COVER STORY : ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger blew away dozens of cops as the Terminator. But I don’t hear anybody complaining.’ : A Q & A with Ice-T about rock, race and the ‘Cop Killer’ furor
I ce-T, the “gangsta” rapper whose rock song has infuriated government officials and police officers’ groups, was born Tracy Marrow in Newark, N.J. He grew up in South-Central Los Angeles and now lives in the Hollywood Hills.
His debut album, “Rhyme Pays,” was released in 1987. More recently he has moved from rapping to acting to fronting a heavy-metal group Body Count . The band is scheduled to perform Friday at the Electric Ballroom in North Hollywood.
Ice-T is currently working on his next Time Warner album, “Home Invasion.” In his first extended print interview since the “Cop Killer” controversy broke, the musician talked about politics, police brutality, rappers and racial tensions.
Question: Do you advocate the murder of law enforcement officials in your song ‘Cop Killer?’
Answer: No way. All I’m doing on this record is playing a character I invented who’s fed up with police abuse. He’s not the average person who just figured out after the Rodney King incident that police brutality exists. This particular character has seen it too long and he loses it and goes on a rampage. What I’m trying to tell people is that police brutality in the ‘hood is nothing new. And the thing is that whether this guy, the cop killer in my song, is real or not, believe it, there are people at that point. OK? But anybody who says that my record is going to make them go over that point, that’s bulls---. No record can take a man to that point.
Q: Have you ever been harassed by the police?
A: Yeah. I’ve been pulled out of my nice new car and laid out in the street by the police, interrogated and then have them get in the car and roll off leaving me lying in the street without even saying ‘Get up.’ And it wasn’t that long ago either, man. The humiliation that they can put on a black man because they determine that you ain’t got the money. They think that they can just play these games with you. And the humiliation they deal out can make you want to hurt somebody. As far as I’m concerned, somebody had to put a reset button on them and that’s why I wrote the song. It’s a fantasy about a guy who can’t take it anymore and just loses it.
Q: How do you think a policeman feels when he hears a song like ‘Cop Killer’?
A: One cop was telling me that the record scares him. And I’m like, well, maybe you should be scared. Because I’m afraid. I’m afraid because some police are way out of control. My true feeling with police is this: If they do their job, there’s no problem. But there’s a point where a cop pulls you out of that car and starts abusing you or beating on you and at that moment he is no longer within the law. And now it’s just two men in the street. And I’m not going to allow anybody to hold a badge up over me or a cross or any other power symbol and say I’m going to kill you and you’re just going to kneel down to me because I’m the law. We’re both human beings and that cop is not God.
Q: What irritates you most about the media coverage regarding the ‘Cop Killer’ ordeal?
A: The one thing I wish is that the media would quit calling this a rap record. You’d think if they were going to do stories on ‘Cop Killer’ that they might at least listen to the song. But they obviously haven’t, because anyone who has knows it’s a rock record. I hate to get on the racial thing because that’s something I’ve always been totally against. But the problem with the media is that they think that the word rock means white and the word rap means black.
Q: Do you think the media attention has changed the way people view your music?
A: What’s crazy about all the attention being paid to rap is that when we first started out nobody gave a f--- about it. They acted like what we were saying had no meaning at all. But now Public Enemy and (Ice) Cube and me, we got to sit down and totally take the record apart for white people who want to analyze it. I mean if I say the words White Castle in a song, all these white guys start asking, like, ‘What does Ice-T mean? Does he mean the White House?’ They want to find a hidden meaning in something like that when all I’m talking about is a hamburger spot.
Q: Why do you think people take your song so literally?
A: Lots of reasons. Politics mostly. People trying to get elected and all that. There’s people out there with nuclear bombs and yet we’ve got all these politicians trying to make a political platform based on a record. Isn’t it ridiculous? I mean they’ve done movies about nurse killers and teacher killers and student killers. Arnold Schwarzenegger blew away dozens of cops as the Terminator. But I don’t hear anybody complaining about that. It’s like they want to shut rappers down. They want to silence us. The Supreme Court says it’s OK for a white man to burn a cross in public. But nobody wants a black man to write a record about a cop killer.