I've always been a fan of Ice-T. First musically, then as a human, based on my limited dealings with him, and finally as an actor. He has been elevated to the next level in all those areas, as the book put many things in a different perspective, shed light on some unknowns, and did a great job of revealing the personality of the man himself.
First off, his life is fascinating to begin with; the tragedies and the street life which is transformed into this lifestyle of a culturally icon is inspiring and nearly seems the work of fiction, but it's real life.
The book covers his early life in great detail, from his family life in NJ to his movie-like crime life, which lead to his stint in the Military. The fact that he was able to take all of those challenging situations, that ruin the lives and/or damage the soul of so many others, and transform them into points of inspiration is impressive.
From a Hip Hop history standpoint the book is just about as close an account you can get of the foundation of the LA Hip Hop Scene, being that Ice-T was one of the earliest players in that game. His rise is virtually parallel to the rise of the culture there. The details of his days with Kid Frost, Uncle Jamm's Army, filming the Breakin' movies, and ultimately forming his own crew, Rhyme Syndicate, brought a smile to my face with each new development.
There's also great insight into the making of his music and he has no issues in revealing where his influences came from and how they helped shaped different songs and styles, with proper credit given to the likes of Schoolly D, King Sun, Toddy Tee, Afrika Islam, Mele Mel, Grandmaster Caz, etc...
The surprise winner here are the chapters on Ice-T as a family man. I had no expectation to really enjoy those parts, as usually that's where I get disinterested as a care more about the historical aspects of a biography. However, the way he puts his relationships with Coco, his kids, and Darlene in perspective is rather impressive. There's a wealth of great advice here. Particularly, I recommend this book to some of these young cats who seemed determined to take the wrong path in life. Although, Ice-T discusses, unapologetically, his former crime life, in great vivid details, he never does so without acknowledging the consequences. More importantly, that the consequences far outweigh the risk. It's something that I always admired in his music as well. In some of his most detailed crime stories the ending was never good for the portrayed character in songs like "Pain" & "Drama". Even in tracks that didn't necessarily show "consequence", effectively illustrated the conditions that cause people to take those routes in life; "Colors", "Squeeze The Trigger", "New Jack Hustler", & "Killers" each being great examples of that.
I really enjoyed this book and it kept me so intrigued that I read it in two days time, which makes me want to give it another read soon because I read so fast sometimes that I didn't allow time for things to commit to memory, as I was lost in the excitement. I don't have any real complaints about the book*, but there were definitely some things that I wished went into deeper detail. Particularly; More info about the members of Rhyme Syndicate and how he connected with each of them, how his label deal for Rhyme Syndicate Records came about, his one-time beef with LL Cool J, more Hip Hop touring stories (mostly focused on Body Count in the touring section), and more info about his Zulu Kings project with Mele Mel, Bronx Style Bob and Afrika Islam. It would have also been great to take a closer look at his albums in particular and analyze the topics and lyrics (a la Jay Z's "Decoded" Book), but I suppose that could be a different book altogether. However, I know a lot of those are my particular "Underground Nerd" taste and the book does a great job on staying focused on his career highlights. Although, I think there's a wealth of people who would have found those things interesting as well.
All in all, ICE is certainly one of the better Hip Hop bios I've read, of which I've ready plenty. Truthfully, I'm just scraping the surface of the book contents as not to ruin the reading experience. With that in mind, allow yourself to let "ICE" continue his mission of the "Home Invasion"....
SOME ICE-T CLASSICS:
Ice-T "Pain" (from the "Rhyme Pays" Album '87)
Ice-T "Squeeze The Trigger" (from the "Rhyme Pays" Album '87)
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/09-Squeeze-the-Trigger.mp3|titles=09 Squeeze the Trigger]
Ice-T "Drama" (from the "Power" Album '88)
Ice-T "Colors" (from the "Colors Soundtrack" Album '88)**
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/05-Colors-1.mp3|titles=05 Colors 1]
Ice-T "New Jack Hustler" (from the "O.G." Album '91)
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/06-New-Jack-Hustler.mp3|titles=06 New Jack Hustler]
Bonus Cut: Ice-T "Mind Over Matter" (from the "O.G." Album '91): This is a Ice-T favorite of mine. It's great a showcasing his attitude, his history, his loyalty to his crew, and of course the excellent, and often under-appreciated, production of DJ Aladdin.
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/05-Mind-over-Matter.mp3|titles=05 Mind over Matter]
*Correction, one complaint. I just realized there's not an "index" in the book. I always find that so helpful when using a book for reference purposes. It makes it a bit challenging to try to find a particularly part without that. Well, "nearly perfect" ain't so bad...
**"Colors": I can't reference this song ever without thinking of this story. Rarely have I witnessed the power of a song in this way. I went to see "Colors" on opening night in '88. It was a packed theater without a lot of thugs, gangsters, hardcore wanna-bees, and b-boys. When the movie ended everyone started to leave per normal, but when this "Colors" song came on, making it's debut, the crowd just froze and got pretty quiet, considering the wild crowd there. I've never before or after witnessed that many people stand in the aisle or in front of their seats just listening to a full song. It is a powerful memory.