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An Open Forum Interview From '94
Photo Credit: Rolling Stone Magazine
ICE-T TOWN HALL INTERVIEW
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL BOOKSTORE
(Q: Mic noise. Person says he works with kids and asks about the impact that rap has had on kids as they are the audience for the music).
ICE-T: Right. Ok, I'm gonna tell you, this is what's really going on though. It's like my audience is now changed. I never wanted it to change. My audience is basically the worst motherfuckers. The people who will walk up to you and shoot you in your face. This is an unconventional enemy. I have to use unconventional tactics. And meet them on their level. If I used different phrases and techniques I could lose contact with this enemy. When I go and talk in the penitentiary I have to talk in the language of the penitentiary. America has picked up this phone called rap. Which is, rap is a conversation that goes on. My phone is going on to the gang members and the killers, the drug dealers. You pick up this phone you're listening to this conversation. It's like, if you listen to the girls I roll with they would be like 'Oh that little nigger nigger thought he had something. He aint shit, I'm gonna charge that motherfucker. Fuck em. You know what I'm saying? I went up north with my nigger we robbed this jewelry store…' These are the girls I grew up with. You pick up this phone and you say, 'How could you talk like that?' Put the phone down. This music, if none of y'all ever buy it again I wouldn't give a fuck because it's not directed at anyone who's offended it, it's directed at the core of the streets, the brothers that I live with.
So, outsiders that are offended… welcome to a jail cell. You're in jail with me. And you're dealing with me on my ground. I do not care about mass appeal. I do not give a fuck about mass appeal. Because as soon as I reach for these people you’re worrying about what about the homies on the street, man? What happens to them? That they-- who leads them? Luther (Vandross) ain't talkin to them. Whitney (Houston, pre-crack days) aint talking to them. Michael Jackson ain't talking to them.
Who cares? We-- I'm doing a gang truce. We went on TV. I asked 50 million people for help, we got four phone calls. Nobody cares about my homies, man. Nobody understands the lingo and the way I talk with my niggers when I'm chillin with my niggers out there over there on Hooper. And they kicking it, they're all, "Yo, Ice, what the fuck up?' I gotta talk to them in that way. People say, 'change them.' I'm just trying to touch them with a little knowledge my way, man. And if I think something is bigger than the word bitch or these certain words, I've moved past that. I use that to get to em, ok?
Uh-- It's not meant for everybody, man. It's not for everybody. Snoop's not for everybody, man. If you all wanna listen to it, don't fuck with it. If it bothers you, don’t fuck with it. We don’t care. Nobody who gave a fuck about his career would talk shit the way I talk shit. People are like, 'you're trying to be all big.' I give a fuck about the movie business, I give a fuck about TV, I give a fuck about this bullshit. I don't give a fuck. They're gonna use me cause they can make money off me. And they're gonna work me until I'm burnt out, busted or dead. So I am just Ice-T ,partner. And that's just how Ice rolls, ya dig? And lot of the homies you might… See the problem is of course I see exactly what you're sayin. See I got mad love for what you're doin. But you know, there's certain brothers you deal with you gotta call me in to talk to. That's my point. You gotta go in and there's a point in time where you go, 'Man, I can't reach these brothers'. Who do you get? Ice-T. Eazy-E. People that can go in and be respected on that ground.
Quincy Jones, man, made the most inspirational talk to me. When he told me, hw said 'Ice, man, do what you do. Don’t let anybody change what you do. Cause those people who got attitudes about the way you give your message can not hold the audience of one person. You hold millions. Work your magic. You do it your way. And it's a lotta love. There's more positive coming out your stuff than anybody can say negative. Don't worry about those people, man, because they don't know. They're not artists.'
So art is…something I'm on some different shit. But you know, I'm trying to do the right thing. I just gotta, you know, throw a couple four letter words in there and shoot a couple people on the way. (Laughs). And they listen, man!
It's like what the lady said about the album cover. The album cover is way deeper than a girl on the cover with a bathing suit. The album was called "Power'. I dealt with power. The power of sex. The strongest power in America. They use it in every ad, all that. The news uses it. 'Tonight: Bikini scandal!' They hold it till the end to make all of us watch it. Because they know it's sex. All these ads, all that stuff! Mufflers, with girls in bikinis. They have nothing to do with mufflers. The power of sex. The power of guns.
You see a girl with a gun. That year, Bush said military power equals strength equals peace. That was his equation. Very deadly equation. That was the President. I said, let's show a gun. But what is the ultimate power? Turn the cover over. The power of perception. We had the guns, right? But who's more dangerous, the person who fires you, or the person who told them to fire you and then smiles on the way out the office?
But I'm from the street. I'm such a dumb nigger I could never think of anything that prolific or that profound or anything. It's just a girl in a bathing suit. Nah, it’s a little deeper than that. Check your technique. This kid aint no joke. (To next person): Wassup?
(Q: Why did you pull Cop Killer?)
Ice-T: We pulled Cop Killer cause, first off, I'm bigger than Cop Killer, man. I had done a hundred records, man. Ad they was getting ready to pigeonhole me in this one 'Ice-T is the cop killer' bag. That was one reason. I said, 'Chh, come on.' Second, it was taking time on the news from real news. Bush is sayin my name, I'm sittin at home like, dafuq?' We're playin Sega! I'm like… (Makes funny face, audience laughs). I don't know about thermo-nuclear bombs. I'm not in Kuwait and shit. What's going on? So I thought it was stupid.
Secondly, the whole Cop Killer thing was, 'You're doin it to make money.' So I pulled the record and gave the record away free.
Third off, they were threatening people's lives at Warner Brothers. They sent two bombs to Warner Brothers. Real live bombs which the bomb squad had to pick up. Ok?
And lastly, I was like, 'People were backin' me on the First Amendment.' People were sayin, 'Ice-T has a right to say it. I don't agree with it.' I didn't need that. I need people to say, 'Ice-T has a right to be mad at the cops cause the cops had been fuckin over his people. And the time is right. And fuck em, he's mad.' I need a backing from that position, not 'Well, he…" Nobody stood up. Where were all these artists? Nobody. Everybody ran from that. So I just said, 'You know what? The fans who liked the record bought it already, you know. Only people buying it now are lookie-loos. Pull the record, man. Let's get this shit over and behind us.'
I'm not here to back the first Amendment, that's wasn't my job. I'm not going to fight for that because I know it doesn't exist. I was just like, 'Let's move on.' The day I pulled it out of the paper, cop shot a kid in Houston. Cop killed somebody in Detroit. Real news finally got back in the paper.
Because if you really know what that whole Cop Killer controversy was about, it was… the cops were under siege. So somebody said, 'The best defense is a good offense. Let's find a record. They found a record and they told everybody the record was made after the riots. Lie. It had been out a year, right?
They said it was a rap record. Which immediately is a racist statement because when yu say rap in America that means black niggers. Right. You say 'rock' somebody says, 'Well, could be, I grew up on Fleetwood Mac, you know.' (Audience laughs). So you say, 'rap.' Racist, right?
And then they attacked me. They held me up in front of America and said, 'He's the problem.' And everybody said, 'Yeah, he's the problem.' The problem wasn't a record, the problem was they whooped Rodney King's ass out on the street and America once again fell for it. So I was like, uh…well. Who's the guy who? Uh, Willie Horton situation, in that other election. Same exact thing they did. Same exact thing they did. That record had nothing to do with nothing it was just a way they could flip the whole election, it was powerful, man. And I was like, 'Man, I'm not going to let them use me.' They used me. They used you all too cause you all went for it. A lot of people went for it.
(Q: Man says something like ' it sounds like what they did in Chiapas'. Indistinct.)
Ice-T: I don't even know what Chiapas is. See, everybody think I'm supposed to know everything. I don't know everything, right? And then if I say something, someone will be all like, 'I dunno…' But that would be stupider for me to say something and go (in serious tone) 'Ok, yes, Chiapas.' (Audience laughs). You know, I gotta know if I'm gonna do something, right?
(Q: Indistinct. Notes that people are there today at the bookstore to learn).
Ice-T: Allright, thank you. The simple fact that people are here, right, means that these people care about something. Some people came because they want to help, other people are here to destroy this. And you'll probably read about it. You know. They'll find everything that I said negatively in there and that'll be the headline. Lotta reporters spend a lot of time sitting around just waiting for us to say something and that becomes what it was all about. But you all are here. But you see, more people aren't here. And they-- that's how the media works.
Um, all y'all gotta take anything I give you and work with it. Everybody. Um, you know the lady down with the feminist movement, she gotta make her move on it. You know, she may not agree with me on certain things but don't make that (a reason to) hate me. Say, 'Ok, me and Ice got a problem here, but basically we're goin in the same direction. You know?
Because I got problems with everybody I work with. Some of you guys, you know, don't eat meat. I'm down eating anything. I'll eat anything, you know? So they're like, 'I don't eat no pork.' Fuck that, gimmie a ham sandwich.
So, I dunno, but I'm me.
So what's gotta happen is that you and me --men and women in here-- gotta rise up to the occasion.
-- April 1994
Interview Audio Recording
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