Here's an Epic Ice-T Interview: Sure, He Once Wore Leather and Spikes, but He'll Still Fuck You Up
From Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap Ice-T and Chuck D
*The Original Original Gangsta: Ice-T talks about his star-studded directorial debut, his famous affiliates and his life with Coco in New York
*Here Are Pictures of Dr. Dre's New $13 Million House
Perhaps because he moved back to the East Coast and became an actor, Ice-T is sometimes overlooked in conversations about West Coast hip-hop titans. This is ridiculous, considering he pretty much invented gangsta rap (though Philadelphia's Schooly D also has a claim). As Dr. Dre notes in Ice-T's new documentary Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, Eazy-E's breakthrough single "Boyz-n-the-Hood" is pretty much a reworking of Ice's "6 in the Morning."
In any case, the ambitious film, which opened on Friday and which Ice and I discussed recently in Beverly Hills, will likely help remind folks of his place in West Side lore. In excerpts from our interview that didn't make the story, below, he talks about the film, why he doesn't hate the South, and why he once wore leather and spikes.
Did you have a budget to pay the rappers who appear in the film?
With a movie like this, they're doing you a favor. There's no budget in it. They're like, "Yeah, I got you." And getting them to stop for that second, and to get the crew together, it's a lot of work, but it all pays off.
Did you have to put up your own money to get this done?
We put up the money to get the first part of it done, and then the investors came in. We didn't even have a lot of investors. My job was to access the artists, guide them through, then edit, and then come up with a feeling of the movie. With my job, I said, "OK, this is what we're gonna do." We used no stock footage, we don't want to rappers to say anything they've ever said before, and freestyle rhymes, that way we don't get caught up in the record labels.
The film is shot beautifully.
What we did was we shot every city dirty and clean. So when you're hearing the rap of somebody like Joe Budden, you're seeing the [gritty] images. You're not watching him do a rap about hard times, sitting in a penthouse. Doesn't work. You saw the grimy side of New York, then we made the city look like jewelry. We pumped the colors, so it's kinda like it's rough, but it's beautiful. We shot L.A. like it's rough, but it's beautiful. Those are like directorial and production calls, that were beyond the interviews to make the movie cinematic.
There are so many big stars in the movie, it must have been hard to know how to market it.
Yeah, we did things like run credits alphabetically. [On the movie poster] everybody likes the
name way their names look. One of the questions I ask in the movie is, "Hip-hop is a masterpiece, but nobody painted the whole thing. So what stroke did you put on the painting?" It needs all of us.
The movie opened in 150 theaters across the country, which seems like a lot for a documentary.
Well, it's taken on a life of its own. I didn't get it into theaters, we just put out the movie. It's gonna be more than that, trust me. After the first weekend, that number will double, I promise you that. It's a documentary, but people will want to see it. Every one of those artists have sold a million records, so when you think about it, hip-hop is such a strong culture. I think once the word gets out that it's not a bullshit movie, there's nothing negative about it... There's nothing about it that people are going to find offensive. The only thing that could be considered offensive might be the language, but after two minutes of it, you don't even hear the language anymore.
New York and L.A. artists couldn't be better represented in the movie, but I noticed that there's almost nobody from the South. Does that go back to your beef with Soulja Boy, and your belief that we're straying from the original ideals of hip-hop?
I tried to get Goodie Mob. I was able to get Bun B, [from] UGK, I grew up with Luke [Campbell], but 2 Live Crew is disbanded. The stuff about the other guy [Soulja Boy] -- I don't even say dude's name anymore -- but that was more about me saying it has to require a degree of difficulty. And if you drop the bar down to this, we'll call it ringtone rap, it's no longer an art form.
I wasn't trying to
dissing dis the South or dissing anybody, but I was saying that you have to really try with this. We took it too far for you to start playing with this shit now. This is dead serious. So now you've got people like Lupe Fiasco, you've got Kendrick Lamar, what we in hip-hop call spitters. Like, 'Rhyme, motherfucker. Just rhyme.'
I think Raekwon said it best, he said rappers are in a fraternity. There's a perimeter we've set, and if it doesn't penetrate that, we're like, "Go put a band-aid on that, come back later when you've got your shit up." So, my statement a few years ago was just me saying 'Y'all playing with it.'
What about guys like Waka Flocka Flame, who admits not being lyrical, but he's clearly using heavy hip-hop beats?
That's different, that's something else. This is "the art of rap." I mean, I don't listen to him. I don't have nothing against him. There's lots of styles of rap out there, and everybody picks their own, but this movie is about lyrics. Once you say you're not lyrical... You know, [Grandmaster] Caz says, rap is about lyrics. If you're doing party music, or trap music, you've given it another name. But if you're gonna call it hip-hop, then there's that perimeter that we've set.