When people think of Ice T undoubtably many words/phrases instantly spring to mind; O.G., Movie Star, Gangsta Rap pioneer, West Coast, Hip Hop legend, etc...
I agree on all counts. However, all those accolades side, there's a handful of contributions that he's rarely ever given credit for. It's bad enough that he isn't given full props for his lyrical ability, but that's something we'll eventually dig into in 2011's "Microphone Mathematics" Series (Featuring Kevin Beacham & Carnage).
Here's a few things to give Ice T props about beyond his MCing & Acting:
-Rhyme Syndicate: Yes, Back in the day "everyone" had a crew, posse or what have you. However, there's not many cases where it was headed by one artist. Generally the crew was headed by a producer or shared management. The only other artists led example that comes to mind off the top is EPMD with the Hit Squad.
With that said, Ice T is one of the first, if not the first, Hip Hop artist to really invest a lot of his time, energy, resources, and money into the careers of others. Rhyme Syndicate was a crew, a label imprint (Rhyme Syndicate/Epic), Management, etc... He took the crew on world tours and helped launch some very successful careers. The legacy of Rhyme Syndicate often gets over-looked, but in many ways it can be seen as the seeds to what crews like Hit Squad, Wu-tang, etc... were able to do later.
Rhyme Syndicate Roll Call: Ice-T, Evil E, Afrika Islam, Everlast, Donald D The Syndicate Sniper, Hijack, Domination (Kid Jazz), Hen Gee (Spinmasters), King Tee, Bang O The B Boy Outlaw, Mixmaster Quick, Darlene The Syndicate Queen, Bronx Style Bob, T.D.F, Toddy Tee, Nat The Cat, Bilal Bashir, Nile Kings, SLJ (ak.a Slej The Ruff Edge a.k.a Shafiq Husan of Sa-Ra Creative Partners), DJ Aladdin, Divine Styler, Randy Mac, Low Profile, Lord Finesse, King Tee, etc....
-Hip Hop's Most Humble: I've dealt with a lot of artists in my time and you are hard pressed to find someone more down to earth or humble as Ice T. I've witnessed this in different stages thru his career:
1)The NYC Rap Festival (Saturday Dec 12th, 1987) @ Rainbo in Chicago: Ice T & Kool Moe Dee were on tour together and it was one of my first, if not the first concert that I went to on my own. Ice T gave a great set, showing the hardcore side, as well as the humor (with his watergun uzis and throwing "big money" into the crowd).
After his set he kicked it with the fans and was laid back and down to kick it. I talked with him for a while on all things Hip Hop. He told me then about his issue with LL Cool J (stating that he didn't have a respect for the pioneers via his comments like "(I'm) the real Grandmaster" and "I'm Treacherous, I want to stomp the rest"...both comments from "Get Down" which could be assumed to be references and/or challenges to Grandmaster Mele Mel & Kool Moe Dee (of Treacherous 3). Plus he felt he didn't "respect" the fans, citing such lines as "I'm only 18 making more than your Pops" (from "The Doo Wop" off Bigger And Deffer). Mind you, those aren't exact quotes, but just what I recall from a conversation in 1987, but I think it's pretty true to the quotes.
That night Ice T was also the one who told me about the death of Scott La Rock. Although it had happened several months previous, in '87 we didn't have the information channels to get that type of news until much later sometimes.
2)Time Travel Show-History Of LA Hip Hop 1997: In '97 I wanted to do a show on the history of LA Hip Hop so I tried to track down as many pioneers and key people as possible. I called & emailed as many record labels, managers, and various contacts as possible, and ended up making contact with over 20-30 artists, yet ended up with only a handful of actual interviews. I was able to interview Rockbarry (radio host), Bilal Bashir, and Ice T.
I always found it interesting that out of all the artists I hit up, many who weren't at their career peaks or even really active, one of the few people who hit me back was Ice T, who at this point was pretty huge from his albums and acting career.
Not only did he make time for the phone interview, he called me, on time, and talked for a couple hours. He dropped science not just on his career, but also gave props and info on the key LA pioneers all the way up to who he was really feeling at that time (I.E Ras Kass & Xzibit). The fact that he was down to do all that made a huge impression on me*.
-The Hip Hop Fan: I'm always stressing the importance of being a fan first in this culture. I honestly never remember thinking about artists being fans until I witnessed a moment with Ice T in '88. It was one of those huge stadium tours. I think it was Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, Stetsasonic, LL Cool J, etc... (I get all those tour mixed up in my head...). Anyway, from where my seat was I could see perfectly down in the artist stage access hallway. During Eric B & Rakim's set Ice T was by the door. At that time Rakim, regardless of lyrical greatness, was really uninteresting to watch on stage. He killed it lyrical, but just paced a little bit back n forth. I found myself watching Ice T stand backstage with full all out animation reciting all the words to each song.
Mind you, this is before "Follow The Leader" LP had dropped, only the single was out. When Rakim went into debuting "Lyrics Of Fury" I was wide-eyed watching and listening intensely to him preview this new song. At some point, it occurred to me that I wanted to see how Ice-T was feeling this "unheard" joint. I looked and there he was, reciting every word along with him! I couldn't believe that he already had his new, unreleased material memorized too. It was a very powerful moment in Hip Hop for me.
The last time I saw Ice T was at a Minneapolis downtown club, Foundation, just a couple years ago and he was still kicking it in the crowd with the fans and doing his thing. I still see him on Twitter interacting with fans and keeping it down to earth. Ultimate props and respect to the man, Ice T...
Also, not to sleep on his lyrical legacy, here's a few Ice T sleeper joints:
"Killers" (12" 1985):
"Our Most Requested Record" (12" 1987):
[audio:http://fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Ice-T-Our-Most-Requested-Record-edit.mp3|titles=Ice T-Our Most Requested Record (edit)]
"Personal" (Power LP 1988):
"This Ones For Me" (Freedom Of Speech...Just Watch What You Say LP 1989):
[audio:http://fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/09-This-Ones-for-Me.mp3|titles=09 This One's for Me]
"Mind Over Matter" (O.G. LP '91):
[audio:http://fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/05-Mind-over-Matter.mp3|titles=05 Mind over Matter]
"Mixed Up" (12" 1993):
[audio:http://fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Ice-T-Mixed-Up-vocal.mp3|titles=Ice T - Mixed Up (vocal)]
"Ice's Exodus" featuring Top Gunz (7th Deadly Sin LP 1999):
[audio:http://fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/21-Ices-Exodus-featuring-Top-Gunz.mp3|titles=21 Ice's Exodus featuring Top Gunz]
*Plus I remember the awkward moment of him going "Hold on, you hear that? Let me call you back I think the F.B.I is on the line..". Uh, that was weird, but he did call back... :)