The Rolling Stone Interview: Ice-T

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People forget that you played a cop – a good one – in New Jack City. Nobody came and pinned a medal on you for that.
Well, you know, bad news travels so much quicker than good news. To play the cop in New Jack, I had to do a lot of apologizing to my hard-core fans. Me playing that was sacrilegious in the ghetto. "Why did you have to be a cop? You could have hated dope, we all hate dope, but why do you got to give credit to the Man? Why couldn't you have just been a brother that went out there and handled it?" I had to tell them it wasn't my movie. I had to get in the movie, and this is the laws of Hollywood: The only way you can run around with a gun is to be a cop.

The attitude toward police from my followers has always been the same. I don't hate all police, and everybody knows that, it's just a matter of certain ones that are police for the wrong reasons. I was talking to a friend of mine this morning, a young lady, and she wants to get into law enforcement. She said, "I know you don't want to hear that," but I'm like "Well, it's not that. I know you want to do the right thing, you want to help people, and that's cool. But once you get in there, you'll see all the corruption that's inside that particular brotherhood of police. There's somebody in there that gets high or, you know, somebody who's in there that's shot somebody, while you're steadily putting people in jail. Then you're going to be more of a criminal than anybody on the street."

Have you gotten a harder time from the police since you've made it?
It's not worse or better. I still get the same treatment, only now I'm not afraid of them, because I have lawyers. I'm not as frightened because, by having a little more money, I know they can't hold me. But I still have the fear of being killed. I know that any cop can take me like at night when I'm alone and driving, coming from the studio, if I see a cop pull up behind me, I really am afraid that they might just decide they don't like me and pull out that backup gun they carry and shoot me, then say I pulled a gun on them or something. I'm afraid of them still, to an extent.

Aside from this issue, there's so much focus on politics and rap. Does it feel like that's all you get to talk about?
I just wish people would listen to what I say. When I first came out, I had to totally open the door to South Central. People were not aware that there were kids down there talking about this shit. Now you've seen Boyz n the Hood, you've heard a hundred groups from Compton, you know I'm not the only one. But when I first came out, I was a "liar," you know. Now when people look at it, they say, "There's a hundred kids saying this, he couldn't possibly be lying, he must be telling the truth."

How much do you think this response to the record has to do with the riots?
That's what it's all about. The theory that this record was put out after the riot is one of the first ideas that people had gotten, but they were way off. They initially thought Warner jumped on this riot thing and put this record out, but that was untrue. The record was written and released before.

It's impossible for somebody who doesn't live it to understand it. That might sound macho or some old bullshit, but it's just how it is. If you ain't really been fucked over by the police, you can't have the same hatred, and if you're looking to understand the anger in the voice of the rapper, you never will unless you live it. And then if you live it, it doesn't seem as angry. My real anger sounds much madder than the voice I put on that record.

Did the riots change your attitudes?
The riots are the consequence I was talking about. The government has a check and balance game: Do wrong, consequences; do wrong, consequences. This is how they play. You speed, you go to jail. You're drunk, you go to jail. The people cannot issue a consequence against the government. When they do wrong, what do we do? How many people have filed civil suits against the police and won? So what L.A. did was say, "You all been bad, check this out," and we issued a consequence. In New York just the other night they shot somebody, people issued a consequence. One way or another it's going to get through that you guys might be the system and we might be the people but every time the system flicks up, we're going to reach out and touch you. It's only right. And every time when the LAPD whup on somebody now, they take their chance on starring another riot. Maybe it'll make them think.

I totally predict that if we don't listen, people are going to move to bloodshed. I know from listening to the homeys and the people in the street, if they do not see justice, then they are going to move, and this time it's going to be on more than inanimate objects. They're going to hurt some people. So are we going to get some justice? Are you going to send some of these killer cops to jail, show people that everybody is responsible under the law? Or are you going to show them that the law doesn't work? And in that case, why should they respect any of the laws?

There's a lot of shit I don't really like, like speaking on yet, it's still too heavy. They really got to know that I got a lot more shit heavier to say than "Cop Killer." People are truly fed up, man. You got to remember that half the people in the ghetto got somebody who's in jail, and then they see these people walk free. Their cousin and uncle and daddy's locked up for some bullshit, and then they see these politicians getting away with it. They're just fed up. They're going to do whatever they see fit.

America somebody needs to hit a reset button on this whole place, try to get everybody in check. People just have to be aware. People out there say, "Oh, the riot, that's over with." If you think it's over with, you are so sadly mistaken. You are tripping. You just do not know how quick motherfuckers are ready to flip again. They are ready. I mean ready, like let's do it tomorrow. They found out that they can do it, and if it goes down, LAPD really can't hold them. I pray to God that somehow some miracle will happen to give some form of justice.

What would help turn the situation around?
All they want is fairness. When they put mikes in the kids' faces out there in the street, they asked, "Why are you out here?" "Yo, man, the way that decision came down, they just told the cops it was okay to beat on somebody's black head, and they won't go to jail." That was the message they got. I was mad, my friends were mad. I live in West Hollywood, and I had guys up here we had to literally hold back. There was tears in people's eyes. It just ain't cool. It just ain't cool.

It's obviously too soon to say, but can we talk about a legacy from the riots yet or are we still in the middle of it?
We're in the middle of it my situation right now is part of the riots. It's like now they're attempting to regain control: "Okay, that was crazy. Now wait a minute, there's a record over here saying go head up with cops, let's shut that down. Let's move on Sister Souljah, she said let's kill white people." But all they're doing is solidifying bases. The only difference between us and them is we'll always be okay 'cause we're on the right side. We don't want more, we just want fairness you see what I'm saying? Even the cop killer in my song doesn't want more, he just wants to get even.

This country was founded on the things I talk about. I learned it in school. Paul Revere was running around saying, "The redcoats is coming," so he was basically saying, "Here come the pigs, and a fuckup is going down." We had a revolution or else we would be under the queen at this moment. That was a revolutionary thought, and those were very honorable thoughts in those days, the Boston Tea Party, all that shit. We just celebrated July 4th, which is really just national Fuck the Police Day. And "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a song about a hell of a shootout with the police. You can call them troops, whatever you want, but basically they're police from the other side. I bet back during the Revolutionary War, there were songs similar to mine. If you want to look at it, I guess the cop killer is the first soldier in the war who decides, "Hey, it's time to go out there and be aggressive, and I'm moving against them."

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