Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ice-T Reflects On Past As Pimp And Gun Control: ‘I Want A Gun’

(By Courtney Garcia, The, 10 July 2013)

Ice T. Photo courtesy Indie PR.

Ice-T expresses no shame over his past days as a pimp, bank robber, and street hustler.  In the same respect, he exudes pride in the path he took to overcome that life, a feat possible in part to his commitment to hip-hop and study of another criminal convert, Iceberg Slim.  Ice discovered the reformed pimp’s literature in high school, and found that reading it not only made the rapper feel “cool” with the crowd, but demonstrated how any man – broken, misguided or forgotten – could turn tragedy into treasure.

As executive producer of the new documentary Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp, Ice tells theGrio he hopes that same message will come across to those unfamiliar with Slim’s story and novels.  “A lot of misguided kids read [his books] and wanted to pimp and wanted to be like him,’” Ice recalls. “There was a point in my life when I realized – wait a minute, this guy’s a writer. If I really idolize him, I need to document the game, not just live it. That’s the way it kind of fashioned my storytelling, and my writing techniques, and my rap music.”

Rhyme Pays: Lessons from a master criminal
Growing up both in New Jersey and the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles, Ice-T describes the time he evaded his own grave and/or cellblock by turning to music.  Though he wasn’t a fan of hustling, the 55-year-old says he initially felt it was his only option when it came to getting paid.  Nonetheless, he never quite mastered the art of pimping.  “We robbed banks, we robbed jewelry stores, we tried to pimp, we couldn’t get that down pat,” he remembers. “When rap music came along and my boys started going to prison, I started taking my adventures and putting them into music and found another way out.” 

The Law & Order: SVU star modeled his rap style after the authenticity he found in Slim’s books.  He appreciated the pimp’s visionary tales of navigating a brutal, unremorseful reality in search of higher power.  Ice forced his followers to get past the idea it was cool or glamorous to be a criminal, and acknowledge the truth behind his hustle.

A ‘whole lotta ho’ing’
Like Slim, Ice-T interpreted the business of street life not as a positive experience, but an accessible source of employment.  Women made sex an enterprise long before men joined the game, and female capitalists drove the market.  “If there was never a pimp there’d still be a whole lotta ho’ing going on,” Ice observes. “The difference in a pimp and a normal guy is that a normal guy says, ‘Oh this is terrible, you shouldn’t do it.’ And a pimp says, ‘Well, since you decided you gonna do it, let’s maximize this.’”  He continues, “No crime is positive. Whether you’re stealing cars, whether you’re selling drugs, whether you robbing or pimping, it’s not positive. Don’t get it twisted. It’s just a negative way to get paid.”

Sex as a commodity

While Ice tried his hand at the game, he never made it to Slim’s level, which he describes as a “full-time” position.  The upcoming documentary tracks Slim’s story from searching for money as a troubled kid in an impoverished home, to earning a reputation as the hardest player on the street, and the years of jail time that followed.  With interviews from Slim’s wife and daughters, and the scholars who studied his work, the film shows how a felon became a published author who influenced Blaxploitation films, literature, gangsta rap, and the commercialization of sexuality.  “Women figured out way before biblical times that there’s a commodity here,” says the rapper. “A guy figuring a way to wedge himself into this, he’s just trying to wedge his way into a game that really doesn’t need men.”
“The biggest pimp in the history of the world is Hugh Hefner,” he adds. “He came up with a genius plan where he said, ‘I won’t sell p**sy; I’ll sell the image of p**sy.’ See, girls won’t pay for dick, but men will pay for p**sy; it’s just how it goes. They’re going to buy pictures; they’re going to watch movies; they’re going to go to strip clubs. Now, with the Internet and all these web cams, the pimp is pretty much extinct. Women are now doing it themselves. They’ve got their own situation and they create the degree to which they want to give.”

Ice really does love Coco

Incidentally, Ice’s wife and model, Coco Austin, got her start at Playboy, and is currently starring in the Vegas striptease production PEEPSHOW.  The two brought their relationship into the spotlight with the reality series Ice Loves Coco. They have subsequently faced various criticisms that come with the job, including rumors their marriage is on the rocks and that Ice disapproves of Austin flaunting her body on the web.  Ice dispels the gossip, noting their relationship is “great,” that he can’t get mad at her for doing her job nor has he ever been upset with her risqué photographs.  The two won’t be returning to the show, however.  “We’ve got other projects, there might be a talk show,” the actor explains. “The problem with reality is, after you show people your life, your life starts to loop. You don’t really do much…If you keep those shows going, they kind of force you to do sh*t that you wouldn’t do. Like, ‘Let’s take Ice horseback riding.’ And it gets corny. We’re not the Kardashians. We’ve got other things going.”
Furthermore, now that Ice has made his famed run from gangsta rapper to actor to film producer, he finds Austin’s journey inspiring to watch from the sidelines.  As she closes out nearly a year on the stage, he says he’d be happy for her to rise above his wave.  “I don’t have any problem being the Celine Dion husband on the side of the stage with the ponytail in the back,” Ice jokes. “I’ve got my accolades, I’ve done my thing. I’ve achieved my victories. Because I’ve done it, I get a joy watching Coco do it. If two people take off at the same time, there could be resentment. Since I’m already Ice-T and you’re not going to be able to do sh*t about it, I want to see her win… It’s fun for me. I’m still in the game, I’m not at all insecure about it, and we’ve got one bank account.”

Why the ‘Original Gangster’ still wants his gun
The name Ice-T means different things to different people, but the rapper and actor hopes it will soon be associated primarily with film.  His venture into moviemaking began with 2012’s hip-hop documentary Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, and this year, with Iceberg Slim and Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire, a documentary he’s narrating on the Second Amendment, he aims to prove his intentions as a “serious” filmmaker.  Considering his experience, Ice definitely has a story to tell.

He recalls surprising Austin with tales of his old ways, much in the fashion Slim gradually revealed himself to his own wife.  “Coco’s got her insight on me spread out over 13 years,” he points out. “She didn’t get it all in one day.”  On the subject of gun violence in America, which is at the center of ‘Assaulted,’ the former gangster admits he needs a weapon.  He argues that America’s founding fathers were “crazy,” and set a dark precedent that made guns a necessity from the onset.  “I’m not really into the Second Amendment,” Ice explains. “I’m not really truly into the Constitution if you really want to know. On the same piece of paper that says you have the right to bear arms, it also says you have the right to own black people…There were insane people signing that piece of paper so the whole damn thing should be void.”

Accordingly, while he can’t align with the Second Amendment, he supports what he feels is a fair solution to the status quo.  “If you’ve got a gun, I want a gun,” Ice believes. “Considering the fact this country is infested with them, I want one too. Whether it’s the right wing, the left wing, the crazy cult members, the criminals, the bad guys, the good guys, I don’t see why I shouldn’t have a pistol in my dresser just in case somebody comes kicking in my door. I’m not going to attack them with a butter knife.”  From Ice’s stance, there are written codes and there are human codes, and the two don’t always work in tandem.
Aaron Hernandez and the ‘pride’ complex

As the law guides a land governed by the disobedient, no walk of life seems immune to the consequences of insubordination, the case of Aaron Hernandez in point.  Ice calls it the result of pride.  “People are disrespectful and they say things,” he says. “The old Ice-T would just go get his pistol and handle it. But you have to get over it. You’re bigger than that. You have to let it ride. It’s hard. In society, we teach a double standard, which is don’t let anybody mess over you and take care of business, but then if you do it, you’re wrong…There are these rules of manhood, these rules of honor that [Hernandez] got caught up in that might relate to people in street games, to thugs, but doesn’t apply to the NFL…You just gotta be like run, and look at your swimming pool and throw tennis balls at your dog.”  That, in so many words, is the new Ice-T: transformed, living large, rolling with the camera lens.

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