­body I am not. Now when I per­form, I can re­late to that mo­ment, but its not re­ally who I am. The old Ice-T was ‘I want to kill ev­ery­body’. The new Ice-T is ‘You know I’ll kill you. Right?’”

Gangsta MC Ice-T was born Tracy Mar­row on Fe­bru­ary 16th, 1958, in Ne­wark, New Jersey. His Cre­ole mother died when he was seven; his fa­ther passed when Tracy was in the seventh grade. The young­ster re­lo­cated to South Cen­tral Los Angeles to live with an aunt where he stood out as a kid who never used al­co­hol or tobacco, let alone drugs.

In his 20s, he signed up with the US mil­i­tary as a means of sup­port­ing his girl­friend and daugh­ter. He served for four years in the 25th In­fantry Division. He has main­tained a mil­i­tary sched­ule ever since, as a some­time rap­per, ac­tor and record com­pany ex­ec­u­tive.

The hours and pro­fes­sion­al­ism have trans­lated into un­ri­valled suc­cess. Schooly D has a claim with P.S.K. What does it Mean? But Ice-T would per­fect the sound of gangsta rap and move it along un­til G-Funk took over.

His con­tro­ver­sial chat­ter would make him a cross­over hit with the Lo­lapolooza set, but it would also at­tract the ire of Tip­per Gore, Warner Bros records, the LAPD, Charl­ton He­ston and the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion. Did he en­joy rib­bing these folks?

“Ab­so­lutely,” he says. “The same was true with Eminem. I am the kind of per­son who likes both­er­ing oth­ers. If you are get­ting pissed about some­thing I don’t think is worth get­ting pissed about, then I am just go­ing to fuck with you more. I mean I am go­ing to stick my fin­ger in it and re­ally ag­i­tate.

“Eminem says there is an art in know­ing how to say the worst pos­si­ble thing at the worst time. I would do in­ter­views and say ‘oh this is bad – home­less­ness, Aids – we have to stop this, but now I have to leave be­cause I have to get to a pit­bull fight’.”

A guardian and in­no­va­tor, he ex­presses con­cern for rap’s last­ing rep­u­ta­tion. Hip-hop may be the best-sell­ing mu­sic on the planet, but it’s never been ac­corded the canon­i­cal sta­tus of blues or jazz.

“How can you ex­pect to get the re­spect when by def­i­ni­tion you are in a coun­ter­cul­ture?” he says. “It’s the same with hard­core rock. Can­ni­bal Corpse are never go­ing to be re­spected. That’s just what it is. That’s the na­ture of the beast. When you step into that zone you are not go­ing to al­low your­self to be re­spected. Now with new rap­pers, you can put them on stage with Katy Perry. The main­stream will ac­cept them.”

Should fans be trou­bled by these Perry col­lab­o­ra­tions? Are there any wor­thy MCs com­ing up be­hind the peo­ple who in­sert raps be­tween cho­ruses?

“The prob­lem is the in­ter­net,” sighs Ice-T. “It’s the same prob­lem with jour­nal­ism. Now ev­ery­body who has a blog thinks they are a news­pa­per. With mu­sic, the only way you can be re­spected and can get out there as a rap­per is to be on the ra­dio. We went against the ra­dio. You would have to go to the record store to get the mu­sic. Ra­dio sucks you into a vor­tex of same­ness.

“So, it’s a para­dox. It’s a prob­lem. The in­ter­net has al­lowed any­one to be an artist. And the more stuff there is the more ev­ery­thing sounds the same. It’s bull­shit. It’s not the fault of the artists. They want to make money. They want to have a ca­reer. But it’s get­ting harder and harder for new, in­no­va­tive sounds to break through.”

Are there still ex­cit­ing young rap­pers out there? “Oh sure. The real rap­pers are still out there. Lupe Fi­asco is a qual­ity rap­per. There are amaz­ing guys in the UK. But will they make it? That re­mains to be seen. There’s no In­di­ans out there. It’s all chiefs. It’s crazy.” He still spits but no longer has to com­pose. “I have a cool life. At the week­end, I still go out to gigs. I still do Ice-T per­for­mances. The only thing I can’t do is tour. That takes time. But I can go to Lon­don and do one show. I have that fa­cil­ity. I have a nice back cat­a­logue. I don’t re­ally need to make new records. I am like Frank Si­na­tra that way.”

Who knew?

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