An Open Forum Interview From '94
Photo Credit: Rolling Stone Magazine
ICE-T TOWN HALL INTERVIEW - MIDNIGHT SPECIAL BOOKSTORE
Like MTV, they censor the shit out of every video that comes on there. They, radio, newspapers, they can't write certain words. You're being censored. So why, why jump on somebody else? It's just a part of life. If you live in this country, you can't say anything you want. (Gestures to the bookstore shelves). These particular books might be able to be read, but they can't be spoken on TV. And they can't be shown in their true sense in a movie because you got different rating systems. They're censors.
So we are censored, you know, pretty much. In our country, in life. Live with it.
But we got to fight it. We got to fight it. And that's what I do, I push the threshold of censorship. I'm like, I'm going to say what I want and let the chips fall where they may.
What did that do? It got me taken off my big label. I'm no longer connected with the conglomerate. I've got to do it myself. They might try to move on me again.
And if I gotta sell records out of my trunk... I'm already prepared to make the actual tapes myself. We're buying the big machines and they're gonna make the tapes at our house, sell em at the swap meet. Because the underground is the only place where free speech is still alive, that's it. Right here.
Q: So you think that when it's illegal for people to shout fire or use foul language in a crowded theater or on tv that's just a form censorship? Some people say that you use sexist language too, such as calling women 'your bitch' and other things.
ICE-T: Ok, check this out. Let me explain to you about my use of words, first.
(Q: Lady in crowd refers to a particular photo).
Naw, that was a picture of my girlfriend and she was looking good. And a lotta people admire that picture. A lotta people. No, I walk around and...
See, let me explain something to you real quick. Let me get into word usage and stuff real quick. First off, I mean.Then we'll get into the women thing too. But first off, these words I use. I defy anyone to define the word profanity to me. I checked and I've asked and I looked it up. And I looked up profanity and it said blasphemy. I looked up blashphemy and it said irreverent, words that send you to hell. I challenge anyone is this room to tell me how use of the word XX (ed note: censored for radio) is going to send me to hell.
(Objection from crowd).
No, no, I'm going to talk about bitch. I'mma tell you about the word bitch. In the black community, I grew up saying bitch fuck shit, that kind of stuff. Ok. My daddy, used to talk to me, 'man I wish I could send my dick across the street, bounce off them four parking meters, and fuck that bitch right up the ass.' My mamma would look at him and say, 'shut up nigga, you got a little dick.' Ok, now, we in the ghetto and the black community throw a lot of words around that don't really matter for that kinda thing.
I say bitch all day with my girl in the room, she don't snap her head head around because I'm talking about a bitch. I'm a bitch sometimes! Bitch, to me, is someone who thinks the world revolves around them for some particuar reason. It's a word that can be used on TV.
Now, if I'm not talking about you as a (real) "bitch" you know, then I'm not really directing it at you. You can get turnt off, and say 'ok well that's offensive to me' and all that stuff. Well, I'm not really aiming it at you. I'm aiming these songs at bitches, and there are bitches. Are there bitches (in the world)?
(Lady in audience agrees some people are).
Allright! Then I'm talking about them!
(Different lady in the audience notes that the word is typically a gender-based put down, men don't get called bitch often.)
Naw, the worst thing you can do is call a man a bitch!
(Lady points out that might in fact bolster her argument. "tTat's what I mean, it's not fairly the same as a woman.' Both uses still imply women are lesser people, though.)
ICE -T (Somewhat sarcastic): Well, the worst thing you can do is call a woman a man, right?
(Crowd response: 'that's not a negative connotation used all the time as with women.')
Yeah, but that's what the record is intended to do! It's an attempt to say something negative to a woman. (Makes obscene gesture).
(Crowd: wokld you say that all women are that word?)
Naw, i wouldn't say that. Because that's a blanket statement. I'm talking... No, a 'bitch' is directed at a particular person.
(One lady starts "Not when...").
Ice-T (exasperated, cuts them off)" Well, you don't hear me baby, you won't see it.
(Woman in crowd: 'I can explain it to her')
Ok, Let her explain it, maybe a sister can explain it.
(A woman, perhaps over 70, then explains charmingly that it's "all in his book and that Tracy has written a good book that explains it all. Table of contents, if you can read." She quotes Tracy in it calling himself a bitch).
Ok, that's all I'm saying. Certain... See, see, and like I deal with sexism a lot. I deal, deal with sexism in rap music a lot. I don't really... I'm am not sexist, I'm sexual. I deal with shit straight up and how it is. If I thought... If I was sexist I would think that you were below me, women don't deserve money, this type and all that stupid shit. I believe you are equal.
Matter of fact, I think that women are runnng the world. Ok, now. But you look at my ass, I look at your ass. Let's just get it out in the open. We wanna fuck each other. That's how life is. We're human beings. Ok, I say that. Now, I think that there's more of a division --not between men and women-- but different grey shades of feminism.
You have the women will wear minskirts, the women who won't. You got the women who think that Madonna's degrading to women, the women who look at her as uplifting. The woman who won't look in Playboy, the women who love to look in Playboy because they think there are beautiful women. That is the grey area and the fights that are going on right now.
Men are pretty one-dimensional. Men want to fuck. Now, I'm just telling you, you should thank me for that cause I'm letting you know: men want to fuck. We're just like that. And there is man who doesn't want sex with a woman; he wants sex with a man, but it's a sexual response. Men are very sexual creatures. We're on this earth to seek and destroy. We're are some old different shit, we're dogs. And thse women that say, 'no-- they're not, they're not all like that. I met this one man and he was sensitive.' Maybe he's just good. He's good. He's good at it.
(Laughter from crowd)
But let me tell you, bottom line. If I use the word bitch I use it to connect with the real streets that I come from. If I would have made the song '99 problems and a girl aint one of em', Markey Mark coulda sung it and it woulda went pop. I think bitch makes it street. That's all it is, it's just a word used in the hood.
You want me to change the hood? And change what people say? People don't like the fact that I use the word nigga. I love the word nigga because to me the nigga is the one who wouldn't co-operate. You had the house nigga and the field nigga, and I'm a real nigga. You know what I'm saying? I'm never going to be what you want me to be, master. You dig? So I mean, yeah, nigga, whatever. It don't mean nothing to me. I don't trip on the words. And if it offends you, I'm sorry but it wasn't directed at you. Unless on that particular day, you were being a bitch.
(Q: Do you have any female rappers you like?)
Oh definitely. We got a new girl, fifteen years old, named Grip. She's got a record coming out called Tales From The Grip. And on her album she's letting the brothers have it. And you know, it's like, I listen to Salt N Pepa, I listen to Queen Latifah. And she's like,'I aint no bitch'. I mean, I can take it. You got Bitches With Attitude, Hoes With Pop, and to me it's like verbal jousting. It shouldn't be taken so to-heart. If it bothers you then, you know, turn it off. That's all. I never understood how someone could listen to a whole album and be offended. Turn it off. First time I see something on TV I don't like, I change the channel. It's only for certain people.
(Q: So if someone uses the word bitch, then, others should just plug their ears and ignore that some people enjoy being hurtful and it may coarsen society in general? Do you think your using the word more often like people do in lower income areas might just eventually make it normal for everyone and take the sting out of it? So why don't we just all use bad words, say, wetback, more often, just to take the sting out of them?)
That's what we did with the word nigga. Naw, but wetback, that's ... Let me tell you something about racism. I'll tell you something about racism. I hate some motherfucking Jews, I hate some white people, I hate some Asian people, I hate some Black people. I hate some skinny people. I hate some tall people, Ok? I'm just putting them in categories. You see what I'm saying? You dig what I'm saying? It doesn't necessarily mean I'm racist.
So, it bothers people. I mean, look. Axle Rose said the word nigga, everybody got offended. 'Ohh he's so bad!' Oh shit, I may say he's a 'white boy.' It aint that.
Racism and sexism is a feeling that comes from your gut heart. And you just hate, that every woman is a bitch. And I don't feel like that. Some are, some aren't , allright? That's the thing. Some men aint shit. Most men aint shit. (Jokes) All men aint shit! Nah. Ok, sister.
(Question from crowd, more of a statement from the sister, who says that you might not understand him because he grew up in the ghetto and yet he got out and is able to reflect on that; there are many pratfalls he avoided in life to get there but having not ever lived there. Don't be so quick to judge).
Tracy: Yeah, I don't drink, smoke or do nothin.... (After lady finishes). True. I know exactly what you're sayin. Let's make one point clear. All Black people aint the same. I am a certain kinda black people. I would probably rob...most of the people in here, including the black people. Because I'm that kind of a brother. I grew up in that environment. I used to pimp, allright? I used to do the whole nine yards. Therefore, I can only reflect what I am, and speak in the dialect that I speak. (Taking the next question) To the sister in the back.
(Question: Lady says that the negative connotation of bad words like bitch and nigga can't be separated from uses in the media emphasizing negative aspects of lower income areas. Justifying them that way is still putting up with a negative rather than making a positive in the end. But an older black lady takes affront at the casual dismissal of the type of reality and assumptions made about "the ghetto", a reality which she and Tracy have lived in. "It's difficult thing to understand for outsiders." The first lady replies that most of the time it's hard to separate the good connotation from the bad. The second woman says it's just a word).
Tracy: Ok, don't get nothing started here.
(Second lady: "It's just a word Just a word. Where is your book? He told you that bitch was used for a lot of things, and you're a bitch!")
Ok, that was a negative word, there. That was a spite word!