A ROC EXCLUSIVE: ICE-T SPEAKS OUT ON CENSORSHIP, COP KILLER, HIS LEAVING WARNER BROS., AND MORE
By: Mike Heck
On February 10, Ice-T came to the campus of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio to speak in behalf of Black History Month. R.O.C. was there and before his presentation, R.O.C.'s Mike Heck had the opportunity to talk with Ice about censorship, "Cop Killer," and his recent departure from Time-Warner and Warner Brothers Records. Yo! Check it out.
ROC: Where do you think the censorship issue is today?
ICE-T: Everything is censored, everything that's in the mainstream is censored, ya know. I think it's a word that's being thrown around a little too loosely. I mean cause I think people just gotta realize that yo, everything is censored, except in the underground you know we have free speech. But anything mainstream, network television, radio stations, or even record companies are at this point censored.
ROC: With all the stuff that has happened to BODY COUNT concerning the "Cop Killer" controversy, what's your thoughts on that?
ICE-T: When I started out I was signed to Warner Brothers and they never censored us. Everything we did, we have full control over. But what happened was when the cops moved on Body Count they issued pressure on the corporate division of Warner Brothers, and that made the music division, they couldn't out-fight 'em in the battle, so even when you're in a business with somebody who might not wanna censor you, economically people can put restraints on 'em and cause 'em to be afraid. I learned that lesson in there, that you're never really safe as long as you're connected to any big corporation's money.
ROC: What's up with the story about you guys being dropped or leaving Warner Brothers, what's the true story?
ICE-T: Right, we wasn't fired or dropped. Every time I run into any kind of drama, the press likes to try to make me look bad or humiliate me, like when we pulled the record, all my true friends knew it was a decision we did just to end that whole bullshit issue and move on. I didn't want my band to get pigeon-holed as that's the only reason that record sold. It just got outta hand and I was just tired of hearing it. I said, 'fuck it,' I mean they're saying we did it for money, and we didn't. I'd gave the record away, ya know, let's move on, let's get back to real issues, not a record but the cops that are out there killing people. At this point we had turned in a rap album and they told me they were afraid of the album cover. It shows a kid sitting down and listening to music his eyes are closed and there's violence going on around him. So, we told them that we felt that we were a liability to the company because we're gonna say things that is gonna cause pressure on the company, and in the same token, at this moment the company is a liability to me because we don't believe people would be attacking us if we weren't connected to Time-Warner. And to keep Time-Warner out of trouble, they are asking me to jeopardize my integrity which my whole life is built around, and as soon as I lose my integrity with my people there'll be no more movies, no more music, and then all the music I've done would become a joke. So, I just said, 'why don't you just let me go. I've made enough money at this point, let me do it independently.' People know as far as in the underground circuit that's really where you gotta be. I mean you're familiar with Jello Biafra, and I don't think he wants to ever go major. Alternative Tentacles is what it is and he has his free speech there. It's like I'm a product of the underground and now I have to return to the underground, you know what I'm saying? Yo! It's cool to be home, let's do it, another four albums down. It's no big problem, it was an artistic decision and I don't really hold it against Warner Brothers because I realize that Warner's really weren't censoring me based on beliefs. It wasn't like they disagreed with what I was saying. It was a reaction to what they thought that the real assholes were gonna try to do to them. It's business and I can understand that, so I'm like ok, I'll go over here. If I was on your label and I thought I was gonna cause your label to crumble, I might pull out just for your sake. I'm not the kinda person that goes, 'fuck it, you signed me and I gotta do this,' while I see you lose every dollar you ever had for me, and you might not even believe in what I'm saying. If you want to have free speech, you also have to have your own network to put it out.
ROC: Don't you think that the people who attacked "Cop Killer" did so just for the sake of controversy and really didn't have a clue as to what you were trying to say?
ICE-T: "Right! 'Cop Killer' was a protest record man. It was a record of anger and some people didn't understand it, but alot of people really heard that fuckin record and they knew what I was singing about. That's what the record was for, ya know. I didn't need people to come in and really back me on the First Amendment. I needed people to come in and say 'Ice-T has grounds to make this record.' I have the right to make it because the cops are killing my people. So fuck the First Amendment, let's deal with the fact that I have the right to make it. I think that people who are backers of the First Amendment and anti-censorship have to realize that when you jump on the First Amendment, what you're doing is trying to use the system's tool, the Constitution, to defend you. We need to just get away from that and just say, 'Yo, I can make this record because I have grounds to make this record. I have human rights, so fuck the First Amendment, we have human rights to speak. I don't need your Constitution to give me that right.' As long as you use their laws, they'll twist that law against you. I think that sooner-or-later we've gotta realize that this Constitution is something that can be bended, folded, spindled and mutilated to serve their system. We have to turn it around and say, 'Yo, we don't need the Constitution.' I think that's the new way we should go about our speech instead of using them, because they'll always get us with that First Amendment. They'll twist it and say, 'well, it didn't mean this.' You don't need any law to let you say that. That's a much stronger grounds to speech.
ROC: What's your thoughts about Tipper Gore being near the White House?
ICE-T: I think she's kinda like defused, you know because somebody put a gag order on that bitch. They told her don't say shit or we'll never make it to the White House. But then again, she was like the conservative family values person where the Democrats could say, 'well we're family values, we got Tipper.' I think that what she does now will be more covert. In other words, you won't see her speak, you'll just see actions coming out of the White House. I don't think she'll be out rabble rousing and doing her thing anymore. We'll just see more actions. So people have to start realizing that we have to get more into print and our own underground ways of communication. If they determine that the people are talkin' too much with each other and startin' to understand each other, they're gonna cut communication off like Jello said. What they're really worried about is information being exchanged. So, if you have to use Warner Brothers, and you have to use the radio, and somebody else has to use the TV, we're gonna be in trouble, so we've gotta set up alternative ways of getting things to each other because it's imperative that information goes through, it's like the most urgency. If you cut the information off to the people, then you have us all killing each other.
Editors Note: Thanks to Ice-T for this very informative interview. We hope that THE ROC is laying the groundwork for the alternative communication network that Ice-T spoke of. Yes, it is cool to be in the underground. Thanks to Jim and Scott and all the members of F.A.C.T.S. (who brought Ice-T to Athens) for allowing R.O.C. to set up our table at the event and for allowing us to be a part of it.