Digging through some (paper) files I discovered some articles I wrote for Rip It Up magazine, including this interview with Ice-T at the Regent Hotel in Auckland 1988. Ice-T was in New Zealand to promote the Power LP and play the Box. Transcribing the interview afterwards I decided what he'd said was far more interesting than anything I'd said, so that's how I wrote it up.
The photo -- a digital snap of a photocopy of a lithograph of a black and white 35mm print -- was, I think, by Darryl Ward. The links are for, ah, younger readers...Darlene says 'Hi darlin" as you come in the room. And Ice T opens his mouth.
"Man, I've been doing 38,000 interviews. I been waiting on yours, though. I been doing so many interviews for the past year and stuff. I'm just used to it. I don't mind talking, that's why I'm here.
"My style of rap is a very opinionated rap, a rap that isn't set for everybody but for a certain group of people who have a certain opinion about certain things. And of course it's gonna get people uptight because we're very blatant, my rap just says 'Yup, this is how I feel'. So whoever disagrees is gonna be uptight about it, but I think that's what makes it sport.
"To me being an artist is being opinionated. It's saying what you feel and not trying to go down the middle of the road. It's too easy to do that. Radio can't deal with it because radio has to deal with what they call a safe format, they don't what to end up getting anybody mad so they end up playing Tiffany, bubblegum. Nobody SAYS anything on a record anymore.
"Rap came to music with the DJs in New York playing the breaks in the record. Islam was my producer, and he explained to me that it came to the point where the break on the record was what everybody was waiting for. He'd say, 'Here comes the break, here's where I do my best moves and move in on the girls' and all that kinda stuff. So the DJs said, why play the rest of the record? The break was perfect for talking over, and the DJ would give the MC a mike and say 'Tell everybody how great I am'. Notice the early raps, the Furious Five and the Grandmaster Flash, the raps were always about the DJ. And the kids would dance to the breaks in the music -- that's where breakdancing came from.
"You'd get young, 16, l7 year old kids telling sexual stories or stories about how much power they had. But you gotta remember you're dealing with street kids, and that's the only sorta thing that's gonna hold their attention. So you'd have to sneak a message in, like 'I was with this girl, she was real fly, man and she said -- come on, let's get high, but I don't do do that, 'cause I don't need dope' -- they slipped that message in. But the main point of the rap was how wild could you talk.
"The sampling brings it almost back to the original sound. When they first did it they had no drum machines, so they would cut records with music, with a bassline. So the sampling brings you the actual feel of a record being cut. You listen to the samples coming in and say, 'Hey remember we used to rap off that?' When Run DMC cut 'Walk This Way', that was a break people used to rap off.
"Now people are begging for an original form of rap music, saying can you do it from scratch, but it's not really the point of it. The point of it is to take something tha's yours, and make it mine -- not steal it, but take it and flip it and make the funkiest thing.
"And the kids don't know where it came from; the joke is, 'Look how funky I made something you didn't know was funky.' That's what it's all about.
"Also radio programmers are susceptible to playing something with a musical content they can remember. One of the funniest stories is when I made 'I'm Your Pusher' I was down South in the States and some old guy said, 'Ah don't like rap but once Ah heard that Curtis Mayfield singing on your rekkid Ah thought, if it's okay fuh Curtis then it's okay fuh me.'
"Now you get rap at all these different levels. Public Enemy is more like war politics, Black awareness. I'm more street politics. I deal with the police level, I don't take you any higher into govennent.
"Run DMC have unwantonly shot themselves to a full commercial level, marketing themselves to the point where they can no longer be street, they're on the Michael Jacksons Of Rap trip. Then you have the hardcore rap, like the Circle Jerks or the Black Flag of rap -- people like Easy E and NWA who just don't give a fuck about nothing. They're just saying fuck everybody, fuck the police, fuck life, I'll kill you. Which is another form.
"Then you get people like Tone-Loc who are getting dropped in as superstars, who haven't found where they are, don't have a rap base anywhere, and are kind of being loved by the pop audience.
"My environment is being reflected all over the world at different levels, though. You don't have gangs like LA, but you have gangs here. People can listen to my music and I can take you to a trip to Los Angeles. I'm like a motion picture, people are interested. Hip hop is universal, hip hop is gonna get in here where RnB can't. We sell more records than Bobby Brown and Al B Shure in Australia, sneaking in through a different route, through the kids. Kids out here don't care if it's white or it's black. Pretty soon you're gonna have a big rap scene here.
"The bottom line is that music doesn't have a colour, people give it a colour. Rock 'n' roll was always followed by white and black kids together. There will always be a racist out there saying, 'I don't like white girls screaming for Little Richard, I don't like white boys pumping their hands to Ice-T' but the kids aren't dealing with the politics of the world, they' re just dealing with what they like. That's some real healthy shit.
"Gangs in LA. are double, triple times as bad as what you saw in Colors. Now you've got cocaine in there. You got 16, 17 year-old kids making half a million dollars a week. Now to tell them to stop, it's like me taking a couple of Columbian drug dealers up to a hotel in Vegas and saying, 'Hey, now why don't you guys quit?' Now they're dealing in the capitalist system, where the ends justifies the means. I can try and get some of them out alive. It's like genocide out there.
"You used to watch the old gangster movies? When the people saw Colors they saw the drive by shootings and got scared. But the Crips and the Bloods didn't invent drive-by shoootings, I used to watch those in old Al Capone movies. It's gang warfare.
"As long as the world is corrupt and people are kept down in certain areas, people are going to join gangs, they're gonna say, 'Hey, we can't get employed -- fuck the system.'
"If we're all working, we're okay. That's why New Zealand and everybody else has be concerned that everyone has a job. Why are they breaking the law? It's because you ain't giving them a job. That's what's going on In Los Angeles.
"You can't manufacture cocaine in the United States. You can't manufacture it in New Zealand. Somebody is letting it in here. LETTING it in here -- that's the enemy. It's above the police.
"It's deep man. I wear a peace symbol round my neck because every year the president takes my money and says he spends it on peace. To me that would be making jobs, opening schools. But they just spend it on weapons.
"The sad thing about me is that people will say, you're just pessimistic. But I don't feel that. I'm a realist. There's never been peace in the world since the beginning of time. It's always been global. But what you gotta do is stay out of the system, don't become a piece of firewood while the big guys are making all the money. The world is so uptight right now, who knows, they might even give Ollie North a sentence. But the day they put Ollie North into jail, the same people that jail him will move a hundred tons of cocaine into the United States.
"People have to learn to discipline themselves, and that's the bottom line. Everybody in the end is only in control of their own actions. Like Angel Dust was big in the States until kids said, it ain't hip. And that's what'll happen with crack. People like me say it ain't hip, and kids will say, yeah, I don't want it. Rap is slowing it down, to an extent. But if there wasn't rap saying that, who would tell them? You haven't heard any RnB records sayin' it. The only person you've heard is Nancy Reagan, and she looks like she's on dope. We're the only music that really spends time talking about the situation."
Ice-T shuts his mouth.