The Rolling Stone Interview: Ice-T

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So how does it feel to get dissed by the president?
It lets you know how small this country is. Maybe I underestimate my juice, but there's people out there with nuclear bombs, people with armies, and the president has time to sit up and get into it with me? But I'm fully aware that the president still has no idea who I am. He has advisers, people with their ear to the street. They're listening to everything that's going on and reaching for straws, especially during a presidential race.

I guess it's something I'll remember the rest of my life. Very few people have their names said by the president, especially in anger. It makes me feel good, like I haven't been just stanthng on a street corner yelling with nobody listening all this time.

Why all this response to this record right now?
This is not a rap album underline rap album. It's a rock album, it's an album that got into Texas and got inside suburbia a little deeper than a normal rap record would. It's a rock album with a rap mentality. And it has a brain this album's mentality is a progressive mentality against racism. It's hate against hate, you know. It's anger. It's not necessarily answers, it's anger with the same force of their hate. It scares them when they see it being kicked back at them.

I think by being rock it infiltrated the homes of a lot of parents not used to having their kids play records by rappers. Then they found out the music was made by a rapper. There is absolutely no way to listen to the song "Cop Killer" and call it a rap record. It's so far from rap. But politically, they know by saying the word rap they can get a lot of people who think, "Rap-black, rap-black-ghetto," and don't like it You say the word rock, people. say, "Oh, but I like the Jefferson Airplane, I like Fleetwood Mac that's rock." They don't want to use the words rock & roll to describe the song.

But the main reason they went after this record is because of the shit that was coming down and is still going down today. They're yelling about a record that came out in March, and just yesterday the cops were killing people out in the street. They're under the gun, and the best defense is a good offense, so what they've done is taken Americans' minds and said, "Look at this record, look at how people are treating us."

But why all this noise? Why all this protest about a record that speaks about killing cops and not protest against the cops killing kids out there in the streets?

Is censoring ideas just easier than fighting reality?
There's freedom of speech, but you can't speak out against the government I listen to all the people's gripes and their complaints, they're like "Well, I'm down with freedom of speech, but he shouldn't have said that." That's all bullshit I have the right to say how I feel. I have many days of my life that I wanted to just get dressed up and go out there and kill the fucking pigs. They are totally out of control. There's no jail terms for them, there's nothing.

Why aren't there any cops on death row? Why aren't there any cops doing any severe prison terms? They're above the law. We saw Daryl Gates tell the mayor to kiss his ass, the city council to kiss his ass, and say, "I'm not going out of this office." I think people should have looked at that and realized how much power he's got.

If you really want to know what the record's whole angle was, it was just a check on them. It is a threat record, and they need to be threatened.

Point-blank, does this record condone or glorify killing cops?
No. The way the record could pose a threat would have been if the lyrics had been "Let's go cop killing, let's all go cop killing. Let's put our shit on, let's all go out tonight and do it." That's obvious, right? But I didn't say that. I could have written the record like that, but I said, "No, I'll try to come on as a psychopath that's had enough."

It's a record about a character. I know the character, I've woken up feeling like this character. When I saw the riots on TV, I wanted to get out there, but I've never clicked over. People say, "Well, you didn't make that clear enough on the record," but most records you can't even hear the fucking lyrics.

And that's an aesthetic question; the point isn't whether it's a good song or not.
Right. The record says, "I've got my black shirt on, I've got my black gloves on, this shit has been too long." That's a very important line. He's saying, "I'm sick of it, I know your family's grieving, but our family's grieving, too." It's like there's no mercy in this situation it's time for me to go out and get even. He's not trying to get one-up, he's just trying to get even. We've got lots of people in America feeling like getting even everybody wants it to be even. Why do we feel that it's not even? Because we know that they kill us and they don't go to jail. It ain't even.

There were two big "rap" controversies this summer; one came from a rock & roll song, and the other from statements Sister Souljah made in an interview. Neither actually had anything to do with a rap record.
Neither of them had anything to do with true politicians, either. These are musicians, nothing to do with Quayle or Clinton or the people who are supposedly worried about this country. They have their aides coming to them saying, "Look, I just heard her talk about killing white people" or "I heard him say this" or "Axl Rose said that." Then they start turning that into a political platform? That's some shit. Maybe we should be running for office. I'm not even in the race, and they're tripping off of what I say.

Why do you think they make so sure to attach that word "rap" to these things? Is that just a straight racist ploy?
You could say that, but personally I hate to go into that racial shit. Everything in America has a racial tone to it, so it's not even necessary for me to say that. It's a black guy, a rapper, making this type of record, so it must be making black kids want to kill cops. Why hasn't anyone made a statement that ninety-nine percent of the Body Count fans are white? That's being covered up because it's not in the interests of the people who are attempting to create the drama.

Somebody is definitely trying to run for office. Maybe that particular cop down there in Texas who's trying to show that he's supercop, that he was the cop that went head up against me, this would give him something later on in his career to use.

At one point you were talking about calling the album 'Cop Killer,' right?
Yeah. I thought that would be a good title because it's the best song on the album, that's the one everybody remembered the group by. But when we were going to do that, Warner Bros. they never censored me, but they told me: "Ice, if you name it this, you're going to have problems in stores, the stores will censor you. They won't accept the record." So I just said, "Okay, cool, we'll leave our artwork the way it is, with Cop Killer written on the guy's chest." I didn't want people to stop the record because they don't like a word on it. At least let it get out.

But Time Warner didn't stop you?
They didn't say no. They told me, "This is what might happen, dude, if you want to do it." But they know by now that I have a lot of integrity in the stuff I do. I don't do shit just for shock value. I got reasons. So they don't really fuck with me creatively. This is so ironic 'cause now everyone's sweating them, and all they did was let me do what I wanted to.

How has their support been through this controversy?
It's been incredible. Jerry Levin [Time Warner's president and co-chief executive] wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal that was the dopest shit I ever seen in my life. All the record is is an editorial. It's a particular thought pattern of one artist, and in art other than music, like paintings and theater, this particular idea had been acted out, drawn, sketched or shown; it's nothing new. But when it's done on a record, it's in your face, and there's loud guitars playing, and it'll scare the shit out of you.

And these cops, since their so-called disapproval with the record, they have been threatening Time Warner with bomb threats and shit. These are supposed to be the people that uphold the law, and when they get threatened, they turn into some of the most scandalous people. I mean they've been threatening my life since I started making records, so it's nothing new. I got mail back here from cops saying, "You come to New York, I'm going to box you" what kind of shit is that? Then they don't put their names because they're cowards.

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