CLASS OF ’88: Ice-T and Power

 

Perception seems to be everything in Rap music. Many rappers flaunt a gangster image but have rarely have lived a minute in the criminal life. You know the deal; “I sold this”, “I shot him”, and “I ran this town”. Entertainment or not, the role playing through rhyme has become a standard practice in our culture. But throughout the years there have been certain rappers who really ran the streets as they say on their records; add Ice-T to that list.

 

Born Tracy Marrow, Ice was a gangster in real life and would also pioneer Gangster Rap. The West Coast icon gave listeners a raw look into dope dealing, pimping, gang banging; all with a Los Angeles flair. While his debut Rhyme Pays was an ill introduction, his sophomore follow up would capture the streets in a way never done before.

 

Originally released September 13, 1988, Power would be groundbreaking to say the least. Joints like the “I’m Your Pusher” and “High Rollers” depicted the ups and downs of getting fast money; sounding like nothing else on the radio at the time. Now twenty years later we pay tribute to this classic the right way. We get none other than Ice himself to kick game on each track, discuss the LL beef, and the infamous album cover.

 

 

“Intro”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: The intro to the album was based around somebody listening to my last album Rhyme Pays. This cat has the new Ice T album and I act like they were fighting over it and my man ended up jacking dude and knocked him out to listen to the album. That was back in the days when the skits were a big part in music. I loved making an album where you felt like you were sitting through something really happening.

 

“Power”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: Well Power was my first record where I really realized I had some juice. Coming off Rhyme Pays it was so early in Rap that I didn’t expect to have a gold record on my first record. I didn’t expect people to like me that much. When you do get all those fans, you’re like wow this is a powerful format. Now I had a million people listening to me and I was taking advantage of that.

 

Me and my crew came into Rap totally different from everybody else. We never thought this music should be danced to. Because most of us real gangsters and real players don’t dance anyway; it was more like grab a glass of wine and sit back and listen to Ice pop it. To us gangsters and players it had to be true; it had to be extremely honest. I couldn’t lie about cars and things I never had or things I never did. That wasn’t really allowed in my circle. I thought those were rules.

 

“Drama”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: With “Drama” is what I called faction. I created style of Rap which I called faction. A factual situation put to a fictional scenario. So all the things happened but they didn’t happen in that order or that night. But you know driving around dirty in the car and seeing those blue lights, I think any n**** has been through that. It’s one of those classic Ice-T stories where I end up dying in the end. So it’s kind of a story of a cat in the street all the way to death row in four verses [laughing].

 

“Heartbeat”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: “Heartbeat” is a record I got sued for by War. It was in the early sampling days and I always dug that record. To me that break, I mean to me that was kind of Hip-Hop; the way he was scatting over it. We just took the record itself and looped it. I just freestyled over it; it wasn’t a message in there though. But War came and got me for that record. I had to pay them a lot of money for that track, that’s when I learned about the sample laws.

 

They came to get me years later. What happens is sometimes the groups sell their publishing and whoever handles their publishing goes on a mad hunt on anyone using their music. I can’t even say it was War, but whoever their publisher was, they came after me for forty thousand dollars which was a lot of money at the time.

 

“The Syndicate”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: That was really a rap where I let the homies go. I had Donald D. on it. I had Henry G on it; who was really Evil’s brother who was more of a DJ than a rapper but he happened to be in the studio that day. We went and took a little poke at LL on that record because he was kind of like my nemesis back in the day.

 

I started the beef with LL. Los Angeles was in a position where we were trying to get out there and at the time L was the hottest rapper. And a lot of New York rappers would come to LA and diss LA; you know being very arrogant. So for me to be the number one rapper from LA at the time, I had to challenge him.

 

When I heard “Break Of Dawn”, I made this record called “Open Contract”. At the time LL was one tour with my boy Busy Bee, so I had a lot of personal information on L. But my style was a little different. Because LA n****s go straight for the guns, people kind of saw something coming, so we ended up squashing it thanks to Afrika Bambaattaa.

 

“Radio Suckers”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: I need put that record out right now. If there’s any bitter part of Ice-T, is that radio would never play my music. I never felt like I was the best rapper, but I was selling a lot of units. So I was like why don’t these n****s play my music? One time this DJ told me I sounded too serious and people really believed what I was saying.

 

So my street reputation preceded me; so radio was really worried like we were threatening people. The only song that I think ever got played was “I’m Your Pusher”, that was the first Rap record with a singing hook.

 

“I’m Your Pusher”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: I come from an era where we were all into the Blaxploitation era; whether it was Dolemite, or Supafly, or Truck Turner, The Mack. Being that I was named after Iceberg Slim, my albums had to sound like one of those movies; like a player just chopping game. So that Curtis Mayfield record (“Pusherman”), I held close until the second album.

 

I had an idea that Rap would become illegal because I know it was too toxic. So I knew that dudes would have to sell their music like dope, so we used that metaphor and that’s something else we have seen come true.

 

“Personal”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: That’s your traditional suck my d*** Rap record. Where you tell them hey, ya’ll didn’t think I would make it now I’ve made it. With love comes a B-Side of hate. Like if I were to say Allen Iverson and you say “I love him” another n**** will say “F*** him”. That’s just life. So with the love I was getting, I also got the hate. So that was my reply.

 

“Girls L.G.B.N.A.F.”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: That was meant to be a spoof on all the love records people were making. We were like I’m not going to make love records, we were going to tell a bitch let’s get naked and f***. It was about taking the more hardcore route and being more blatant and being more aggressive.

 

There wasn’t any reason for me to show love to these hoes until I met someone I loved so we were talking crazy. It turned out to be a big party record and I still perform it at my shows.

 

“High Rollers”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: I like to define things and break stuff down. “High Rollers”, we just broke it down. I wanted to write it like if you were really from the game, you knew I knew what I was talking about. It had to be authentic.

 

I never really felt like I had to be judged by rappers, I always wanted to be judged by real players. So when we did the video, we had the real guns and the real money, we had real cocaine on the scene; it was real sh*t. The people shooting the video got real shook. They wanted to know if the guns were really unloaded.

 

I told n****s to come heavy we doing a video and they brought their own cars and it was real. That was when MTV would show guns. But me being real, at the end of the video I die. I was trying to show the real hustler lifestyle. That house in the video was my first crib from moving out of an apartment. I was wearing FILA, using a big ass brick ass phone.

 

To me you can’t talk about this game without talking about the B-Side of the game. I would always talk hard in my music, but I always wanted to show the vulnerability of the game.

 

“Grand Larceny”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: That was just a metaphor. Instead of doing a heist we were doing shows and getting like twenty five thousand a city which was real cake at the time. We were like this is a new legit hustle. We turned it into a regular robbery but coming into your own town; similar to “I’m Your Pusher”.

 

“Soul On Ice”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: That was a tribute to Lightnin’ Rod’s Hustler Convention record. That was before Hip-Hop and I loved that record. Just how n****s would chop poetry over beats and just flex their voices and use other people’s voices and kind of paint a scene. I was just having fun with it.

 

It was a story of a guy who was going to have his last party. Dude is having a good time and then he gets shot. I said “Isn’t it ironic the night I retired / Is the same night my whole life expired”. I always got to give the truth, even with my music today. I wouldn’t want to lead anybody into a life of crime.

 

“Outro”

Produced By Afrika Islam

Ice-T: Yeah that’s the end where dude from the intro finishes with the record.

 

[In regards to the album cover]

 

Ice T: That year Bush was president I heard him say “Military power equals strength and equals peace”. I’m like wow, what the f*** is he talking about? So I thought of an idea for the cover that would show three forms of power.

 

The power of sex which is the first thing you see, the power of weapons which is the next thing you see after Darlene, then when you flip it over it’s the power of deception. Which I feel is the ultimate power anyway.

 

A deceptive motherf***er or a liar can get any good n**** any day. I tried to show that in the picture in a unique way. It was the first time n****s had seen a girl’s ass and people went crazy like “How you could put your girl out there like that”. I was like it’s my girl, what are you talking about? I would feel more corny if I had a model standing next to me. It’s a cold cover.

 

Ice-T

“High Rollers”

Ice-T

“I’m Your Pusher”

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