The Original Gangster ... Being Ice aint Easy ...
I'm probably one of the few people that have read and reviewed Ice's other book The Ice Opinion and this book was as equally informing and true as the previous. Being honest, after having read that book a few years back, the thought occurred to me to ask: "what more could this man say that he hasn't already spoke about?" Let me just clear the table and confirm that nothing in these two books is material that's been repeated or regurgitated. Without doubt, this is a solid and eye-opening read.
First, you might not know that Ice was an Army Ranger and an incredibly solid and dedicated soilder while he was doing his time in service. Yes, he did end up having to stand up in front of the C.O., but who hasn't? Legendary Marine, Chesty Puller once said that "the best soliders are often found in the brig." In Ice's case, he wasn't kidding. Ice never got involved in drugs or alcohol and never squealed on anyone either. In historical and mythical terms, he's a pretty honorable character, but the reality that you come away with from reading this book, is that Ice is anything but a character, he's a real person with his survival instincts ratcheted up on high. Ice, born Tracy Marrow, is probably the best example of social darwainism that I've ever heard about. Working your way up from the bottom, parentless, financially 'out', being bussed from one social tier to another for school, trapped in a warring culture on the brink of a social apocalypse -- you name it. "Just hold your ground and be true to yourself." That's his message and he has the life behind him to prove it. Hmm. Who also said that, about 400 years ago? I wonder. "To thine own self ..."
A few days ago, I was at Zales looking at something with my wife. At that time I was about half-way through this book, and while I was standing at the counter, all I could think about was Ice-T and his team of smash-and-grab jewelery thieves doing 'licks' all over Los Angeles and later nationwide. The story he tells isn't about ego, it's not romanticized and he's not telling you to score points with the reader or with the history books in general. This is just how it was. The funny thing is, is that there's probably a lot of us who grew up during this period of time, like myself who can absolutely relate. Even from the criminal tip. He never got caught, never went to jail, never carried a gun in those days and never had to hurt anyone innocent. I can't say the same for a lot of thugs on the street or even the white-collar criminals out there today. Ice talks a lot about his military training, how it made him disciplined and how the military mind in the civilian world is often implemented. You either become an Officer, or you become a criminal. Notice I didn't say Cop.
The amazing thing was that Ice was making a boatload more cash before he got into the rap game and was trying to manage both his criminal career and his ascendency into Rap all at the same time. Being surrounded by both Crips and Bloods on all sides, he emerged as the spokesman for both sets and was like the nuetral Switzerland. He had respect from all the big time guys and worked hard to maintain it. One of the more interesting tidbits is how he ended up over at Warner Brothers and being close with a lot of folks who had much respect for him there as well as a musician and as a person. Ice also had a lot fo respect for the law, even though some, who might remember this, might not think so. He tells it like this:
"There was a line and it was their job to enforce it and it was my job to cross over and back and not get caught."
When his musical career broke, I remember hearing him when I was living all the way up in Alaska and thinking how raw it was. It was incredibly clear to see that everything that came out after Ice, was inspired by Ice, because nobody had rapped about such a hard game before. When Ice Cube hit with his Amerikkkas Most Wanted album and NWA casettes were circulating, people everywhere couldn't get enough. By then though, we all knew where it started and Ice had already moved on to something else - Body Count.
The book is harrowing in places and deeply engrossing. Never for a moment does any of it come across as contrived, unrelatable or 'not real'. Ice's mantra always seems to seep from these pages to just be you and I'll be me. For that, you know this isn't going to read like a lot of the celebrity biographies do where there's just ego oozing out from the seem of the book. Forgive me if I don't care to name names, but too many of them are like that. Ice can easily tell you how when he bought a brand new Ferrari and Flava flav smashed into the back of it, you never think for a moment that he's bragging. He tells it like a young man, excited and jazzed about something cool that just landed in his lap -- and that's unflinchingly sincere in all aspects.
This isn't a white-washed version of his life, reading it you can tell. He's not holding anything back here either as he admits to many things that many people in position just wouldn't.
Regarding Law & Order, I'm one of those people that originially tuned into that show because of Ice-T and I've always felt that I'd always prefer to see more episodes centered around his character. But he has a different position on this. Like he says in the book: "I'm number five on the roster and that's a good place to be."
Through the years, I've come to appreciate Ice more and more for a number of reasons. Ice (obviously -- if you're paying attention) is a huge fan of Robert Beck, as am I, and the life that Robert Beck lived and wrote about is the story of a lot of us, myself included. When I read Mama Black Widow, I finally had found someone who was writing about the facets of my own life. Later I read Airtight Willie & Me and quickly read everything else.
For the record, this review is on the Advance Review version of the book and thus I was sadly without any of the cool pictures that will be in the final print edition or other things that are promised in the details. This book is going to get some good circulation and he deserves it.
As a side note: If you're one of those folks that like to read books like this in one sitting, which is typically fine, I would suggest not doing so with this. I would read this in stages and really spend some time thinking about what's here. I would read this book in 80 page increments so you don't just glass over the details. This is a very good book and deserves consideration.
Labels: Coco. Ice Ice-T Iceberg slim O.G. Original Gangster Robert Beck South Central to Hollywood Tracy Marrow