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An Open Forum Interview From '94
...Still Seems
Relevant Today

Photo Credit: Rolling Stone Magazine


by Kevin Salveson


First time I ever heard of Ice-T, I was working in a Music Plus on Lincoln near Washington in Venice, California. It was early1988.


I was going to college and working part time there. We never had any trouble. It was just people renting videos and buying CDs and candy. We'd stock the stuff on the shelves during the day and then try to  hook up with our co-workers after we slid the grates shut at the end of the shift each night.


Little did we know at the time that the heat was turning up all around us. LA would be gripped by the fist of riots four years later. Meanwhile, I was just a white middle-class college boy who had grow up in the suburbs. What did I know? Some, but not much.


One day in the late late overcast afternoon of a boring May Venice beach Friday, over the store's loudspeakers slithered and prowled the song "Colors" by Tracy Marrow, aka Ice-T. Starting with that almost dubstep snakey low-synth bassline and those growling pitched down vocal samples, it was intense and menacing.


 And it was threatening me with bodily harm! Without a shred of remorse.  But, hey, it was from a movie. I understood it in that context.  More in your face than normal, but Tinseltown will do anything to get your attention, won't they?  


It was from something involving Sean Penn; he plays a bad cop. So this was Hollywood dramatizing (and/or exploiting) the rising new wave of crack-related law and order stories which were starting to permeate the culture like a viral joke at the time.  Gangsters, a hoary old film topic to be sure.


Soon even the soccer moms could be heard asking, "Are you on crack?" when their kids begged for soda in the supermarket.


Still…this song was from the monster's own POV, presented without filter?  Deal with it.


And so people did... including the Midnight Special Bookstore in Santa Monica, which in March 1994 invited Mr. Tracy Marrow to come promote his new book The Ice Opinion and subject himself to an open forum style interview with the public at large. (I recorded it for broadcast on my KXLU radio program "Alternative Outlook.")


While no definitive conclusions were arrived at, and while this in fact took place over 20 years ago, it was certainly a passionate discussion regarding some of the most important issues still  impacting our society today: police conduct, criminalty, free speech and the boundaries and power of words to affect others.


All in all, it was an exceptionally contentious, often humorous interview...definitely worth the read.


Click here to continue reading Extab's Extended 12" introduction.


 Ice-T (Tracy Marrow): Open Forum Interview

Midnight Special Bookstore

March 1994



Kevin Salveson: Ok, let's get this started.  Thanks everyone for coming and thanks to Ice-T for coming here tonight.  Let me  start this going by asking the first question.  What would you say to people who look up to you? Say there's a kid who is living in a low income area who takes your stories as condoning criminal behavior?


ICE-T: Well, maybe let 'em read my book. (Audience laughs).  But that's what I'm saying. You know, like, it's an aid. If he admires somebody, you know? Like, a lotta kids will come to me, all, 'Ice, man, we wanna be a rapper.'  


Allright, my daughter, for one. She wants to be in show business. I said, 'Why don't you be an entertainment lawyer?'  She don't know.  Ok, and sing!  And she was all like, 'Aww, daddy, no!'  But then I dropped a contract on her.  I said, 'Read that.  I want you to (be able to).'  You know, if you don't understand that, if you don't read that (shakes head).  Then I showed her what I pay my lawyers every year.  I said, 'That could be your money.'


So it's... you just gotta come up with ways.  If he admires... whatever. Hopefully it's not gonna be some deadbeat person, you know. I mean, if he looks up to anybody, you have to connect that with college. You have to connect that.  Anybody, he's gotta have someone that he looks up to, you know. I didn't go to college, but... If I had, you know, I'd be able to make more money and do better things with better people.  I'm reading college-level books, tryin to do it myself.


Q:  Do you think that an education is important, then, to success?


Sure. And, like, education comes from anywhere. I give some information (in my raps).  An exchange of information is dangerous to somebody who's trying to control it.  Um, when you go to jail the first thing they do is cut off your communication with the inmates. They cut it down, they shut you off, you can't talk to anybody on the outside.


Because with information we can side up. You see what I'm sayin?  So we gotta keep everything in mind. Anybody who's read books and read the Art of War or anything like that, the key to running anything is divide and conquor. You have to keep the people divided. You cannot let  them rise up. Now with rap, we're coming in saying... Well, with my rap. I can't speak for all rap, but I mean with my rap, I'm sayin, 'if we slow down and take a look, we all got the same enemy, right?' They don't want this connection. They can't have a connection. 


I mean, the biggest scary thing about the '92 uprising is that there were white people involved with the uprising. That cannot be shown. I mean, I was out there. 


I come around the corner and run into Queer Nation tearing shit up on Sunset. 'Yo Ice, git with us.' So I'm rollin with Queer Nation, right? Swear to god. Me and four guys in a Range Rover. So I'm rollin with Queer Nation and they're wreckin shit, knocking windows out. You know, telling the police to back the fuck up. And they, they stopped us down there down by the, uh (to friend), by the -- where was we-- by the Guitar Center. And they was kinda posse deep, it was like 2000 of them. 


Then it was funny cause the cops came. The cops had us, had us in like a standoff. Then the photographers popped up and my buddy was like, 'Uh Ice, you might not want to be in a photo leading Queer Nation, then you'll have to explain that to the world,' you know? 


(Police voice) Ice, will you please come out the closet.  I was like… Look, I'm straight but they was angry and I'm down for anybody that's ready to fight, you know what I'm saying? 


But the whole thing of it is that, communication has to be shut down. We cannot... you cannot learn that you don't hate me. You can't. I- I don't know how many of you people know me or met me, but if you watched me on TV, if you watch what they did to me on television, I'm, I'm supposed to come in here and pull a gun on all y'all.  And try to scare you or something. 


But that's like if you, if you showed "The Terminator" to someone. And you just showed that one scene where the Terminator kills the police.  And don't even tell them that's a movie!  Say, 'what do you think about this guy?' He's terrible!


You all know me. Know what I'm sayin? So, we all have to fight to talk to each other. We have to communicate.  We have to find out. I gotta know about being Jewish, I gotta know what it is to be Italian. You gotta know what it is to be black. You gotta know what it is. You gotta understand, that's the only way. You know? 


Because, basically, this is a love affair with people. And it's a love affair but it's understanding. To love you have to understand.


And the last thing: freedom of speech, the First Amendment, does not exist. Get that out of your fuckin mind, allright?


There is no free speech as long as you need some type of machine or vehicle to to take your message someplace. Forget it, allright? If any TV is taping this, 'X this or X that.'  See! That shit just got bleeped!  (Ed note: it was bleeped for radio broadcast later that month so we denoted the bleep with an "X"). 


So I'm anti- all these people who are running around waving this free speech flag when they're censoring themselves.


(Interview Continued on Page 2)


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Interview Audio Recording
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