When Madonna released the finished track list for her upcoming album Rebel Heart earlier this week, the most conspicuous guest star wasn’t Nicki Minaj, Nas or Chance the Rapper. That distinction fell to Mike Tyson, who appears with the singer and Chance the Rapper on new track “Iconic.”
And while Tyson hasn’t heard the finished track yet (a leaked demo of the song only featured Madonna), the former boxer-turned-actor tells Rolling Stone that his role was similar to his 1998 appearance as a hype man on battle rapper Canibus’ “Second Round K.O.”
“Madonna calls you and tells you to come somewhere, you go,” Tyson says. “I didn’t know what the hell I was going there for. I’m just there having a good time and hanging out with Madonna. She has her producer there and I go into the studio and I didn’t know if she wanted me to talk or rap. I just go in there and start talking. I’m talking about my life and things that I have endured. I’m saying some really crazy stuff. It was really intense.”
Tyson ad-libbed his part of the song — which he says was done in one take — and drew inspiration from an unlikely icon. “When I did it, I think about being some guy like [Benito] Mussolini and they’re really arrogant, but you try to come from a positive perspective and be uplifting. You watch Mussolini on television — even though we don’t understand what he’s saying — he is so mesmerizing. I look at myself in that way.
“I know people may say ‘this guy’s a fascist’ and all this stuff, but man, you can take positivity from watching him,” added Tyson. “No wonder why Hitler was attracted to him. This guy’s a hypnotic figure. There’s so much pride behind what he’s saying. I’m not even Italian and I feel the pride he’s projecting. He had that street swag; he was doing this stuff with his hands and moving his head before it was even hip-hop.”
“Madonna’s trying to do something that since the beginning of time has been the most difficult thing to do: Save the world.”
While this is the first musical collaboration between the two stars, their history together goes back decades. Tyson says he first met Madonna in 1988 during a double date between himself, then-wife Robin Givens, Madonna and her then-husband Sean Penn. When the foursome went to see a Pee-wee Herman movie, Tyson and Penn both fell asleep midway through the film, leaving their dates time to bond.
“She’s an awesome, serene person,” Tyson says of Madonna. “She’s trying to do something that since the beginning of time has been the most difficult thing to do: Save the world. I commend her for that. She is a fighter in every sense of the word and from an intergalactic perspective,” he adds with a laugh.
The star of Adult Swim’s Mike Tyson Mysteries, the unexpected animated hit that was recently picked up for a second season, even weighed in on Adi Lederman, the 38-year-old Israeli man arrested for hacking into Madonna’s computer and attempting to sell the unreleased songs. “It’s an invasion of privacy,” says Tyson. “It’s totally counterproductive to what our so-called Constitution is all about. But I’m not in the position to pass judgment on somebody like that, but [what happens to him] shouldn’t be something nice.”
It’s unclear if Tyson, who contributed the dance-pop song “One Night in Bangkok” to the soundtrack to 2011’s The Hangover Part II, will try to parlay his “Iconic” appearance into a future career, but the multihyphenate is not ruling it out.
“Doing the song with Madonna makes me think this [music career] could really happen,” Tyson says. “Most guys that come in there drink a bunch of liquor or smoke 100 blunts. I just went in and boom, one take. Everyone thought it was cool.”