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This Or That…..The Ice T Tourney (Wk One): Power Vs. The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech

by Travis on August 4, 2008

Last Week:

Ahhh, I love the internet. There was some banter being had this past week as jovial barbs were being tossed about like Dan Marino and the ’83 Dolphins. My man Omen did a good job and getting the mob riled up by shredding apart Follow The Leader, which I’m sure was more to see how well he could press everyones buttons than actually tearing down the duo’s second album. And riled up the villagers he did, I think we even had a couple death threats mixed in. All violence aside, that’s what I was kinda hoping to get when I started this crazy little series earlier this summer. Hip-Hop is open to debate. While we all agree that both albums are great albums, but you start asking opinions on great albums and asking which is better, there is bound to be some disagreements and colorful opinions being had. It’s a great thing. I feel like the ring leader. Or our own version of Fight Club or something.

The final numbers aren’t done yet. I’m starting this post earlier than usual on a Sunday since I have to be in at work two hours early for “overtime” Monday morning, so I don’t plan on my usual working on this post until Midnight on Sunday night. At 5pm MST, a 113 votes are in, with Paid In Full beating out Follow The Leader 63-45 with five votes going to “other”.

This Week:

We are back on the west coast as we set forth into another “This or That” in the tournament format. For the next three weeks, we’ll be examining a somewhat forgotten west coast legend in Ice-T. Obviously Ice-T gets his props, but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t hear his name in the same level as the Ruthless & Death Row camps when talk of west coast legends are concerned. Which is a shame, because Ice was a predecessor for all west coast gangster music. He was the one everyone should thank for kicking the west coast music scene off with a bang. When I first mapped out artists and albums I wanted to cover for “This or That”, Ice-T was on my short list, but I couldn’t decide which of his first four albums should be included. The truth is, I’ve claimed all of his first four releases as my favorite Ice-T album at one time or another. Rhyme Pays is obviously a west coast classic that is truly the starting point for the west coast lifestyle to be put on wax. Ice’s second album, “Power” contains several hit songs for the L.A. Player, and got a lot of love on “Yo! MTV Raps” back in the day. His third album, The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech…would be an album that I loved at the time and one that I considered my favorite Ice-T album for a considerable amount of time. His fourth album, O.G.Original Gangster was probably his most diverse and well rounded album. I had good reasons for all four albums to be in a match up, so in the end I said, “Why not include all four and let the people decide.” Okay, I didn’t actually say that, but I thought. Therefore, the next three weeks, we’ll be talking about Ice-T and his political charged and gangster/pimp influenced music. I kind of seeded the pairings, with Power being the album I think will win, followed by O.G., then Rhyme Pays, with Iceberg bringing up the rear. This week, we’ll pit Power and Iceberg against each other as we celebrate the mans catalog….

Power Vs. The Iceberg/Freedom Of Speech…Just Watch What You Say

Power

Positives

- Power might just be Ice-T’s most focused album. Coming in with 10 solid tracks (minus the intro and outro and the spoken word type song “Soul On Ice”), every track can stand on it’s own. There is no fast forwarding material to be found on the album. This tape will forever been retired in my rap tapes as all the lettering was erased from the tape. I had to put a white out mark on Side A to be sure which side was which.

- Tracks like “Drama” highlight why Ice was one of the best story tellers in the game not named Slick Rick. Sure, his story telling skills are showcased on everyone of his albums, but I always thought the story telling joints found on Power were some of his best:

Cruisin’ for a bruisin’, I’m talkin’ no crap
Pipe bomb in my trunk, got a nine in my lap
I’m layin’ for a sprayin’, tonight there’s no playin’
My posse’s most strapped, tonight the crew’s weighin’
Dust is burnin’, the steering wheel’s turnin’
I’m out a week, I’m already earnin’
Suckers crossed, tonight it’s their loss
Payback time, boy, life’s the cost
Gauges out the window, one lay cross the roof
They all die if those suckers ain’t bullet proof
I’m rollin’ death tollin’, of course the car’s stolen
But I’m blind to what’s wrong, all I want is what’s golden
A fool
in a fight, too dumb to know right

Fuckin’ blue light-read’em their rights
Drama

You feel like you are riding shotgun with Ice as you roll through the night looking for the punk sucka ducks that took your boy’s life. That was one of Ice’s strengths, he put you right there with him.

- “High Rollers” and “I’m Your Pusher” are both classic singles from the Drama LP. The video for “High Rollers” was a favorite on “Yo! MTV Raps”, which showed the high life being lived by Ice’s character in the video. The ending shows the fast life catching up with Ice

The message found on “High Rollers” is one that still needs to be spoken on today. That was the beauty about Ice’s music, he had the gangster tales, but he also had the other side of the story which wasn’t covered by a lot of the other gangster rappers out there.

Then of course, you have the infamous “I’m Your Pusher”, which employs an infectious Curtis Mayfield groove. As Ice once again tackles social ills in a somewhat humorous way, the listener is at the mercy of the groove as Ice plays a dealer slangin’ rap tapes instead of drugs. Then of course, the infamous LL Cool J jab that started the LL/Ice T beef, which was good for some entertainment.

-As mentioned before, Ice used familiar breaks and grooves, which at the time added an extra familiarity and comfortable level to the album. You couldn’t get away with this today, but back then, he would be one of the first to use a lot of the samples, which anyone who was into funk and soul would immediately recognize.

Negatives

-I’ve never been one to care about the length of an album, but others do. As mentioned, the album is really only 10 tracks long, which can lead people to bitch about.

-If you weren’t into the west coast sound at the time, I doubt this album would do much for you. As we all know, heads from the east coast weren’t always the most open to the west coast sounds in the day.

-The album hasn’t aged well, with all the familiar samples dotting it’s soundscape. A lot of these samples have been used ad nauseum since the album came out.

The Iceberg/Freedom Of Speech…Just Watch What You Say

Positives

-This was Ice’s attack on a lot of social ills found in the society at the time, namely the 1st amendment attack that was going on at the time. During the late 80′s, you had parent groups such as the PMRC, which was lead by Tipper Gore, challenging profanity and hip hop records in general. It was the time of Parental Advisory stickers on album, which was what we kids would look for in 1989 when this album dropped. The Iceberg contains one of the more entertaining intros found on a hip hop album, with “Shut Up, Be Happy”. Jello Biafra of the punk group The Dead Kennedys, did an excellent job at setting the mood as plays the evil government, demanding people to be happy since Big Brother is doing everything for us. Then of course there is the jam I’d blast out my little Jetta back in the day, “Freedom Of Speech.” I hated Tipper Gore and I didn’t even really know who she was. Ice fights for the right to say what he wants, even though he was starting to get harassed by local governments at some of the shows he was starting to do. And remind you, this was before the Cop Killer incident. If Ice only knew what was laying in wait for him at that time…..

-The positivity found on “Lethal Weapon”. Not many so-called “gangster” rappers promoted using your mind to overcome your problems and to use as your advantage. I’ve long been an advocate that gangster rap is entertainment, but if you really want to make a contribution to the problems of society, then offer a solution. Ice was always good about offering more than one side of the story and “Lethal Weapon” might be the best example of that:

-Ice covered all the bases on the release as he did a little something for everyone. There was the gangster tales once again with the track “Peel Their Caps Back”, he had the sex rhymes on both “The Iceberg” and “Freedom of Speech”. He covered the political vibe on the aforementioned songs. He had the positive vibes on the “Lethal Weapon” track, he had “The Hunted Child” that made you think of the consequences for being a gangster. It was well rounded.

-It has nothing to do with the music found on the LP, but I’ve always loved the album cover, it’s one of my favorites of all-time.

-I was always a big fan of The Syndicate artists. A lot of them were nothing more than second class hack rhymers, but for some reason, I always was willing to listen to more of them. The posse cut “What Ya Wanna Do” had two verses from a lot of the Syndicate rhyme members, including my personal favorite, Nat the Cat. It won’t go down as one of the greatest posse cuts of all-time, but i
t’ll always be on my playlists. And hey, there is always the Everlast cameo that we can laugh at….

Negatives

-As I previously mentioned, for the longest time The Iceberg was my favorite Ice T album. While I think it contains some dope tracks, I don’t think it’s best measures up with those found on some of his other cuts. “Lethal Weapon” is the closest jam to measure up with the “6 In The Mornings”, the “New Jack Hustlers”, and the “High Rollers” that Ice had in his catalogs.

-The diversity gives the album a slightly “jumbled feeling”, I know that is some peoples knock on the album, which is understandable.

-In a time that saw sounds changing almost monthly, Ice stayed with his formula, which obviously worked for him and his fans, but with all of his first three albums sounding basically alike production wise, some people tend to knock that.

The Final Verdict

As I mentioned at the start of this wacked out thing. I chose all four albums to cover because it was that difficult for me to pick a clear cut winner. That goes with these two albums as well. I honestly expect Power to come out of this whole thing as the winner, but I’ve been surprised before (the De La tournament was full of them, although my preconceived winners still won out). When it all comes down to it, Ice-T’s first four albums are all worthy enough to be mentioned with any hip hop album in the history of the genre, but Ice didn’t really change it up until O.G., which we’ll cover next week.

With all that being said, I still say that Power is Ice’s most focused piece of work, even if it does only come in at ten true songs. I personally would rather have 10 dope songs than an album with 10 out of 18 dope songs. Power contains classic tracks, but even the ones that didn’t make it out there as singles are still top quality for sure. It’s truly one of those classic albums that should be mentioned up there with everything else that dropped in 1988.

As much as I like The Iceberg, when it comes down to it, it’s really only an extension of Power, but with a little more variety of sorts, which does make the albums cohesiveness waiver a little bit. Ice doesn’t change it up enough to make me come out and say it’s a better album over Power, when essentially, it’s the same album. Nothing wrong with that, but have to go with the original in this case.

Winner: Power

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