KRS-One & Ice-T Have 30 Years of Shared History. It Shows in This Talk Between OGs (Audio)
KRS-One and Crazy Legs are the latest guests on Ice-T’s Final Level Podcast. The special Veterans Day edition of Ice and Mick Benzo’s show takes a deep look at how Hip-Hop and the United States Military are in step in 2015, with many veterans (including Ice) and enlisted Heads. Additionally, the nearly hour-long show allows the Boogie Down Productions, Rhyme Syndicate, and Rocksteady Crew forces to catch up, in partial honor of the Universal Zulu Nation’s annual week-long event.
Two famously colorful speakers, KRS and Ice state their extensive history, dating back to 1987. Ice-T was instrumental in bringing the late DJ Scott La Rock and Blastmasta KRS-One to Los Angeles, California. There, Kris recalls meeting Warner Bros. executive Benny Medina, B.D.P. performing at a roller-skate rink, and Ice-T giving him game on how to exit a reportedly bad B-Boy Records contract. KRS-One recalls going from “sleeping on the D Train” in Brooklyn’s Coney Island to being handed a pan-American plane ticket by Scott La Rock to visit the Rhyme Pays maker.
The discussion leads KRS-One to recalling the culture shock of gangs in Colors-era L.A. However, the Bronx, New York representative was so taken by the California culture that he immediately made it his home, from 1987 to early 2000. In a strange turn of events, KRS said that in 1999, when he accepted an executive A&R position at Warner Bros. Records, his office was that of the major music, TV, and film exec Benny Medina’s office.
On the subject of culture shock, Ice-T replies, recalling his first trip to New York. Staying with mentor, DJ, and producer Afrika Islam, Ice recalled hanging out with La Rock, and visiting a Union Square Hip-Hop club. The gold-chain-wearing out of towner says he got certain vibes after the B.D.P. DJ dipped with a female. However, in a comic story, the short-lived Capitol Records act the Boogie Boys came to The O.G.’s aid in a time of potential need.
The discussion moves to KRS-One’s just-released single (“Drugs Won”) and upcoming album, Now Hear This (November 24). “[I am] just railing against this corrupt thing we call a system,” said KRS on his current position in lyrics and themes. The iconic MC stated that in addition to identifying problems, he proposes solutions. The album, KRS’ first in three years, also intends to “guide the youth through [these times].”
In talking about his album, KRS-One expanded on his self-proclaimed “orthodox” view of Hip-Hop music and culture. “As I get older, I get jealous of Hip-Hop. I find myself becoming more and more extreme, and orthodox. So it’s like, when [Public Enemy] got the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame [induction], Chuck [D] called me up, ‘Yo, what do you think about this?’ I said, ‘Yo Chuck, y’all deserve that shit! P.E., do that shit. Please go do that for all of us!.” When the Public Enemy front man suggested that KRS-One may be soon accepting such an award on behalf of Boogie Down Productions, KRS-One decried the notion. “I’d ask that they never ask me to be inducted, ’cause it’d be embarrassing. It’d be totally embarrassing, ’cause I stand on that independence. I truly believe that this is not for nobody but KRS-One—I gotta stay Hip-Hop all the way and not accept the accolades of others, even though I may respect them.”
Elaborating, KRS-One revealed that his 1996 Sprite campaign with foe-turned-friend MC Shan was initiated out of the fact that a Coca-Cola executive sought out an autograph on his Criminal Minded album. When KRS-One saw Hip-Hop Heads in power, only then was he open to collaborating with entities of that kind. The Teacha recalled his days working as a record executive, with a $5,000,000 signing budget—and signing Rap pioneer Kool Moe Dee to Warner. KRS said that he struggled with the meetings, appointments, and corporate expectations, so he left behind the structured job, and lives off of the culture—as he’s done for 15 years (and well before). At 50 years old, KRS touts, “I’m like Al Qaeda when it comes to Hip-Hop. I’m goin’ out kamikaze.”
This idea of Hip-Hop, corporations, and contemporary America leads KRS to make an observation many have made about Ice-T. The MC who once decried law enforcement has spent the 2000s playing a detective on television. “That’s America,” began Kris. “You been buckin’ at the precinct for a minute—way before ‘Cop Killer’…you can go from that to [‘Law & Order: SVU’].” The men laugh as Ice-T explains why he accepted the role, and his own principles surrounding acting, police, and working with major networks and executives. The O.G. plainly states, “I’m far from a cop,” as a few times in the discussion, he uses the word “pig” to refer to bad police officers.
Later in the discussion, Crazy Legs—who is more quiet in this discussion, recalls partnering with Sony for his intellectual property and likeness. He learned how valued he was to brands, but would later help DJ QBert structure his own deal with the electronics giant years later. On shrewd business for Hip-Hop Heads, the R.S.C. President offers, “Negotiations start when somebody says no.”
In preparation for the Zulu Nation anniversary, Ice-T recalls trying to unify Hip-Hop and its principles in the late 1980s. “Kool Herc didn’t like me right out the gate,” revealed the independent MC, citing Herc’s disapproval with the cursing on records. While one of Hip-Hop’s pioneers disapproved of Ice-T’s rhyme style, another supported it. Afrika Bambaataa aligned with Tracy Morrow. “Bam is a gang member, so Bam understands it.” The co-founder of the Universal Zulu Nation told Ice, “Unconventional problems need unconventional tactics.” Thus, Rhyme Syndicate was mirrored after the Universal Zulu Nation. Ice, who was a member, said the term “zulu” did not play well in L.A., so he went with his own name. The Rhyme Syndicate would grow to include WC, King T, Everlast, Donald D, and even a Bronx, New Yorker: Lord Finesse. “Everybody that wasn’t N.W.A. was in syndicate—and they were an affiliate,” recalled Ice.
In closing the discussion, the O.G.’s took a look at military, Veterans Day, and those who serve. KRS-One produces the statistic to the conversation that 22 veterans commit suicide everyday. The Blastmasta encourages mental heath awareness and greater support for vets. Mick Benzo makes the point that Ice-T is a military vet. In the late 1970s, the Newark, New Jersey native was in the United States Army, long before he was known to the universe as Ice-T. “When we was comin’ out, he was jumpin’ outta planes,” said Ice-T. Ice revealed that it was while in the 25th Infantry Division, serving for four years, that he fell in love with Hip-Hop. There, Tracy heard Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and became infatuated with the act of rapping. He joined forces with his love of street culture and Rap poetry, and millions of records later, helped bridge the gap. “I would argue that damn near 90% of the US military is Hip-Hop,” said Ice. KRS-One shared the sentiments, pointing out how “Love’s Gonna Get’cha” was accurately placed in Jonathan Demme’s Manchurian Candidate remake, as fight music used by deployed troops.
Are you, or do you know veterans who are Hip-Hop Heads?