The following Snacks article is inspired by the original BLAG magazine feature with Ice T from 1995. Photographer and documented by Sarah J. Edwards, the original story appears in full in the book HIP HOP written in the first person.
In the vast landscape of Hip Hop, few artists have left a lasting impact like Ice-T. From his early days as a young MC to becoming the pioneer of gangster rap, Ice-T revolutionized the genre with his unfiltered lyrics and raw storytelling. In this article, we learn about Ice-T's perspective on the birth of gangster rap, shedding light on his motivations, struggles, and the transformation of Hip Hop culture. Join us as we explore the origins of gangster rap through the eyes of a true trailblazer.
Ice-T's Unapologetic Beginnings
Ice-T's journey into the world of rap began with an inherent love for the craft. He recalls, "I mean, I made a record I wanted to hear." It was this unapologetic, self-driven approach that set him apart. While New York rap artists influenced his early works, his friends urged him to rap about the realities of their lives, which included gang activities and hustling. Thus, Ice-T's unique lifestyle became the foundation for what would eventually be known as gangster rap.
The Birth of Gangster Rap
With the release of "Six In The Morning" and KRS-One's "Criminal Minded," Ice-T believes that gangster rap was born. These tracks were groundbreaking, featuring vivid depictions of life on the streets, gun violence, and confrontations with law enforcement. Ice-T proudly asserts, "It was the first song when somebody says they got a gun and they're running from the cops and they're shooting." In those early days, defying societal norms and industry restrictions was a risky endeavor. Ice-T reflects on the challenges they faced, including censorship and radio play limitations. However, their rebellion against the system paved the way for future generations to freely express their realities through music.
The Evolution of Hip Hop Culture
Ice-T's contribution to Hip Hop goes beyond just pioneering gangster rap. He witnessed the transformation of the culture itself. In the early days, Hip Hop was about passion, expression, and authenticity. Making money almost lacked credibility. Ice-T explains, "If you said you were trying to get paid, it was extremely taboo. 'You're getting paid? You're not representing. Keep it real!'" However, the record labels capitalized on the genre's success, leaving many artists without their fair share.
As the genre evolved, so did the artists. Ice-T acknowledges that the average hip hopper is no longer a teenager, but a grown individual with responsibilities. The necessity to provide for families changed the game. Ice-T states, "So, if you've got time to keep it real and just rap for free, I hope you got a good job!" The shift in priorities forced artists to consider financial stability without compromising their artistry.
Ice-T's Observations on Hip Hop Today (1995.)
Reflecting on the present state of Hip Hop, Ice-T offers a unique perspective. While he appreciates the newer generation's rap about lifestyles reminiscent of his own, he believes that the genre has lost its cutting edge. According to him, the commercialization of Hip Hop diluted its core essence. He explains, "Hip hop as a culture is dead. It's no longer hip hop."
Ice-T compares the rock scene, where artists can maintain an image of authenticity while enjoying immense wealth. He points out the discrepancy in the perception of financial success between genres, highlighting the challenges faced by Black artists in the music industry.
Ice-T's journey as a rapper and the pioneer of gangster rap has left an indelible mark on the Hip Hop.
Order The Hip Hop Book
From the BLAG Vaults: “HIP HOP" is a captivating book that showcases long-form and fun interviews and contributions with hip hop culture icons, originally published in BLAG magazine.
Curated by Sarah J. Edwards and Sally A. Edwards, the book offers rare conversations, real advice, striking humor, and profound influence. It features legends including Andre 3000, Beastie Boys, Chuck D, Lupe Fiasco and more.
Hilarious interviews from the '90s archive feature Slum Village, The Pharcyde, EPMD, and Ice T are also included. Q&As about New York City, travel tips from Mike D and party ingredients from Mark Ronson, add to the rich content.
Insightful perspectives on world peace and self-knowledge from Pharrell Willliams, will.i .am and Chuck D are part of the book too.
At 300 pages / 156mm x 234mm, choose your limited edition deluxe bound or open edition matte paperback cover.
"HIP HOP" is a must-read, celebrating the essence of the genre through interviews, Q&As and unique features, providing a one-of-a-kind experience.
eBook coming soon.