Ice-T Talks Killer Cops, Why Trump Reminds Him of a ‘Gang Leader’
In 1992 — the same year as Los Angeles’s Rodney King riots — hip-hop legend Ice-T’s metal side-project, Body Count, generated controversy with the widely banned protest single “Cop Killer.” Ironically, eight years later, Ice-T joined the cast of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as NYPD Detective Odafin Tutuola — a role has played for the past 16 years. So by now, the rapper/actor has developed some sort of understanding of how police precincts work, and he’s gained bit of insight into the way cops act in times of crisis.
So, while Ice-T is definitely angry when he sees real-life police officers failing to do the right thing when it comes to addressing the illegal actions of their fellow officers, he’s not completely dumbfounded.
“Even the cop I play on television, it’s like, ‘Oh s—, one of ours is in trouble. We try to cover it up,’” he tells Yahoo Music. “I mean, it’s just how they operate. I’m not saying that’s right, but that’s how it works.”
Some citizens infuriated by the recent string of tragedies in which white cops have shot young black adults have suggested that only black policemen should patrol black neighborhoods. But Ice-T doesn’t think that will solve the problem.
“The cops have to police themselves,” he said. “The same way the black community has to help themselves — like the hood can only help the hood — the cops can only help the cops. The question is, if you’re a cop and you’re watching your [racist] partner [overstep his boundaries] and you don’t say nothing, you’re dirty, too. That blue wall of silence can’t happen. They have to address it. They can’t be like, ‘Oh, because we do such good; this one bad time doesn’t count.’ So I think all America wants to see is, ‘Hey, be held accountable for your actions, no matter who you are.’”
In the following candid Q&A with Yahoo Music, Ice-T — whose new album with Body Count, Bloodlust, is due out next year — not only discusses police officers who overstep their boundaries, but also the Black Lives Matter movement, his fears regarding a Trump presidency, the ever-changing face of hip-hop, and what he’s doing to keep the Ice-T brand strong.
YAHOO MUSIC: Right now the country is more polarized than ever. Conservative Republicans view the Democratic establishment as corrupt and opportunistic, and liberal America is having a field day digging into every controversial move by Republican candidate Donald Trump. What do you think about this year’s election?
ICE-T: Trump works on people’s fears. But we can’t keep pushing all these buttons of fear and think that everything is going to go over. He wants to build walls. We need to be building bridges. What the f— do you think is going to happen if you keep escalating the tension between different people? I feel like any minute this s— could pop off in the United States. And the thing is we can’t think it can’t happen. It can happen.
It sounds like you’re not a Trump supporter.
I’m from the street, and Trump reminds me of a gang leader. That’s cool for gangs, but it ain’t cool when you got nukes. You gotta be a little bit more savvy. He’s too hot. He gets mad when people tweet at him. The president’s gotta be past that. I think he can run a good hotel, but a country — I’m kinda scared of that dude. He’s too hotheaded. This is serious s—. And you can’t go over to these foreign countries and talk s— to ‘em. They don’t get down like that. They’ll blow us the f— up.
So, you’re on Team Hillary?
Honestly, I’m not a super Hillary fan, but Trump is a little too volatile for me. He asked a couple times, “Why can’t we use nukes?” It’s like, “Is that a question, you dumb f—? Really?” That’s can’t be a solution. Once one of them goes off it’s a wrap for everybody. You can’t even talk like that because if you do, the next step is it actually happening and that’s the end of the world.
There have been way too many incidents in which white cops shot and killed black kids, seemingly without justification. But the recent cases of Alston Sterling and Philando Castile have upset the community like nothing since Ferguson.
That’s ‘cause there’s a lot of video of everything now. There’s a lot of footage. Even back to the Rodney King beating, black people, we accept the situation, but we wait on justice. When Rodney King got his ass beat, nobody rioted. But when the cops were found innocent, that was the real stick in the side. With these situations, the cops never go to jail. It’s like, “OK, this kid got killed for no reason, but now you’re telling me this cop is innocent? Now, if it was a white kid, would the cop have to jail?” So, it’s an ugly racial situation that’s going on, but it’s not as evil as people make it out to be. There’s people going, “Oh, Black Lives Matter — they want to kill white people!” No, black people are not talking about killing no white people. That’s not the dialogue. It’s not going down like that. All we’re saying is, “C’mon man, you can’t just letting these cops get away with it.”
Are you doing anything as a public figure to make a statement?
Well, I’m using this moment to talk to the black kids in the neighborhood, saying, “Hey, yo. The cops is f—ed up, but we’re killing each other, man.” So we have to address that, too. We can’t just be mad at the cops when we’re killing each other in far greater number than the cops. There are a lot of issues in the black community that have to be addressed.
Black Lives Matter is a controversial movement, but their title has become a catchphrase. What are your thoughts on the phenomenon?
First off, you gotta separate the statement from the organization. I’m not part of the organization, and when you’ve got an organization like that, there may be stuff that is negative that people will connect to the organization. And you don’t know if that stuff is true or not. So there’s lots of controversy surrounding the organization. But I understand what the term “Black Lives Matter” means. Up to this point in America, black lives seemed not to matter. A black kid gets killed, the cops don’t bust anybody. [Rappers] Biggie [Smalls] and Tupac [Shakur] are dead. Nobody has gone to jail. This kind of thing has got to be addressed.
Some musicians, including Ian Asbury of the Cult, Corey Taylor from Slipknot, and even rappers Fetty Wap, Gucci Mane, A$AP Rocky, and Kevin Gates, have made statements that “all lives matter” to support that idea that everyone matters — black, white, yellow, green. And they’ve taken some heat for saying that.
Let me put it this way. It’s kind of like if a woman says, “Women’s rights,” and I come back and say, “Human rights,” I’ve diluted what they’re saying. If a gay person comes out and says, “Gay rights,” and I say, “Human rights,” again, I’ve diluted what they’re saying. So yeah, we know all lives matter, but it’s unfortunate that we have to make a point to mention black lives matter, also. It’s not that black lives are the only ones that matter, it’s more like: “It seems like y’all don’t think black lives matter.” I know these artists don’t mean anything negative when they say, “All lives matter,” but maybe they’re not understanding the position of black kids in America. And the only reasons they’re saying, “Black lives matter” is because the cops ain’t going to jail.
Do you think having cops wear cameras makes a difference?
I know it does. I know they’re talking about it in the police departments. I know they’re saying, “Don’t pull your gun. Use your Taser. You can’t shoot motherf—ers in the back that are running from you,” and all that bulls—. And if it wasn’t for these cameras, there would be people still living in denial. There are people in America that don’t think cops do anything wrong, even with all the film and the footage. See, we’re coming from an era where everyone is delusional, and everyone is thinking everything is good and let’s drink champagne and party. I think the world needs to take notice that we’re in dire times right now.
Drinking champagne and partying seems to be the preferred activities of a lot of today’s leading rappers. Are they doing a disservice to the music?
To me, rap has turned into dance music now. It lacks the content, it lacks the social commentary. It’s kind of like in a zone of: “Let’s party and pretend like nothing’s going on in the world.” I think that comes from our kids. We raised a generation of jaded youth who didn’t have to hustle or scramble like we did, so life kind of got handed to them. My son’s 25. He got picked up from the hospital in a Rolls Royce when he was born. He wears $250 sneakers because I bought them. So, what in the hell can he rap about? It’s kind of like my generation of hip-hop created this other generation of kids that are almost like the kids we didn’t like when we were growing up. That’s our kids now. I guess it’s an evolution. Will it continue to evolve? It probably will. You got rappers like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole who are starting to bring the lyricism and the consciousness back into the game. So there’s an interesting transition going on.
Do you have relationships with any of today’s hip-hop kingpins — guys like Dr. Dre, Jay Z, Kanye West, Drake, Diddy?
I’m friends with Jay Z. I’ve known him since he was back with Big Daddy Kane back in the day. I’ve know them. I’m cool with Eminem. I know all these cats. Dre’s a good friend of mine. Cube, Snoop. And Kanye’s an interesting case. He was in my movie, [the documentary, Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap] and stuff. I don’t really have a kick-it vibe with Kanye, but he’s good. He’s a good artist, I guess – not my style. I’m more hardcore. I like Mobb Deep and M.O.P., and s— like that. I’m into Public Enemy. You dig?
How has the rap scene changed in recent years?
Once the Internet came, it allowed everybody to make a record, which diluted the music so much that you don’t know what’s out. Then in steps radio, hip-hop’s arch nemesis, and they say, “Now we’ll finally be able to reprogram these kids.” So they put all this user-friendly music like Drake on the air, and no issues are being addressed. But that’s what radio is there to do — to pacify you and keep your buying their commercials. I had a girl interview me and she said, “Wow, Ice, you sold millions of records. When?” And I said, “Well, when people went to the record store.” She said, “What’s a record store?” You’re not gonna buy an album now. You’re going to stream a song. You don’t get a path of consciousness that way. And now kids’ attention spans are so short they think, “If it’s not on the radio, it must not be good.” So you got the reprogramming of an entire generation. That’s a big change.
Vinyl is making a big comeback, but the music business will never go back to the way it was in the early ‘90s.
Quincy Jones taught me not to dwell in the past. He told me, “Ice, it’s never going backwards. It’s only going forwards.” That term “the good old days” is around for a reason. New compresses things and sanitizes things and changes things. But hey, I was just glad to be part of the golden era of hip-hop.
Are you doing any new rap music?
I’m always doing features. I did some features with Above the Law, on Cold 187um’s album Blackout Father. I did some stuff for some Bay Area artists. Ice is always good to go in the studio and drop some bars and have some fun. But I do it for fun now, because I know you’re not gonna sell enough records to pay no car note. I know that. So the new way to do it is you maintain your star by doing the records. You do your tour. And I did a Geico commercial and a Sonic commercial, and they paid me more than I would have made on a gold record.
When are the commercials coming out?
Pretty soon. They’re funny. They’re plays on the word Ice-T. One of ‘em is me sitting at a lemonade stand with some kids and people walking up going “Ice-T!” And I say, “No, lemonade. Read. Read.” And the voiceover goes, “What’s wilder than Ice-T at a lemonade stand? You paying too much for your car insurance.” You gotta do it this way now. Or tour yourself to death and sell your merchandise, and that’s hard. My father told me when I was young, “If they ain’t buying lemonade, sell them cookies. If they ain’t buying cookies, sell ‘em ice cream.” A player’s always gonna figure another way to the target.