If you’ve been following the news at any point in the past several months, you know that right now has been quite the trying time for race relations in America. As we venture further into 2015, society is going continues to be shaken up in a major way. Well, almost everyone, according to Ice-T.
“I’m saying where are the youngsters?” he responds when asked his thoughts on the current uprising in Baltimore. “Why isn’t there a 21-year-old speaking up? What’s the problem?”
The rapper-turned-actor, as well as his fellow OG hip-hop artists and entertainers, shouldn’t always be the go-to commentators for America’s bubbling social movements. Especially at a time when millennials are mobilizing in the digital streets at rapid paces in response to recent events happening just below the Mason Dixon Line.
Ever since 25-year-old Freddie Gray‘s name was added to the laundry list of minorities laid to rest at the hands of law enforcement, the city of Baltimore – like Ferguson and New York – has been up in arms. However, unlike its two couterparts, the aggressive protests down in Charm City prove more than ever that people are pissed as hell.
The Baltimore riots bear an uncanny (albeit significantly more tame) resemblance to the L.A. riots of 1992. Just about 23 years prior to the month Gray passed away, the citizens of Los Angeles turned their home turf upside down when the four LAPD officers that were videotaped violently assaulting Rodney King. Stores were looted, fires blazed and guns were drawn en masse.
Ice-T shares his piece on what the unrest in Baltimore means for the country and encourages the media to urge artists to think on a deeper level. —Stacy-Ann Ellis
VIBE: Keeping the social climate of the past year in mind, what are your thoughts on the creative state of music and the mindset of the artists that create it?
Ice-T: Well, the problem is that kids really don’t search for music because music is so overloaded. It’s so saturated, so the generation now says if it’s not on the radio, it’s not good… But that’s because the artist is now forced into a zone where they’re like ‘fuck it,’ if I don’t make a radio record, then no one will ever hear about me. People like myself, Luke Skywalker, N.W.A, Ghetto Boyz, all of us never cared about the radio. The new artist is forced to care about the radio. Radio don’t want you saying sh-t. You can’t talk about Baltimore on the radio. They’re not going to play that, so you’re forced into being a pop artist, whether you want to or not.
With that pop star status, you can’t really speak on the important things you want to.
IT: Take any of the top artists right now and tell me what one of them has said important in the past five years. I mean, we understand you got money, we understand you’re rich, we understand you dress well, but is there anything else on your mind? The hip-hop press has to challenge artists. Ask them that question. After you tell them how well they’re dressed, how good they look and how much money they have, ask them do they care about anything.
Some artists argue that they don’t have a social responsibility to speak out for a cause. Do you agree?
IT: I agree, but I think you should make sure people know that’s how they feel. If you tell me, ‘How do you feel about this Ferguson situation?’ and I say, ‘I have no opinion,’ I think that’s what you should write. They had no opinion and let the people know that. Let the people know that they don’t care about that and then you could judge the people you respect. I mean, I’m on TV playing the motherf-cking police and I’m saying more sh-t about this than anyone. They go to me and Chuck and KRS1 and Ice Cube over and over again. I’m saying where are the youngsters? Why isn’t there a 21-year-old speaking up? What’s the problem?
Do you think it’s fear or lack of caring?
IT: It’s fear they ain’t going to get paid. It’s the textbook sell-out. What a sell-out is, is that they give me so much money they buy away my opinion. It’s when Ice is making so much money, they just throw money at me, so now I don’t talk no more, I just buy in. That’s what it is, but motherf-ckers is like, ‘Ice T, you’re on TV. You sold out.’ I’m still talkin’ shit, where I sold out? I ain’t never change my tune, I don’t know what the f-ck you’re talking about. Taking advantage of opportunities is not being a sell-out. The sell-out is when you no longer speak about sh-t. And all this sh-t that’s going on between Ferguson and all this sh-t, if you just do your diligence and find out who said anything important… The operative word in my life is important. Everything that I try to do has to be important. The Art Of Rap was an important film. That word people should carry with them, ‘importance.’ Like Chuck says, “I don’t rhyme for the sake of riddling.” So the Art Of Rap Tour is important. I bet you’re going to go to those stages and you’re going to hear some beautiful views and opinions coming off of the edges of those stages, trust it.
SEE ALSO: Ice-T’s Art Of Rap Music Festival Is Something Hip Hop Needs Right Now
If your opinion is intelligent and true, there’s nothing they can do to you, that’s my point. Just be knowledgeable about what you’re talking about. I can’t be on NBC and talking down on the police if I’m not on my sh-t. I gotta know what I’m saying, so even when I say it, no matter how much it hurts, it’s the truth. They can’t fire me for saying the truth. But if I go out and pop off some dumb sh-t like we should set the city on fire or ranting some dumb sh-t in order to get a headline, yeah you could get in trouble because you can’t back it up. You gotta know what the f-ck you’re saying. My thing is, you’re the press. Challenge some of these new artists when you interview them. Ask them after they talk about their clothes, so what do you care about? And let’s see where that goes. And if they don’t care about nothin’, then at the end of the article say they didn’t seem to care about nothin’ else but what the new Gucci pants look like, so we know how far to follow them. That’s the problem with pop artists is people don’t follow them. They like the music, but they don’t really listen to what they say because they’re not really known for saying nothin’.
Right. Sometimes you just need a little bit more.
IT: A youngster hit me up in Brooklyn, and he said, “Ice T, can I ask you a question. Ice, we got the money. We got the cars. We got the b-tches. What’s next?” There are a lot of kids out there that want to know. How many times can I tell you I’m rich? It gets corny. And I don’t think until the press starts challenging people on that will motherf-ckers start writing on it. Some of them will tell you straight up, “I don’t give a f-ck, I’m just trying to get paid.” In that case, you may be the enemy. So I always made it clear, yeah Ice wants to eat, but I’m going to let motherf-ckers know what’s right and wrong at the same time as I try to elevate myself.
What are your thoughts on connecting the L.A. and Baltimore riots? Are you supportive of it or is the wrong overshadowing the movement?
IT: Rioting and wildin’ and looting and all that sh-t is wrong, but once the sh-t gets out of hand, all kinds of elements have their own agendas. If I’m broke and motherf-ckers throw a brick through a window, I think I’m going to get something to eat. I’ll be honest about it and that’s just it. The main thing is that people are making people pay attention to some of this injustice. If that man had got killed and nobody said nothin’, that would’ve been one news broadcast and it would’ve gone away. So every time somebody gets killed or there is some injustice, I applaud people making noise. Imagine if that was your kid, you’re like naw naw I ain’t going to be quiet, but for a whole city to say naw naw we ain’t going to be quiet, that shit is fly. That needs to happen, we need to let them know it’s not ok.
Mickey Bentson: When the United States of America fights, they fight for respect and territory. Well, that’s what people in Baltimore are doing. They’re fighting for respect and territory. They need to be respected. Enough is enough. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m not saying it’s wrong, but when the U.S. government goes and has a war it’s okay. It’s fine. These people want to be respected. That’s all.
IT: At the end of the day, nobody wants the negativity and I never would promote that. But I do promote people making noise. Martin Luther King said, “A riot is the voice of the unheard.” It’s going to continually pop off as long as this injustice goes on. Assuming a cop kills somebody else or there’s some form of injustice going on. It reminds me of the 60s when people really got out there and made noise about bullsh-t.
It’s a boiling point, basically. It didn’t just come from nowhere.
IT: One person cannot start a riot. If youre just one person mad, you’d be running up and down the street throwing things like a goddamn fool. It takes a lot of people that are mad at the same time. A lot of people. And like in ’92 in L.A., we waited for them to find those cops guilty for what they did to Rodney King. And when people saw that there was no justice? Motherf-ckers went one one. All a riot is is really a tantrum. It’s like, what the f-ck can I do to make you hear me? Maybe I’m gonna throw some bricks at some cops because I just want to take out some anger against y’all. That’s all it is. Trust me, if motherf-ckers really wanted to get down with the cops and pull guns out and started shooting, that’s a whole ‘nother level. So just be glad it’s just a riot. It’s not a military movement, which will be a revolution.
You have enough riots and it turns into one, ya dig. There are a lot of ways [to address this] whether it’s cops wearing cameras or independent prosecutors that go at these cases, not ones that are connected right to the DA. There are a lot of ways they can handle this. But people are fed up. Thank God for camera phones! It’s really all because of technology. When Rodney King happened, it was only videotape camera. That’s how old school that was. Everybody doesn’t carry a video tape camera. Now everyone has one on the phone so it’s like any gossip, if there’s some sh-t that happened it should be filmed. I mean, every-f-cking-body’s got a camera. We’re all being held accountable for our actions now and that’s a good thing.
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