Before Melyssa Ford was the go-to-girl for nearly every rap video of the early 2000’s, Amber Rose became a household name as Kanye West’s muse, or Cardi B was crowned the new princess of Instagram models, Darlene Ortiz broke ground as the first vixen of rap. Ortiz was more than just a pretty face. She was an equal partner – professionally and romantically – with rapper/actor Tracy “Ice-T” Marrow.
Ortiz has now shared the compelling story of her days with the West Coast legend in the new book Definition Of Down – My Life with Ice-T & the Birth Of Hip-Hop. The 155-page effort, co-written by Heidi Cuda, covers the highs and lows of rap’s first power couple. My Life with Ice-T also provides a look back at the early years of Hip Hop told through firsthand accounts and never-before seen photographs.
AllHipHop.com spoke with Darlene Ortiz about her extremely personal memoir released via Paul Stewart’s Over The Edge Books. In part 1 of the interview, the b-girl and fitness aficionado made famous from Ice-T’s unforgettable Power album cover discusses whether he responded to the book, their son’s reaction to what he read, and battling the unwarranted stereotypes often associated with an autobiography from an entertainer’s ex-girlfriend.
You spent a lot of time talking about your relationship with Ice, but his persona has been presented as a gangsta/pimp rapper. Why didn’t you focus on that part of his life?
I came in on the tail end of that. That ended. I do mention about the part where he made up his mind he was going to stick with his music. When I met him, he was out of that lifestyle. I could see it all around us, because his boys were still into it. But they were trying to help support him, as well as I was, to move on to the next chapter in his life, because none of them felt anywhere near that ability to make a move to do something legitimate.
You decided to start the book off by talking about some of the issues you had with your mother dealing with abuse and alcoholism. Why was it important for you to start the story at that point in your life?
To me, it’s connected later on in life on how I met Ice-T and being able to actually be in an entirely different city at that age. I didn’t have any guidance. I could pretty much do whatever I wanted to do. So I felt the need to go back, because it was a lot of things I talk about that I was hoping would help other children in that situation.
I thought, “You know what? Maybe this can help somebody else.” The best way to write a memoir is to be very candid. I hope people say, “She made it through. Let me see how she did it.” So I felt the need to go back.
Most of the book is about the good times you two had together, but you also talked about some of the rough patches. Was it difficult reflecting back on those moments? Particularly, there was a section where you talked about things getting physical. Was it hard having to relive those moments?
Oh my god! Was it ever. The part about my mom was nothing compared to this. I had already made that leap of survival into the next phase of my life. When that situation in the car happened, even the infidelities – feeling it? Hell yeah!
I did an audio version. It took me so many times to go back in and say, “Okay, I can do it. I can do it today.” Reflecting on things like that in your life can be very therapeutic. You get stronger each time you think about it.
Writing and recording the book, I can actually laugh. I said, “Oh my god. I can only imagine had we been through those times nowadays. It would have been all over the internet.”
TMZ would have had it the next day.
Right. Interesting enough, a lot of those situations [at that time] probably never would have occurred. I think people would have been like, “Uh oh, someone could be taping me.” It would have changed the dynamic entirely.
Was the therapeutic process part of the reason why you decided to release the book now?
No, I always wanted to write a story. Things were so fascinating and amazing. I was like, “How is this happening to me? Who am I?” I knew this was something to share. I just didn’t know it was going to end like that.
At the time I knew I was literally going to write a book. The timing of it all kept me from releasing it when I wanted to. Heavy duty life twists and turns set me back and pushed a lot of time back.
So even though I wanted to do it many years ago – we’ve been a part for 15 years – there were a lot of things that came in to play that said, “No, now is not the time.” The main one was our son. I wanted to write a story the moment his dad left us, but at the same time our kid was underage. I couldn’t do it until I felt he was old enough to understand.
Has he read your book?
He just did. He waited a little while. I kept telling him a little bit about it here and there. I didn’t want to push anything on him. He’s a big supporter of both of us, but I know he has really wanted to keep hold of his dad’s love.
So I don’t ever want to push anything in my kid’s face. I just said, “Just a reminder. I have this L.A. signing on Thursday. If you could come by, that would make my day. If not, I understand.” I don’t ever want to put pressure on him. But he showed up, and he bought two books.
I told him I’d give him a book, but he said, “No, ma. I want to make this official.” He bought two books, one for his best friend for Christmas and one for himself. He said, “When I fly out to see my dad for the holidays, I’m going to read it on the plane.”
He called me, and of course the message was very personal. We’re very close. He has a great respect and appreciation for me on a lot of things I chose to do and not do while he was a young man and I was a single woman. He respects that some strange dude didn’t come in and take up all his time. So this put the seal on it like, “Wow mom.” That message was very touching. I’m very proud.
Have you heard from Ice about the book?
Not a peep. Not one thing. You know people would ask, “What do you think he’s thinking?” I’d say, “I don’t know.” I called him and asked him if he would write the forward.
[I said,] “Since we broke up we went separate ways, but this story is there. I wrote it. I’m going to put it out there. I would love nothing but for you, of all people, to write the forward. Wouldn’t that be amazing, not just for our son, but the community as a whole to see?”
He sent a message back saying, “Oh, interesting. What’s the title?” I sent him back “Definition Of Down.” I never got a response back, so I guess that was a no. [laughs] I’m trying to be as cool as can be. It’s not the end of the world to me.
I think a lot of times when you have people that were in a relationship with someone famous and they release a book, the impression is that it’s going to be a tell-all, scandalous book. But that’s not what this book is. Have you had to push back against that stereotype?
It’s funny you say that. I am running into that. I knew I was going to get certain flack from people. It’s just certain people that I’m shocked about.
I went out to New York to do some promotion the first week it came out. I had a lot on the schedule, and about two or three things pulled out at the last minute for no good reason. I’d hate to even speculate. [laughs]
But yeah, I’m getting people that are coming off a little leery. I’m not going to beg them. I’m going to let them hear for themselves from other reputable websites and publications. It’s like, “Why don’t you read it for yourselves?” It’s not what people are instantly, automatically assuming.
I am getting some interesting feedback from people before they even know what it’s about. They’re like, “Isn’t that a contradiction? She called it Definition Of Down, but yet she’s putting this story out.” Well yeah, but look how way later it is. And I never did that dude dirty, and I don’t think this book is doing anybody dirty. I think this is beautiful. So I’ll see how everything unfolds.
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To purchase Darlene Ortiz’s Definition Of Down – My Life with Ice-T & the Birth Of Hip-Hop visit overtheedgebooks.com.