ATLANTA — Ice-T is infatuated with the clever wordplay associated with rap music.
So the rapper-actor takes offense when people — including his wife Coco — pay attention only to the beat of the song and not its lyrics. He says spewing out rhymes for several minutes is not as easy as it looks: There’s more to the craft of rap.
That is why Ice-T wants to show the importance of lyricism in rap music through his new documentary, Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap.
In the documentary, Ice-T travels from New York to Los Angeles to Detroit to talk-one-on-one with acts ranging from Run-DMC, Eminem, Dr. Dre, KRS-One, Melle Mel, Kanye West to Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def). The result is an insightful, insider take on the rap game.
In advance of Friday’s 150- theater opening of the film, Ice-T sat down to talk about rap’s greats, respect, and even offered up his thoughts on the N-word controversy involving Gwyneth Paltrow:
Associated Press: Who was the hardest to pin down for the documentary?
Ice-T: Probably Eminem. … It wasn’t his fault. Everybody on the phone call said, “Yes.” Even people like Lil Wayne and them. Birdman and Ludacris. But I had a camera crew that’s in London, I had myself who was on Law & Order fulltime then I’m trying to get you. It’s just trying to triangulate people. … It was tough.
AP: Some will likely criticize you for not including rappers from the South. Why weren’t any from that region included?
Ice-T: I could only get the people who I could get my hands on. I tried to reach out to Ludacris. It wasn’t an attempt to disrespect the South. … But this is not what the movie is all about. It’s more about the art form.
AP: How did it feel to have rappers like Eminem and Snoop Dogg recite lyrics from your song, 6 ’N the Mornin?
Ice-T: The best way to compliment an emcee is to say his lyrics. That’s how you say, “Hello.”
AP: Do you think the art of hip-hop is lost nowadays?
Ice-T: It’s just not being seen as much. There are some really incredible emcees. If anything, I think they are taking it up a notch. Honestly, some of these kids are rapping. For a moment, it got kind of wack. I was like, “Really?” … But it’s back. You got kids out here really rapping like Cory Gunz, Kendrick Lamar.
AP: Has rap always been art, or was there a turning point?
Ice-T: It’s always has been an art. It’s an extreme art; it’s a competitive art; a competition art. It’s all about (how) I can out rap you, out dance you, out DJ you.
AP: How do you feel about rappers who are not real hip-hop?
Ice-T: Rap is a vocal delivery. The weather man can rap. It doesn’t mean you know hip-hop. I think now you have all these people rapping, but they’re not really hip-hop. … Everyone who raps isn’t hip-hop. To be hip-hop, you’ve got to know the culture. You got to know the history.
AP: Do you consider Nicki Minaj real hip-hop?
Ice-T: She comes from a real hip-hop place. She’s comes out of Brooklyn and she can really rap. But I think she has taken a lane to go more pop. She’s out opening for Britney Spears. She’s getting (money). Put to the test, she could rhyme side-by-side with anybody out there … She knows her history. She knows her base.
AP: Do the younger guys respect the veterans enough?
Ice-T: I think it’s there. Rakim said it best, “You want people to know the history, but where are they going to get it from? They won’t pick up a book, so you have to spoon feed it to them.” The few cats that are disrespectful, you’re not going to make it. You can’t play baseball and diss Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. You can’t do it. You can’t be in an art form and diss the past … You can’t be in Atlanta and not pay homage to OutKast. It’s unacceptable. If you don’t know their (debut) album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, you can’t rap. Go to L.A. and try to your luck dissing me. Anybody who has, their career was shortly ended, because it doesn’t work. You got to respect Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Cypress Hill. They are the foundation. You see (rapper) The Game giving up props and he goes double platinum.
AP: Do you think Gwyneth Paltrow should get a pass for the whole N-word controversy (she tweeted a photo of friend Jay-Z with Kanye West on stage in Paris and titled it the name of their song, N—– in Paris)?
Ice-T: She didn’t name the record, Jay-Z named the record. Plus, she’s a part of Jay-Z’s and their family. They’re all tight. For people to get mad that she tweeted the name of the record, I think that’s dumb. Go after real racists. Why waste time on someone who is obviously a fan, who obviously loves the culture, who is part of it? Gwyneth Paltrow, really? That’s an enemy? You got to pick the enemy. She’s not the enemy … Poor woman, I feel sorry for her. I don’t think there was a malicious bone in her body when she tweeted it. You know, black people want to jump all over somebody. But calm the (expletive) down!