Rap: The Art of Shit Talkin' - Words from ICE "T"

The main misinterpretation and misunderstanding of rap is in the dialogue---in the ghetto talk and machismo, even in the basic body language. This is what I call shit talkin'. From the nasty tales of Stagolee in the 1800s to H.Rap Brown in the '60s, most of rap is nothing more than straight-up black bravado. Too many people take shit talkin' seriously because they have no frame of reference. In the ghetto, a black man will say, "I'll take my dick and wrap it around this room three times and fuck yo' mama." Now, this man cannot wrap his dick around the room three times, and he probably doesn't want to fuck your mother, but this is how he's gonna talk to another brother. It's a black thang. It's machismo. It doesn't mean anything.

When I first started rapping I learned very quickly the political approach couldn't hold a guy's attention, but if I started telling a nasty story, then the audience would really listen. This is no big revelation; sex is used a lot in advertising and the media use it to keep viewers watching until the end of a broadcast. If they advertise "Bikini Stewardesses" at the top of the news, you'll keep watching for a half an hour till they flash the flesh. The media are the worst offenders because when they say, "Oh, look at this. Isn't this awful?" what they are really saying is, "Look at this, look at this, look at this..." All over town sex is used as a teaser to make people go out and pay $7.50 for a movie.

With rap, you quickly learn the trick that you'll get the interest of the audience with sex because they want to know what will happen at the end of the song.They want to see how far I'm gonna take it. If I got onstage and said, "Yeah, I was eating this girl the other night and her pussy tasted like strawberries," everybody in the club would think, "Hooo, shit! This muthafucka's bold." I would get everybody's attention and then they would want to know where I could possibly go from there. The rappers who can hold your attention are either bragging or lying, and most of the stories are lies because if rappers played the moves they talked about---goddamn, they wouldn't have any dicks left. The art of shit talkin' is responsible for me getting out of crime and getting into rhyme.

The best way for me to explain my point of view of hip-hop and its influence of the general public is to give you a brief history of "Ice T the Rapper." Rapping is just something you pick up growing up in the ghetto. I knew how to write rhymes, because I used to recite rhymes for the gangs. I used to tag, "Crips don't die, they multiply." You've probably heard Bebe's Kids use that phrase. I wrote that slogan, and I'm still waiting for my royalty check. In the gang, I'd write these slogans on the walls, but they were more hustler-style rhymes. When I heard the record "Rapper's Delight," I thought, "Shit, I can do this." And I tried to rap, but I really wasn't particularly good. We'd go into this club in LA. called the Radio, and I would try to rap.

The reason I kept trying to rap was my boys. They told me to go rap so we could go to the clubs and get some pussy. Once you'd get onstage, the girls would come at you and talk to you. This would be your opportunity to lie and tell 'em you had a record deal. When the film Breakin' hit, the director came into the club and told everybody, "Okay, you're gonna be my rapper, you're gonna be my deejay, and you're gonna be my breakers. And I'm going to exploit y'all and make a lot of money." Now, you've seen that film and that shit was wack. But all y'all know when it came out you were on that shit, "Shabba Doo, yeah." You know you dug it. So if I was wack, y'all were wack, too.

The movie stylists dressed me up in what they thought breakers and rappers were supposed to wear --- things like belts around your crotch and spiked bracelets. I didn't really understand it, and I really didn't want to be in a movie. I didn't have time to be in a movie. The producer told me I was gonna make $500 a day. I told him, "I spend that on sneakers, man." I did the movie, I tried to rap like New York rappers. I was trying to rap about house parties. "I'll rock the mic, I'll rock the mic, I'll rock the mic."

My buddies were all laughing. They would say to me, "Ice, how are your gonna rap about rocking the house parties? We rob parties, man. We're the niggers who come in and say, "Throw your hand in the air, and leave 'em there." They were right. Nobody was gonna believe it if I didn't rap bout the shit I knew. So I wrote this record called "Sic in the Morning" about a kid who ran from the police: Six in the morning, police at my door Fresh Adidas squeak across the bathroom floor.

This song was the beginning of what is now called gangsta rap. I call it reality-based rap, because I used real situations and brought them onto the records. I didn't even think of it as gangsta rap, because I thought of myself as a player. I thought I had a little bit more finesse than the gangsters. I still do. Then, I recorded "Six in the Morning," and everybody liked it, I came up to the Oakland area, and it was pumping all over the place. I knew I had the ability to do this, and my friends encouraged me. It was like if you get up every morning and cook eggs and somebody told you, "You should sell them eggs, man." People told me, "You can sell that rap." "I could do this all day," I thought. "This is easy. This is just about my life." That's what I've been doing for a while now. I rap about my life, and I rap about it in the hardest, most blatant sense. I consider what I say as real. This is the way the world I come from is. this is the way I talk and I live. This is the only way I can be.

The Ice T Opinion: as told to Heidi Siegmund

More: MC Ice T

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