The sun shines down on the hills of Hollywood, as Darlene Ortiz walks through to The Grill, a swanky eatery close the to Kodak Theatre. All eyes are on the Latina beauty and her adorers dont even realize they gaze upon Hip-Hop royalty. Darlenes name might not ring bells in contemporary Hip-Hop circles, but her image is indelibly implanted in Hip-Hop history and permanently linked to the success of L.A.s original gangster Ice-T.For most, Darlene started out as the beauty gracing the cover of Ice-Ts debut, Rhyme Pays. But Darlenes legend was solidified on 1998s Power, where she wielded a shotgun in a white bathing suit next to her man. Visually stunning, she contributed more that just a body to the game.During their better days, Ice-T always referred to Darlene as the Syndicate Queen, after his crews moniker, but she and he dissolved their relationship in the early 2000s. Even a queen has to contend with common person issues like raising a teen son, the modern vixen (Superhead), her ex and his new boo (Coco) and an occasional Hip-Hop beef (LL Cool J and Ice-T.). As we celebrate 1988, read the words of an underappreciated pioneer. AllHipHop.com: Whats your life like these days, what are you up to?Darlene Ortiz: Well of course Im dating still. Life in the single scene, (wow) its been a bit of a nightmare. But its been so long now, it’s kind of just a way of life for me now. Im cool with it. My son isnt quite driving yet but hes getting there. So in a minute Im going to really have a lot of my freedom back. So right now Im really thankful that he still wants me close to him, and in his life. Being a teenager, as you can imagine, he really wants me there. So I pick him up after school, I take him to all his practiceshe plays golf [and] baseballso Im there videotaping him, just totally supporting him. Ive been slowly adding more and more time on to what I love do, and thats training. Im a fitness instructor. That fills my days up, and I love that because I can still pick and choose the time that I want. I got class here, class there and thats it, I can either add or take off and I love it. Im still a full-time mom, but its coming to a slow sizzle. Thats my world and I love it.
“When I got with Tracy [IceT], he didnt have anything, he was just the coolest dude on planet earth, and then it came to us.”
AllHipHop.com: Honestly I polled a few guys and several people asked me Is she single? and thats all they care about. I asked, Do you have any questions thats it, thats all they cared about .DO: Yeah, Im still single and of course its by choice. People always ask what Im attracted to. Its a swagger about them, its a oomph! It doesnt matter if youre White, youre Black, youre Asian or fat. Whatever. Its just how youre approach is to me and how you carry yourself. The second, I see any funny businessand that should go with any person that has a childthe second I see that his intentions arent for the both of us, Im out of there. AllHipHop.com: A lot of guys know who you are, has that interfered with the dating process?DO: It has, Oh yeah. And they were up there too, not in entertainment, that Ive strayed away from. Ive dated a couple of people who werent quite up there in the industry. Ive dated a couple athletes whom I thought were pretty high up there on their level and they showed signs of and a lot of times its insecurity. Its funny because Im so not about that, Im so not about what you have and who you are. I could care less .and my ex can vouch to that. When I got with Tracy [IceT], he didnt have anything, he was just the coolest dude on planet earth, and then it [success] came to us. AllHipHop.com: Going back a little ways, what is your take on your relationship to Hip-Hop music? More or less like a historical perspective so to speakDo: As a whole what do I think about it I love it, I am Hip-Hop. Theres no way Im ever going to dislike it even though Im older now. Especially since I got my son who is 16 now, you know thats what keeps me in the loop. If you dont have kids this age and you were involved in Hip-Hop, good luck. Because youre going to stay back in those days and your never going to evolve to and be open minded.Im exposing so many people to it that may have never heard it otherwise in my classes, they love it. Of course it has to be clean. They say, “Wow I never knew about Lil Wayne” or things like that. I love exposing and opening peoples’ mind to it because a lot of times people are afraid of it. Its getting kind of getting monotonous with the songs and themes. I think actually its coming back down a bit. But for a while there its was pretty harsh, pretty rough. Give me a choice. AllHipHop.com: Its pretty out of balance right now.DO: I cant knock that [type] of music, like your Soulja Boys I look at it like back in the days when Tracy was coming out and hitting on the scene you had your different genres to. You had your Egyptian Lover, which is highly equivalent to that. It didnt really mean anything but it was cool the young kids would get up and dance to it. But it wasnt the Ice T thing, all these deep stories so its kind of the same. Were just lacking more on the other side. AllHipHop.com: Ice-T used your image on his first two album cover [Rhyme Pays and Power]…DO: I dont want to take all the credit some. I loved doing it and we were together. I think a great thing about that was it represents us as a couple, ultimate flyness. That is something amazing. Dudes werent doing that, I dont know whats with this whole thing like, I dont want anyone to know Im taken. But he always did the opposite. He could care less what people think or say. And it worked for him, people really respected that. Im really fortunate having met somebody at that point in my life because I was young. I was 17 and a half when I met him. And I think it was great. It helped, of course, in the sales and to the reaction I get from people nowadays-back then it was just a fun thing to do. I was young and whatever, yeah cool what? Hell yeah Im going to be in this shot. I got a couple of outfits they all happen to be bathing suits, you know we live in Cali and that was the thing to do. But Im pretty sure it contributed to some of the sales, but at the same time it established him as this cooler dude. I thought that was pretty fly. AllHipHop.com: You mentioned you were 17 at the time was there any kick back from relatives at the time?DO: After the [Power] photo came out, but in the beginning, because he was older and because he was Black, yeah I got some, but not a lot. Im Mexican so even back in those days, that was 85, I got a little bit after the album came out but in the beginning I didnt get too much. AllHipHop.com: When you ran away from home, was that just something you did or was that with Ice?DO: I wasnt completely away from home at that point, I was sixteen. I was still home but I was definitely doing what I wanted to do because where I grew up in Riverside, California, there was absolutely nothing to do. There was like maybe one roller skating rink, all my girlfriends, almost every one around me, was pregnant. I was so into dancing and having a good time, Im like are you kidding me? Im not having a baby right now. So I would have to literally take off and run away and go party and then come back and handle my business and try to be this good teenager. Then I was meeting him a year and a half later, so by the time I met him Im ready. Its funny because Im like “I feel old, Im ready to settle down.” I had already done all my stuff partying, hanging out and thank God nothing bad ever happened to me and thank God I ran into him. Because he was actually a really great dude. I could have ran into a nightmare. AllHipHop.com: Its interesting you mentioned how great of a dude he is. I guess image-wise, Ice-T is projected as a pimp, playa, hustler, all of these things. Aside from his relationship to you was he that in the street?DO: I get that all the time because people cannot believe it. People are like What? and Im like, How the heck do you think we lasted so long? Like he still had his ways about him but between even us at home by ourselves, amazing. Honestly I think thats why Im still single because he has made it so difficult because I had that for so long, that I got comfortable with that type of person. Now I meet somebody Im like Youre an idiot or an a-hole He was so ultimately cool and chill. And yes, he did the pimping way before me. He already had that mentality about him and stuff so it wasnt like he was pimping me, he wasnt doing that anymore, when he was with me. But he still comes from that life so when he met me he treated me like the ultimate princess. AllHipHop.com: Well you were called the Syndicate Queen [for Ict-T’s crew The Rhyme Syndicate] from our point of view.DO: Yeah its true. AllHipHop.com: It spoke volumes, as to how much he did respect you. DO: Yeah that is true. I tell people all the time he is an amazing character. I was still like 17 and a half so he was still like the father figure. He taught me how to be a good person. Because when I met him I was still half on this teenage mentality, of course you do the gossiping, the talking about people. And he hated that, he said, You dont have to talk about people, dont do that, thats not good. AllHipHop.com: So what about the album cover for Power, lets talk about that a little bit because that is a moment in time. Glen Friedman shot it and its completely classic. Its something that to this day is revered as you search the internet. Can you talk a little but about that and how the actual cover came about?DO: Whats funny is that little story, Im going to see if I can cut it down a little bit. But when I first met Tracy, I didnt like to call him Ice-T. When I first met Ice, I was at this club. This is attached to this story but anyway. When I first met him, when he approached me he had some other guy come up and say this guys wants to talk to you. I sort of talk to him and the first thing he says is Look at you your beautiful girl. He started talking to me like no one before, because before that Im dealing with teenagers. So this character is coming at me throwing all these sly lines, and hes looking at me and hes doing these hand gestures it was just like What? And I was gone. But anyway at the end of that whole conversation he was like “Im going to put an album out, I would love someday I want you to be on the cover.” And Im like, Yeah its all good, whatever. As we got together and started dating he joked about it. Because he didnt have no deal, he was struggling. So as we were dating I was like remember you said that, he was like, Ill be true to my word dont worry. Im like I dont care if you get the deal or not. And we had just kept joking about it, anyways it happened. He gets the deal with Warner Bros, its time to shoot this and that was it. It was weird because it was like, Okay D todays the day. It was like, Alright weve been waiting for this. And that was that, grab something you want to wear. If you look at it that man has on a long sleeve shirt with a vest or some kind of Kangol and I got a little bikini or two-piece. Because he just said whatever you want to put on, I grabbed what I naturally thought Id felt comfortable in at the time. AllHipHop.com: Who was the person that said you should carry a shot gun?DO: Guns were a part of our world at that time. It wasnt like we were out shooting or anything like that. But we used to go to the gun ranges and he had all types of guns all over our house and things like that. So it was kind of cool to us in the beginning and then we said were having all these things were covering on the cover Power. Its all kind of connected, like that looks mean, that looks very powerful. We brought all these guns to the set and that one just looked the best, I dont know. There it is. I cant specifically say that day we said Why dont we use a gun because they might ask about No, it was just us. It was like cool guns of course now Im like, Ughh!! You know what Im saying? You mature and stuff so now Im like eeek!! I dont know about that whole gun thing, Im like, “Hey I was young.”AllHipHop.com: On the Internet, a lot of people duplicate versions of that album cover.DO: Which is so funny.AllHipHop.com: Yeah, you even have one of the toys, were someone duplicated a toy that was in your image. DO: A Doll, uh huhAllHipHop.com: It was interesting Im actually going to post all that stuff to let people see.Do: Thats great, yeah. You know what else is cool because Glen Friedman, the photographer who has shot everybody and their mother, is in that book that really opened up a lot for me and my son too because he was skateboarding and you know thats were Glen started, old school skateboarding. So he has those two books, the F**k You Heroes one and [F**k You Too]. And my son and his buddies are like Oh my God your mom is the only girl in that whole book. Thats more impressive than the album cover because they werent around for that time. Maybe if they mention thats who little Ices mom is, Ive gotten some Im a fan of yours. Now were all parents, its very funny.AllHipHop.com: Do you have one story that could summarize what life was like for you at that time, maybe during that time when it was a lot of kickback as far as the censorship? DO: When we just started rolling into money, he had just got the album deal and people had already seen here locally especially. So he was known, really well known already established as Ice-T and our car broke down. We were still struggling. It wasnt like, you know how it is with a record deal, it wasnt like we got this big chunk, like woo hoo! The car broke down and we dont have enough money to fix it. So we get on this bus and were riding chilling and all of a sudden this kid goes Oh man, its Ice-T, its Ice-T. Tracy was trying to play it down like and then all of sudden he realizes Man Ice T what you doing on the bus man? I swear this man is so quick, jumps up and grabs my hand we werent even going to get off at this next stop and hes like Dude, Dude check it out check it out, were filming a video, you going be in it. Im getting off with my baby at the next stop, just wave, the cameras are going to be out there dude just wave out the window. I couldnt believe it my mouth just dropped. So we got off and this poor kid is like . and we get off and then he was like Whew. That was cute because we were just starting out. It was that funny. And then there was another time where we went to do Oprah, I dont know if you remember that?AllHipHop.com: I dont remember it but I read about it, on censorship right? You were there.
DARLENE USED TO RAP?
Thats right, D.O. could spit a line or too. See below in some rare footage as Darlene can be seen rapping circa 1985-1986.
DO: Yes I was there, we had just got through doing this whole huge tour of Washington DC and it was great. And then the next [stop] was Oprah and we were so excited and she was so cool. Man it was nice, we chilled the whole time on the set. And they were preparing us and they were like, Were going to have [this] woman come out, and theyre like, shes going to come out and shes the one who kicked off the whole censorship thing, it was because of her that they put the whole explicit lyric content stickers on the albums. Her name is Tipper Gore. So were like, ah! Hear she comes. Maybe 80 percent of the audience was filled with her backers. All these kind of little kind of stuffy young chicks. They were against the word b***h and this and that. Rap was already started, the flow was on saying all these curse words on the record. So the whole time it was just tense, it was like everybody always arguing and yelling and that was when Oprah was kind of similar to Jerry Springer, because people could just jump back. Naturally I jumped the heck up, I had to stand up for my dude. So I dont even remember what I said, I just remember I was so upset. Tippers daughters were sitting in front of me, and I just went off. And they turned around and everybodys yelling at each other and Im like come on man Lighten up. You see the way they use the word. Its not like the dude hes down the street yelling b***h! You think Im going to turn around and yell, Huh? AllHipHop.com: I didnt find a lot of both of you on the internet as far as video is concerned. I found one old one where your in the kitchen. Youre cooking and Everlast and these guys are chilling playing Nintendo or something like that. Was it like that a lot? Were the Syndicate or all the rappers are coming around a lot or was it mostly quiet? DO: No, it was really kicked back like that. It stayed like that for the longest time, for about 10 or 12 years and then we were sort of like, Enough. We are getting older too and especially when we had the baby it was like family time. AllHipHop.com: When did things sort of switch up for you guys? You were together for many, many years.DO: Yeah 17 years. Thats a nice way of putting it. I couldnt be with him all the time anymore, and thats what he was used to and thats what he wanted. So now its like, he thought, I thought, I know I did, he did too: okay were ready for a family. But you dont really think about the deep stuff, you know youre just like, Cool we got the money, the house, were established – lets have this family. And you know what? He gave it his best shot, but that was not for him. Some people try it now, Im even seeing Snoop, he hung in there, maybe if we wouldve hung in there, I dont know. Honestly, Tracy is a totally different character because they grew up with families, things like that mothers, fathers – he didnt. So in his case he gave it a try and he was wonderful in the beginning. He was a great dad and he hung in there for the longest time. Honestly its not like I was wondering whats going to happen, its like even he was in awe. Its like suddenly we were like, Wow, this is amazing. Look at me I got a house a woman and I got my son and Im making it. He was in awe of himself like I wasnt even supposed to be here. So it was almost like it was a struggle for him, even for him to be there at that point for that long. So it was just a matter of time, it didnt help that I couldnt be with him anymore all the time 24/7, because thats how we rolled. Once that came in we were like no way. We tried still for the longest, even when the baby was born, even when I got pregnant. There it was everything came to a halt. I think during those nine months I must have went on tour with him for only three times once it got down the line, I was like Ugh I got to go sit down, Im tired. I cant be on this bus. So each time as each step happened between pregnancy, having the baby, the baby having to go to school, all that just got worse. So we didnt have the same lifestyle, you couldnt. So either he was going to go with it like, Okay I dont mind, but that wasnt him. Whats that song? Papa was a Rolling Stone. But I would love to have things happen different. See some people get right into it and get used to that, they have the baby that first year but us we did all that traveling the world three times over, Ive been to Japan, everywhere. I did everything with him and all of a sudden were like [a screeching brakes sound]. Like pump your breaks we got a baby now. We still did it when he was little, we took him on tours up until the point where we were like, Okay now he has to go to school. Thats what happened.AllHipHop.com: Whats your take on Coco his new wife?DO: Honestly, when I was through with him I was through with him. I think people think they know what you want to hear from them. So I get people coming up to me saying Shes a b***h, and Im like wait a second, hold up now. Were not together anymore and shes just some other gal that loves him the way I loved him, so how can I hate? When he was first with her, I was like I dont know her. Now that I do, I crack up sometimes about how far they can go with some of their exposure things but at the same time, Im like You know what shes a really nice girl. All Im concerned about, and I try to stress this to other mothers when I see them getting all mad when theyre not with their dude any more and they take it out on the other person, unless that person was your friend or something and she turned on you or thatd be different. But I dont know her! I wasnt with him anymore, so thats just some other chick. So how can I hate on her or be made at her? All Im concerned with is when my son goes around them how is she treating him. Of course we had a couple of uncomfortable things that happened in the beginning honestly, but I checked them both. Tracy never said anything to me but I had to pull her to the side and say check this out. I dont know what kind of trip you guys are on but I dont have any problems with you and Tracy. Im not with him anymore. My main concern is my son. SO please watch what you do around him and that is not cool. She apologized and from that point on if they kept it cool and watched what they did around him I got absolutely no problems with them. Because thats all I want, you want to make it comfortable where the last thing I want to do is make it tense. Honestly unless I knew the person he had an affair with, no. She is just some chick when we werent together, he meets this girl, cool as long as hes happy and when my son goes over there its a cool place over there and a cool place here. So honestly shes a really nice girl.AllHipHop.com: Right now theres this whole video vixen phenomenon, thats sort of regular now. Would you in some form or fashion consider yourself the original video chick?DO: Yeah, because I dont see that as being anything really bad. How am I going to down that because I did, I did it. I think the only exception with me is I was supporting my dude, my home. If anything I think doing it for money, its cool as long as your not throwing yourself out there. Theyre getting paid for that. Respect them, they need them, or else they wouldnt use them. Thats what keeps people intrigued looking at the video. No body wants to sit there and look the whole four minutes at Jay-Z by himself. I think theyre really letting it go and really disrespecting some of those chicks. And that is no easy thing to do. But there is a point where they might go overboard with it and use it to other advantages and if they do, thats their own personal get down, I cant knock that. AllHipHop.com: We talked about it very briefly but I have to ask you. Superhead: whats your take on that whole thing? DO: This is a deep one right here and Ive been dying to express myself on this one. I feel sorry for her, and people say, Oh your joking right No! Shes got some deep issues going on there. Honestly Im not being mean, Im not tripping because when I first seen the first book, like last year, I had actually heard about it and I was laughing, I was giggling hysterically. All those years of asking that man where is he doing this and where is he doing that hell naw hell naw. And here comes this chick and not to say that there is any truth to it. Its funny because when he would get busted with some of the issues with other women when we were togetherthe last eight years were just a nightmare with that. He would never own up to it. Even after we werent together anymore when that came out I was like, “Ah see and you call these chicks friends. “The only problem I had with her and not even the book, because it was funny to me, was there was an article she had on the first book. The interviewer was asking her and basically telling her, “Look what you did was morally wrong.” You knew the majority of these men were married, or at least seriously with somebody and had kids. So the person was trying to break her down and what was funny to me is she said, Well oh no I dont feel bad at all because all these guys have arrangements and for instance And she used specific names, and she used my name like she knows me. Im looking like What? Hold up Now that got my attention. I felt really bad for her to think that youre going to take seriously what this guy that your doing things to, what he told you as word. Like you honestly believe him, because did you ever meet me No! Did you ever come over my house and I cooked for you, “Hell No!” To me that poor thing took what these guys told and her and to make herself feel better about what she was getting ready to do, she believed it. I felt bad for her. You took what you wanted to make that happen, thats pretty sad. Then to dedicate a book like that to your son I swear to goodness if I had seen her in person at some point, and Im not violent but I swear goodness I was that pissed and when I heard Oh yeah he was supposed to be with his family, with his kid and he was on the phone crying. Yet he was with me and I was doing these things to him. What is that? At some point you dont know if other kids are going to see that and get a hold of it. It was just downright cruel I was like is that right? Dont play with my kids. I laughed when I heard about the book and how she was exposing all these dudes, I was cracking up, I said, Karma, hey. But dont bring my name up in the game acting like you know something and dont you ever mention my kid having to do with that. That was so uncalled for. Pray for her son. AllHipHop.com: Where do you rank Ice as a rapper?DO: Well you have different types of rappers. I think with what he did with those stories and stuff, theres only a few that have done that. Really honestly who could touch him? He actually lived that life. Anybody for that manner can pick up a pen and write stuff about it. But everything he spoke about he knew about. That to me was deeper because he lived the actual truth of it all. Still to this day I love it, every single song I sing it by heart. AllHipHop.com: People mention the West Coast and say NWA, I would always say “Hold up, lets talk about Ice-T.” And look at where Ice-T ranks in this, he had a message and spin for a lot of the stuff he does now. DO: It all made sense. I dont think people see it. I see people tripping off the fact that he is with Coco and shes White (which always comes into play). But to me if you think about it, that is so Ice-T. What I mean by that is he never gave an f what people think, thats the biggest part of him. People are forgetting that, in other words theyre not seeing that. Hes not bowing down, hes not backing down hes doing whatever in the hell he wants to do because hes rock-n-roll and hes going to stay rock-n-roll, I know it, I see it.
“I remember the little pow-wow [Ice-T & LL Cool J] had at Flavor Flavs birthday party,
when Afrika Bambaataa had to get them together because it was about to
AllHipHop.com: Were you aware when people like LL Cool J referenced the [Power] album cover saying Yeah I took the album cover straight to the bathroom [suggesting he masterbated to it]. [LL Cool J To Da Break of Dawn] DO: Uh huh, I remember that.AllHipHop.com: What were you thinking about at that point?DO: Oh yeah. I was young, it was flattering. “Hey, I done came to his mind.” AllHipHop.com: No pun intended right?DO: Hello! It was flattering. It was interesting to see how thats all you got to do to get a dude on. Its interesting to see even they agreed that Im a big part of Tracys career where you actually can reference that. I remember the little pow-wow they had at Flavor Flavs birthday party, when Afrika Bambaataa had to get them together because it was about to go down. Tracy was not playing. I have to look up the year, I know Flavor [Flav] will remember. It was so intense and me and Tracy were there all by ourselves, we didnt need no bodyguards. I dont even know what happened maybe he went to the bathroom and he saw them and they said some words, it was really about to get physical. And literally in the midst of this hella party going on they gathered everybody together in the middle of this party that was in rap and it was its own little summit. It was like long oval table, it was everybody at that table. Big Daddy [Kane], Flavor, everyone who was at that party, LL, Tracy and they had some words. They squashed it and believe me Tracy was getting ready to come out with the most vicious song ever. Because you could do that at the time, it had the most crazy stuff in it. It was getting ready to start a whole other battle. I am just so honored to be around all that stuff, on tour, people dont know I am Hip-Hop. I got it running through veins. We shared a bus with Biz Markie for three and a half months. Ive been out and chilled with Big Daddy and Eric B. & Rakim, and KRS-One, its amazing. And their werent that many women that were that deeply involved in it. When you think a bout it Kris wasnt with Melody anymore and thats all I really knew. Cube wasnt married at the time. Now here I am close to La [Latifah], Lyte and all these girls, Salt-n-Pepa and even Monie [Love], and I was around these people and I wasnt even a rapper. To be fortunate enough to be around them and be treated like you are just as down, that was nice.
ICE-T AND DARLENE – Hip-Hop’s one-time premier couple share a moment together in their home.
AllHipHop.com: Last question have you ever been approached to do Playboy or any actual pornography?DO: Nope, Ive had people suggest, and Im like Uh, why? Honestly some people go “But they could give you this and that.” Im so cool with a decent roof over my head, good food to eat, great family, good company, my health, Im the last person that will do something extra just to make an extra buck. Something like that, no. I mean Im proud of myself I love my body, I love promoting healthiness. I mean people go, Well you wore these skimpy outfits, and Im like Yeah, thats as far as Im going to go. I love promoting like you can look like this at 41 too. You can rock it. No one has asked me and if they do I would say I will only go as far as I would like to, which is just being covered. Plus, I have a son now, it already makes him uncomfortable. I have toned it down a lot but this is me. I love to feel good about myself that I am wearing tight dresses, but now the length has gotten a little longer. Cleavage a little bit here and there, but Im just older. Im not going to fully change myself because I love dressing like thats just me. Youre not going to catch me doing a pose with my legs open and butt in the air. Thats just not me anymore. Through The Years: Assorted Images of “Queen” Darlene Ortiz.
Darlene Toy by Bode Broad
2008: A young fan with a Darlene t-shirt