From the moment in the movie Breakin' that Chris “The Glove” Taylor spun the “Reckless” beat", Ice T has been a mainstay in the world of Hip-Hop. Although his early sound was electric and geared towards breakdancing, Ice T broke new ground with his song “6 In The Morning” and became the founder of the West Coast gangster rap style that would dominate the rap scene from the late '80s on to the '90s. Not content to just launch a genre' within rap, Ice T was also one of the few artists to have a title soundtrack for a major motion film (Colors) and is also one of the first rap artists to launch a serious film acting career.
To say that Ice T has reached iconic status is a serious understatement as we can go on and on about his career accolades, but there is a new accolade that now stands out and that is his newfound status as a film director. Ice T has produced one of the finest and most detailed film documentaries about Hip-Hop in existence, as the legendary rapper explores the skills behind some of the greatest rap stars that the world as ever known. Calling on the likes of KRS-One, Rakim, Chuck D, Ice Cube, Eminem, and dozens more, Ice T's film Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap takes the fans past the world of money, cars, women, and weed, to a place where the lyricists dwell. The film itself is a must see and serves as a source of inspiration and education for all Hip-Hop fans young and old.
AllHipHop.com sat down with the legendary Ice T to discuss his film, The Art of Rap, which will be released in theaters this Friday, June 15:
AllHipHop.com: When did you get the idea to do this film?
Ice T: I've been wanting to direct a movie. I've always wanted to get into directing, and everybody around me has known it. I really didn't know what the topic of my first film was going to be. I was looking for that first vehicle, because you only have one chance to make a first impression. I sat back and took a look at the state of Hip-Hop. I'm watching it go Pop and get a little diluted. I thought to myself, “Everybody is running around rapping, and people don't really don't know where it comes from.” I didn't feel that people were holding it in high regard and were even making a mockery of Hip-Hop.
I decided that I wanted to do a film about Hip-Hop and document it as an art form. I called everybody in my phone book and told them that I'm doing a film, and that I wanted to ask them questions. I wasn't going to ask them about money, cars, jewelry, and beef. I'm going to ask about the craft and what you were thinking about when you wrote the rhymes. I was often told by these artists that nobody asks these kind of questions. And the reason for that is because we are in a gossip-based culture that is more concerned about who people are f*cking. I saw an article about someone buying another person a car, and I'm like, “This is bullsh*t. This is not news.”
I decided to make a movie and deal with the craft of Hip-Hop. I shot the movie in two years, and I took it to the Sundance Film Festival. It was purchased the first day of its showing, and now I have a theatrical release.
AllHipHop.com: I love that it took a West Coast cat to put something like this together. At what point in your career did you feel that you really had the respect of New York?
Ice T: I got New York's respect right out of the gate. I think that I had their respect before I had L.A.'s respect.
Ice T: Yeah. I was rhyming in L.A., and I was kind of bubbling, but Afrika Islam was the one that put me in the game. I got connected with him, and I went to New York and from there I met Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel, and Afrika Bambaataa. They helped to get me my first record deal and put me in the game. L.A. knew I was rapper, but I wasn't really respected there until I got my record deal. I think the only reason why a West Coast cat was able to make this movie is because I'm far enough on the road in the film industry. I started at the recording level, then worked to the TV and film level. Will Smith, Ice Cube, Latifah, and myself are at the film levels. There aren't many rappers that would know how to go about making a movie.
AllHipHop.com: Watching the film, I was blown away by Grandmaster Caz. He's a founding Hip-Hop pioneer, and he can still flow! A lot of people think that the older artists have lost their skills.
Ice T: I'm going to tell you like this, just because certain people are out of the spotlight doesn't mean that they can't do it anymore. That's like saying that Miles Davis couldn't play the trumpet at the end of his career. That's stupid. The youth will always be in the crosshairs of what radio plays, but you don't want to try to rap against Melle Mel. It's like Melle said, “Your mistake is thinking that I'm dead and gone, but ask your mama, I'm bloody in the Octagon.”
A lot of rappers today have a cakewalk. They make a record and all of the sudden they are official MCs. When we came out, you had to battle your way to the top. A lot of them haven't had that trial by fire yet.
AllHipHop.com: Eminem had a big highlight in the film with his freestyle. Tell us about that.
Ice T: One of the questions that I asked him and other MCs in the film was, “Can you bust a rhyme for us that nobody has ever heard?” Anytime Eminem rhymes, you just sit there and go, “OK.” He'll spit something like, “I'm pulling my boxers up with boxing gloves, and three Oxycontin stuck to my esophagus.” You just ask yourself in amazement, “Who the f*ck writes this sh*t?”
To me, all of my friends and peers in Hip-Hop are experts, whether it's Redman, Immortal Technique, or Chino XL. They are beasts! Whether they are on the radio or not, they are still forces to be reckoned with.
AllHipHop.com: Was there one artist that you really regret not being a part of this film?
Ice T: There's hundreds of artists that I would have loved to have on the film. There's Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, and Lil Wayne, just to name a few. I made the calls, but different people were doing different things. I had to get myself from New York where I'm shooting "Law & Order", a camera crew from London, and the artists together in the same room at the same time. Just imagine how it was with someone like Snoop Dogg. I might tell him to meet at 3PM, and he would agree, only to show up to find out that he had to leave in order to handle his football league for the kids. Then he might come back later and say, “Sorry O.G. Let's try this tomorrow.”
Then I've got my camera crew, and I've got B-Real on the line, and I'm like, “Tell that motherf*cker not to move. I'm on my way.” [Laughter] You have to go run and get them. When you are doing a documentary, everybody involved is doing you a favor.
Nobody was overlooked. The phone calls did go out. I went straight to my phone book, and we got as many as we could. When we finished, there were 52 rappers filmed and 35 more waiting to be filmed. I've got two hours on each artist, and we have to edit the film down to 120 minutes. That's when the work kicked in.
AllHipHop.com: After you saw the film, was there anything that you wished that you could do again or do different?
Ice T: That's a good question. Is there anything that I wish I could have done again or different? I'd have to say not really. It's perfect to me. The only thing is that I could have cut the same two-hour movie with absolutely different clips, and it would be just as good. It would a mirror image of the movie with different pieces of KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, and Rakim. I could probably make 10 movies from different clips that can sit side-by-side with each other.
AllHipHop.com: Are you going to use any of the extra material?
Ice T: Yes, it will eventually see the day of light, but right now, I just want to focus on the film and getting people out on June 15 to go see it. This isn't just for me. I want the world to see that Hip-Hop is a force to be reckoned with and urban films. Very rarely will a Black documentary get a theatrical release, and you are never going to see so many Black people in a film that are just talking. You're not going to see n*ggas talking the way we talk, unedited, just straight in to the camera.
AllHipHop.com: Can you list your "Top 5 Rappers Dead or Alive?"
Ice T: Here are my Top 5 rappers, in no particular order. There's Rakim, of course, who is strictly about the flow, taking me in to a whole different dimension. Chuck D made us all put our fists in the air and said that we have to fight the power. Ice Cube, just because he's f*cking Ice Cube. That n*gga's a beast. When he said, “Straight Outta Compton,” to me that's the hardest record in the history of Hip-Hop. Then there's KRS-One. If you have never seen KRS perform live in concert, there is nothing more Hip-Hop than him. Then, I'll toss it up between Jay-Z and Nas as one person.
AllHipHop.com: So we've got a tie between Jay-Z and Nas.
Ice T: Yes, because I think that Nas is one of the more intricate lyricists out there, and then there's Jay-Z who can make records. You can go to a club and dance to Jay-Z songs for two hours. I can go on forever, and there are many other worthy artists like Kool G Rap. Of course, also there's Biggie and Pac who are cliche' answers. There's artists like Scarface – c'mon son. Ludacris is a beast. Lupe Fiasco, you know.
AllHipHop.com: Tell us your favorite personal Hip-Hop memory.
Ice T: Wow! AllHipHop.com wants to know my favorite personal memory. Honestly, it's a selfish memory. I think of the time that I first hit the stage of Dope Jam Tour in Austin, Texas. This was the big tour with myself, Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, KRS-One, Eric B. & Rakim, and Kool Moe Dee. I'm an L.A. rapper, and this is my first arena tour, and we were the opening act.
We hit that f*ckin' stage with “Colors” and that place lit the f*ck up! I was like, “G*d damn, I'm big! I'm a motherf*ckin' star!” We're in Texas and I had records out. “Colors” was the hit, and that place lit the hell up when we came out throwing money and standing on police cars. We actually captured that in one of my videos. They probably looked at me thinking that I did that everyday. I was looking at the audience and smiling like, “G*d dammit! I made it.” It was exciting, and that was the moment where I knew that this sh*t really was going to work. That one city was the beginning of a big tour and that was a moment.
AllHipHop.com: Ice T, thank you for taking the time for this interview. I've been following you since “Reckless”, and this is an honor.
Ice T: You're welcome. Make sure that if people want to see the movie trailer, they can go to www.artofrap.com (or view it below). They can see the cast and the music in the movie. Also, follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FINALLEVEL.
AllHipHop.com: I always see you on Twitter talking to your fans and battling your haters.
Ice T: Hate is a bi-product of the game. They get so frustrated. They just need to remove the mirrors from their house, and they'll be OK.
Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap is in theaters this Friday, June 15. Watch the trailer below: