Some Supreme Mathematics on the rap sheet: Realness is the principled reaction in ciphers where the cipher is unstable, the principle is the constant and the reaction is unique. Realness is not one stiff, cliché, reaction brought to many ciphers. That phenomenon leads to nigga coon effect on many platforms. However, this “uniqueness” of each reaction of Realness is a beautiful calculation. It is the self-styled culture of one who has merged an ever expanding accumulation of knowledge through a constant of principle towards a special revelation of understanding. For the layman to build on the power, Hip Hop’s pioneers are brothers we can study under to understand.
A pioneer like Ice-T, a Master Ceremoniously been selling the telling tales that squares feel from deal to deal. The entire theme of his memoir is that he has traveled through these Art industry ciphers with consistent principles. Their existence begins with his development as a youth into the young man that would make the decisions of said principles. Told with depth and insight, key moments we learned about whether from his classic tracks (i.e. “That’s How I’m Livin’”) or just weak Wikipedia/Google searches, a clear sense is made to his choices.
The narrative is clear and reflects the honesty I grew up admiring in his wax and heard from building with him in person as a journalist. We hear the choices that construct his integrity from being drug free or knowing how far he’d go (i.e. his licks, or capers for papers, he didn’t deal with guns) to have control over his cipher. There are the extended “That’s How I’m Livin’” life details, all real, and then there are the insights to choices that expand “This One’s For Me.” The destruction of the cliché is a false foundation that Ice has always had to crush. Whether it’s his sincerity to do Heavy Metal Rock with Body Count, the personal decision to leave Sire Records under the Warner Brothers company or his adaptation to a more stable square life with Coco, Ice’s reasoning is consistently logical and enlightening.
His autobio is aided by Douglas Century, and include highlights of intriguing stories (i.e. Body Count out in Milan, Italy or licks gone bad) but is missing crucial Hip Hop history—Ice-T’s musical catalog, itself. There is plenty on Ice’s Hip Hop origins and pioneering but not on his classic LPs that are mandatory listening for any Hip Hoppa. Our Black and Brown people, including this Writer, don’t grow up with men of repute, ideas and insight excepting those in these Arts of Hip Hop. And a memoir is a forum that furthers that for brothers that continue to expand into many ciphers we weren’t raised to comprehend realistically. Ice-T came from the streets, kept those most honorable codes of the streets, embodied Hip Hop’s founding principles, literally earned stripes from the NYC foundation and pioneered a deeper, intimate content, not merely a gangsta expletive’d dialect on wax. All to then be the first to head into the largest and most illusionary Art form that does not hold the same ethos and principles as Hip Hop culture—Acting through Hollywood and television.
Ice-T has gone from the actual reality and embraced natural contradiction the attacked Black/Brown/youth represent in true Hip Hop music to an Art that serves as the world’s greatest propaganda tool of destructively false imagery. At its best Acting expects one to engage in the role of the said character, to make that which did not exist completely believable. The presentation of the truth is not the primary intention (though it may be the ulterior motive for some) but the reflection of the created character and resultant story is. It does not, as Hip Hop, directly insinuate Originality through Creativity for an expression of the oppressed, with their deepest ideas as the highest level. It is no counterculture in this Babylon. It is the pop fodder of quantitative waste and rare qualitative brilliance with only select rebels and revolutionary thinkers frequenting the cipher.
And Ice-T pioneers this too for Hip Hop and its MCs. From New Jack City and other film roles, over 14 years on the ensemble cast show Law and Order: Special Victims Unit to his Peacemaker documentary series, he may be the only Hip Hop actor to so consistently present characters other than himself that still embody his natural Hip Hop persona. It is this unique oddity that is subtly accentuated as the theme. It is merged with Ice-T’s pimp roots and wisdom that culls from there and countless other areas most men can’t venture into. That lets the story be sold but I’m saying I gotta build on what’s really told in there. Ice-T’s LP catalog, particularly his supreme albums, 1991’s O.G. Original Gangster and 1993’s Home Invasion, are not given the inside stories on their construction. They are mainly referred to as highlights and successes in transition (i.e. the “Cop Killer” scandal).
Musically, Ice-T’s LPs are not classics as instrumental pieces; rather, they are collections of the right beds for his best ideas and thoughts. His OG and HI LPs are superior works conceptually with progressive subject matter and precise execution that influences some of the greatest MCs today. Ice used the verse on wax so well that these forums of books, movies and interviews weren’t even necessary. He didn’t just state his rebellion but explained the revolution’s necessity and made manifestos. An MC who could drop understanding by the ill tale (“The Tower”) or with real sinister straight talk (“Message to the Soldier”) he is noted and even presented in this memoir to us as how Hip Hop can elevate us (i.e. financially). However, it is his existence in Hip Hop that actually propelled a deep thinker we needed but would’ve never heard from otherwise. For this writer, any memoir of Ice-T must pose that concept to his narrative even if his humility will not fully accept that. We, with classic works in our hand, must.
Despite the omission of crucial catalog chronicling, Ice concludes the memoir as he has his best and most intimate LPs he has released. Dropping jewels fly and setting us up to think about the realness of his mentality amidst the glamour and not the glamour his realness has put him amidst. Even as he is in a transitional phase as a married man, has raised children to adulthood, may spend time now with family on holidays as Thanksgiving (“I work real hard for my living/But I don’t celebrate bullshit Thanksgiving/Sit up like some fool and eat turkey/That’s the day your forefathers jerked me/Shipped us all over here in locks and chains/Split us up twisted up a nigga’s brain/Now you keep me in constant sweat/But I’m a nigga that you’ll never forget…” – “Straight Up Nigga”) and works steady on SVU, his work keeps to the people, the streets he’s from and the integrity he has as one of the legendary MCs of Hip Hop. The catalog of LPs, his Art of Rap documentary and his acting roles are proof. As the book ends with ill aphorisms for us he leaves us in the middle of growth and development’s possibilities. All of which add to more of the mathematics of Realness we respect and admire in the OG.