While being arm-and-arm with Ice-T during his introduction to the music industry, b-girl/model Darlene Ortiz was able to witness the explosion of a few pioneering rap stars from the 1980’s. Some of those historic moments are detailed in Ortiz’s memoir Definition Of Down – My Life with Ice-T & the Birth Of Hip-Hop.
In part two of AllHipHop.com’s exclusive interview with Ortiz, the co-host of the long-running The Corey Holcomb 5150 Show speaks on some of the topics unfolding in modern-day Hip Hop culture. The woman affectionately referred to as “the first video vixen of rap music” shares her thoughts on current female celebrities embracing their sexuality. Ortiz also addresses rap feuds, the level of respect for Hip Hop’s early representatives, and being the focal point of Ice-T’s infamous album artwork for Power.
[ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Darlene Ortiz Discusses Her Memoir ‘Definition Of Down: My Life With Ice-T & The Birth Of Hip-Hop’]
As a Hip Hop fan, I found the stories in the book about the culture at the time interesting. One story that stood out was the LL Cool J rivalry, and that was because a summit ended the beef. You don’t really hear about beefs being settled that way nowadays. Do you still follow what’s happening in the culture like the Drake and Meek Mill feud?
Not in depth, but just like anybody else you’ll check it out in the news. At the same time, my son is 24, so I’m around some of that stuff. If I’m curious, I’ll call him up and asked what’s up with this situation, and he’ll give me the gist.
The market is flooded with rappers because of social media. Also I think they’re on a younger tip. Even though some of these cats [from the 80’s] were pretty young when they were coming out, there weren’t that many of them. I felt like everybody was a lot more respectable in this culture.
I feel bad [for the new rappers]. I’m like, “Y’all are in the same type of music. Everybody has the struggle.” I don’t get it. Why can’t people say, “That’s some ugly ass behavior. Why don’t I offer an olive branch.” I don’t think they even know what that is. [laughs]
When you look at Rock & Roll, they greatly respect the people that came before them. The Rolling Stones are like gods of rock, but in Hip Hop we don’t always show that same level of respect for the people that came before us. A lot of the people you mentioned in the book laid the groundwork for what these rappers are doing now, but you don’t often see that homage paid to them.
You’re right, and it’s pretty sad. I have seen a lot more of this generation going retro and finding that’s cool. They’re going back. Like the respect for vinyls when they’re DJing. Because it’s nowhere to go. It’s like, “My god. Where are we at with this?”
I see the heads nowadays being like, “This sh*t is tight.” And they want to learn. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my fantasy or my wishes, but I feel that’s happening. And thank god for Straight Outta Compton.Yeah, Straight Outta Compton helped. Even the movie Dope. I don’t know if you saw it.
Of course I did! I was like the first one there! People didn’t even know about it. I was hipping people up on it. I was like, “Thank God! Thank God!” That was very cool how they did it.
Speaking of laying the groundwork, you’re considered the first cover girl of rap or the first superstar video model of rap. You had to deal with a lot of criticism from feminists at that time. What are your thoughts on Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and Amber Rose presenting their sexuality as a form of feminism compared to the criticism you had to go through?
I love it of course. You see it’s entirely different, and I’m all for it. I’ve been that type of woman anyway where I’m not like, “Oh my god, she’s using her sexuality.” I’m a woman. I’m proud. I work hard at being a healthy, strong woman.
The part I don’t like about it is the competition. You see it. It’s like, “Come on. It’s room for everybody. Everybody looks great.” When that comes into play, that is the most hideous thing to me ever. It totally changes my views on them. Somebody could be the most aesthetically gorgeous to me, but then they open their mouth and I’m done.
When I was doing that, it was entirely different. So I can’t compare myself to everybody else who was doing it for a job. I was different, because I was supporting my man. It wasn’t like I went through a casting call. It was easier for me. That was my dude. I was doing it for our family, for our careers, for the group. I do consider myself part of his career. It was totally different from these women that were hired.
People got to remember they are hired. They’re working whether you want to respect what they do or not. But they are working just as much as that dude that’s rapping. Do you really think all those videos back in the day – when videos were a really big deal – do you think people just wanted to see dudes rapping with each other? [laughs] They’re paying these women, and I hope those women got something decent for what they did.
There’s another part of the book that presents the artistic, sensitive side of Ice that a lot of people probably didn’t know about. His alter ego.
Which he admits now. I didn’t know that until my book came out. I thought all these years he didn’t know we were calling him that behind his back. He knew. He spoke about it during his talk show run this past fall. I started calling up all of our mutual friends and asked, “Who told him?” [laughs]
“Antoine” came into effect even when I did the Power album cover. I would bring a whole case of clothing – shoes, jewelry, you name it. He’d go, “This, this, this, and this. There you go. There’s your fit.” And he did it with homes. To me it’s hilarious.
All my girlfriends would ask how was I living in a house that was decorated by him. You walk in and it’s all these cartoon and horror characters all over the wall. Even in the kitchen. I said, “I’m just that kind of gal. That man is so happy, so he did that without any bullsh*t from me. I don’t care. I’m happy to be in love with him. If he wants to place a pile of dirt in the living room, so be it.”
That’s the difference between me and a lot of women and friends I know. They b*tch and whine about the most minor things. To me, the biggest thing is to find someone you can actually get along with. If that’s one of the moves it took where he wants to decorate, I don’t care. I got a place to lay my head. I’m thankful for everything he provided. That man can put whatever he wants in this place.You mentioned him styling you for the Power shoot. What do you think about now when you look back at that classic cover?
I’m very confident, as confident as they come. I don’t care what anybody says. I literally laugh at people when they feel the need to clap back at someone when they make a comment on social media. I’m like, “Who the hell cares? That’s someone’s opinion of you. You better get some grit and confidence.”
So I look back at that picture and think, “Girlfriend, you have no idea what’s getting ready to unfold after that.” [laughs]. I was just happy to represent and do for my man what we were both intending to do which was to help out his career.
People forget – especially when they see my solo picture – underneath our three poses it says “power.” People forget that’s what it was representing. I’m very proud. It’s going to be 28 years in 2016 from when that album cover came out.
My godson bought a skateboard that had the image on it. We thought he was just going to keep it in his room. Then he got busted for taking it to school. He’s asking, “What’s wrong? This is my godmomma.” I can’t wait to share that [picture] with my grandbabies in the future like, “This was your grandma.” [laughs]
What’s next for you?
I’m hoping I can option [the book] off for some sort of film. Even if it’s Lifetime or Netflix. I feel like this is a great story to tell, especially because of what that man did to open the doors for West Coast. Plus, the connections with b-boy elements. That hasn’t been represented in a long time.
I would love to have that happen, but I’ve also written a treatment for a reality show with Discovery Channel. Nothing like what anybody would think. It’s actually very humorous and has to do with people breaking up and what happens after the fact. But it’s not just me. I would be on one episode, but it’s to help other people out.
I’m writing more. I’m still doing my songwriting. I wrote a song with Teena Marie. That was the last song I wrote. It was pretty heartbreaking, because she passed almost a month after writing and recording that.
Also, I’m big in my hospice and senior care. I’m big on helping people transition when they’re about to pass. I’ve been passionate about it for years. I’m big on volunteering. So regardless of what comes from this, as long as I get financial comfort enough that will allow me to give more of my time to do my volunteer work. That’s where my heart is.
Read part 1 of AllHipHop.com’s interview with Darlene Ortiz here.
To purchase Darlene Ortiz’s Definition Of Down – My Life with Ice-T & the Birth Of Hip-Hop visit overtheedgebooks.com.