Taken from Forbes (Dec 28, 2020)
Q&A: Ice-T On Always Being Real, James Brown, Ozzy Osbourne, Body Count's Grammy Nomination And More
by Steve Baltin
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 18: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Ice-T visits SiriusXM Studios on February 18, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
When Ice-T and I spoke only a week ago he obviously couldn't share he was on The Masked Dancer as the disco ball (revealed last night, December 27). But while it may seem out of his public character, when you have the chance to sit down and talk to him it's actually not surprising at all.
Talking about wanting to be in a comedy film, he says, "I'm a funny mother f**ker." Talking about what he has learned from the likes of James Brown and Ozzy Osbourne, he says, "I learned that real people will be real."
He is going to do what he wants to do and say what he wants to say. We are talking to celebrate his Grammy nomination with Body Count for Best Metal Performance for the song "Bum-Rush."
As he says of his role with Body Count, "I never wanted to be so serious that we couldn't have fun. At the end of the day this is entertainment, it isn't politics. So my job is to take you and when you come to a Body Count show just to be f**king entertained."
Unfortunately we couldn't see Body Count bring the band's new Carnivore album to the stage in 2020 to be taken on that journey and be entertained. But talking to Ice-T about everything from Slipknot and George Clinton to wanting to be a player early on and a lot about politics is, as you can see here, a hell of an entertaining journey in its own right.
Steve Baltin: I love that prison backdrop.
Ice-T: Hey, I've been on Zoom so much I feel like I've been quarantined, so I said, "F**k it, I'm in prison."
Baltin: I thought it was for filming SVU.
Ice-T: No, Zoom allows you to put backdrops up. I got some cool ones. I could be on tour, I could be in a nice penthouse, or I could be on a beach. I like the tour one. I missed touring this year.
Baltin: Carnivore is an album that just screams to be played live. But the first vaccine was given today. Eventually you will get to play live.
Ice-T: I don't know. When you've actually been on tour, especially the festivals in Europe and you see hundreds of thousands of people standing next to each other, you really gotta ask yourself, "When is that gonna be able to happen?" Considering this is a global pandemic. It hit Italy, it hit places harder first than us. So that could be years from now. I don't know, it's sad. As far as Carnivore, we dropped the album and within 30 days the pandemic hit. So we haven't been able to do any shows on this new album and it sucks.
Baltin: When and if you can get back out there are there songs off Carnivore you are most excited to do live?
Ice-T: It's hard to say. We had shows [scheduled], we were gonna play "Bum-Rush." We were gonna play new York, L.A., and I think we had in our set "Bum-Rush," "No Remorse." We want to do "Ace Of Spades" live. When I make music I make it for concerts. When I'm making this track, I think, " We can walk on stage on this one." So all of them are made like that. "Another Level," with Jamey Jasta, is a big, big concert type song. So it sucks. We had like 30 shows set up overseas all cancelled, so it was heartbreaking. It was cancelled for a good reason, this is serious s**t, but it definitely hurt.
Baltin: Talk about "When We're Gone," with Amy Lee, and how that came to be.
Ice-T: When I did "When We're Gone," that was inspired by all the love that came out for Nipsey [Hussle's] passing, but it kind of got me upset cause I was like, "Wow, they actually sold out the Staples Center in like three hours for his tribute." But I was like, "Would you have sold it out in three hours for a concert?" And I was like, "This kind of sucks." So that's what inspired the song. Then I got a singer for the song. I didn't know it was Amy Lee. When I heard it I was like, "Wait a minute, that's Evanescence. How the f**k did you meet her?" They said, "Don't worry about it." And she sent me a very nice email speaking about one of her friends or relatives that she lost too soon. So when both people are singing from the heart you're gonna get a really great song.
Baltin: How has the response to the song been and do you think people get the message of it because unfortunately it's an all too common occurrence we don't fully appreciate people until they're gone?
Ice-T: People get it and they love it. It's like a song I can post after anybody dies. I'm on social media a lot. It's like, "Hey, it's a tribute to everybody." And it gets to people and makes people think, like "I'm right here with my wife and I don't even tell her I love her." You know what I'm saying? We sit around and we don't. They sit around and say, "Give people their flowers now." But I just write it from the heart and it's a good song. A good song will affect a lot of people a lot of ways. So when I make the song then you can apply it to yourself, I did a song called "All Love Is Lost" on the last album. My son was like, "That's my song, dad! That's my f**king song." It him a special way. But that's good music, when other people can apply your song to their life.
Baltin: One of my favorite songs on the album was "Thee Critical Beatdown," which feels like such a necessary song in 2020 where everybody hides behind the internet to be so nasty.
Ice-T: "Thee Critical Beatdown" is part of the Boy Count tradition of outrageousness. I always tell people that Body Count, the name I gave my band, is Grindhouse, like a [Quentin] Tarantino movie. It's so violent that you gotta get the humor out of it. "You talk a lot of s**t/Now it's time to back it up/Time to meet face to face/Test that internet tough/You name the place I'm there/Don't even f**king care/I'll come to your f**king hood/And beat your ass good/No weapons since you're such a bad man/Bare knuckles in the street/Bang it out hand to hand/
You can bring your whole crew/I'll roll with mine too/Full block gang fight hard body old school." And it's meant to be funny, but it's a real thing, like I'm tired of you talking s**t. So there you go, got a song. With Body Count one thing I always wanted to do was be serious at times, but also have that humor. When you hear "KKK Bitch" that s**t is funny. So we've always had that dark humor. I never wanted to be so serious that we couldn't have fun. At the end of the day this is entertainment, it isn't politics. So my job is to take you and when you come to a Body Count show just to be f**king entertained. And to have different areas you can go into makes the show that much better than just being one note the whole time.
Baltin: Who are those artists you think of as taking you on a journey?
Ice-T: I modeled myself after the writer Iceberg Slim, who was a pimp that wrote books. Robert Beck was his real name. And for a while I was reading the books and I wanted to live that lifestyle. I wanted to be a pimp and do all those things. But then I had this epiphany one day, "The dude is a writer. He's not only living it, he's writing it. So if you really idolize him, which I did, you can't just live the game, Ice, you have to document the game because there are a lot of players out there that ain't ever gonna be known cause they're just living the game. The reason you know Iceberg's name is because he documented the game." So that's when I started to realize, cause all players, we want to be special and we want to be known, we want mother f**kers to throw parades, balloons, that's a part of us. So I started to document the game. My music wasn't so much to dance to. I used to use beats that you couldn't dance to, as [it was] me explaining the game to you guys. My way of doing literature over music. And I think still today my music's me trying to explain to people what the f**k's going on. I've become like a translator between cultures. This is what it's like in prison, this is what it's like in the hood, this is what it's like dealing with racists, this is what it's like from my experience. And that's how I make music.
Baltin: Feels like everybody in 2020 needs a translator. Did you feel that?
Ice-T: (Cracks up) I think this year was a wake-up call for the world. It's a great year in a way cause it allowed us to really see who everyone is. It was a year where the racists kind of showed themselves. Your friend you thought was cool, you're like, "Oh wow, that's how you really feel." So it kind of exposed a lot of people. Now the election is a good thermometer so what you get to see is there are 70 million people that feel another way than you feel. This country is as divided as ever and that's a cold message for people. A lot of people can't deal with it, they can't believe it. Like Trump can't believe there are 80 million people that don't like him, he can't believe that. And their side can't believe 70 million people feel the other way. So this country is as divided as ever.
Baltin: And unfortunately it doesn't show any signs of uniting.
Ice-T: Chris Rock said it best. He said there's a pendulum swinging. When it swings one way the other side lays dormant and festers. So we started with [George H.W.] Bush; then it swung over to [Bill] Clinton, who was smoking weed, getting head in the White House; so then it swing back to son of a Bush [George W.] , alright; then it swung over to [Barack] Obama, who's playing basketball and bumping Jay-Z; then it swung back to Trump. So he [Rock] said the only place left for it to swing is Jesus (laughs). But this is what happens. It shifts back and forth. And hey, man, it is what it is, it's the United States Of America. KRS-One said it best, "You'll never have justice on stolen land." This place is corrupt from the bottom up. There are some good people here, but it's a crazy place.
Baltin: Who are those artists who take you on a journey in music?
Ice-T: When you would watch James Brown you were in James Brown's f**king world the whole time. Slayer took you to hell and you were in it until they ended the last note. You had that zone. Whether it was somebody like Cannibal Corpse, those are zones you go into. So I always dug that. The thing is with us I wanted to have multiple zones that were just as good. So you got the fun zone, the punk zone, the political zone, the gangster zone, but they just have to be believable. Sometimes people try and act so hard it's not believable because the illest mafia mother f**ker can crack a joke, then he'll kill you (laughs). But I'm a big fan of George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic, had me believing he landed a mother-f**king mother ship. And I was in there. So that's a good vibe when you can take people into another world. Slipknot does that well.
Baltin: What does the Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance for "Bum-Rush" mean to you?
Ice-T: Really the first one, the one we got (2017 for "Black Hoodie") was more mind blowing. When I got the first one I'm like, "This is a prank call." Then they call and they go, "We want you to perform." I'm like, "Really? What the f**k is going on?" We performed at the pre awards and we lost to Mastodon. The Grammys are like this, "F**k the Grammys, f**k the Grammys, f**k the Grammys, I'm nominated?" These awards ceremonies aren't important until you get nominated. Then all of a sudden, "What am I gonna wear? What am I gonna do?" Of course it's exciting. But I started thinking, ["Bum-Rush"] kind of predicted what was gonna happen. The video especially shows the riots and all the craziness and stuff. And it just feels good considering the thousands and thousands of people that make records every year, to just be acknowledged as five records that got picked, it's gotta feel good. Any kind of awards has got to be appreciated.
Baltin: Who would be your dream person to collaborate with on the Grammys?
Ice-T: My dream artist would probably be Prince, or [Jimi] Hendrix. Now, alive, I don't know, maybe George Clinton cause he was one of my idols. A lot of the guys I looked up to though, like James Brown are gone. I'm getting thin as far as my super heroes. What I learned from George Clinton and what I learned from James Brown and I learned from Ozzy Osbourne is that real people will be real. I learned from them a real person is gonna be real forever, they'll never change. So when people interview me they go, "Ice, you seem the same." And I go, "I'm gonna be like this until I die." Ozzy is never gonna change, J.B. never changed and George Clinton is still the same mother f**ker. That's what you get for being real, I guess. You don't change.