When you think of Ice T, about the last characterization that comes to mind is that of a philosopher; Chuck D, KRS One, yes; but Ice? From OG to New Jack to Cop Killer, it’s hard to fit the word philosopher in anywhere, much less relate it to Ice. However, truth be told, the west coast gangsta rap originator holds an honorary PhD in philosophy from Stanford University, so unless there was a major typo somewhere, Ice has already been makin’ sense to individuals much smarter than your average joe shmoe.
When I heard that Ice was going to give a speech at Rutgers University as part of the school’s Black History Month curriculum, my curiosity drove me to attend, not so much in anticipation of what would be said but more so to simply see what the fuck was it that Ice T would talk about. The title of the seminar sparked my interest as well: The Killing Fields: Racism, Riots and Revolution. It was a Tuesday night; I was running late leaving my house and arrived at the Rutgers University Student Center just in time to grab one of the few remaining seats. Ice T was already introducing himself; it only took a few seconds for me to realize that this was going to be good.
Over the course of 26 years or so, I have come to a realization that seems to elude many. For whatever reason the majority of us have a tendency to mistake complex language for intelligence. The thought process in that instance must run somewhat along the lines of, “holy shit, I can’t even begin to understand what the fuck this guy is talking about, he must be really smart”. Unfortunately nine times out of ten the individual in question is not nearly as smart as they would like you to believe. In fact, it is the most intelligent people that tend to convey their message in the simplest terms. As I absorbed the opening comments of Ice T’s dialogue it immediately became apparent that Ice was one of those people, a man who can reveal truths free of senseless rhetoric and double talk. Leaning forward in my Rutgers University folding chair, I listened carefully; like I said, this was going to be good.
Ice T’s narrative ran along a chronological account of experiences intertwined with powerful anecdotes that brought home simple but essential life lessons. A powerful theme that framed the lecture was Ice T’s focus on looking for answers within. Ice repeatedly stressed and demonstrated that all the answers are available to those people who really take the time to think about each situation. “All of you have read many books as college students, but to think of something yourself you need to really sit down and think about shit. You can’t keep reading books and hope that will lead to something, because you can’t take an idea from a book as your own, that would be plagiarism”, Ice T often smiled and cracked jokes while he spoke.
Openly talking about his past including stints as an Army Ranger, a high profile bank robber, pimp, rapper, actor and entrepreneur, Ice repeatedly drew powerful insights from simple situations through proactive reasoning. No stranger to first amendment controversy, Ice openly questioned the conventional notion of free expression; “there is no real freedom of speech because when you say something other people have the right to react. If you say something negative about a company, you may get sued. If you say something to a dude that you don’t like, he might punch you in the face. So it’s not really the type of freedom you might first think it is, because other people have a right to react to what you say. So, there is freedom of speech but you have to watch what you say”.
Back in 1992 Ice T found himself in the eye of the storm after releasing the track Cop Killer with his heavy metal band Body Count. While initially fighting to uphold his 1st Amendment rights, Ice eventually caved to pressure and agreed to pull the song off the band’s album. Recounting the events of the Cop Killer controversy, he admitted to being shaken by the government’s aggressive probe into his music, lyrics and lifestyle. “The Government ain’t no one to be messin’ with,” said Ice, reiterating that he was speaking from experience, “they could be listening to your heartbeat right now. In the end I gave in because I wasn’t going to let them pigeonhole my whole career as a vicious cop hater. I don’t hate cops. I hate police brutality”. The irony in all this is that Ice T has played a police officer on the popular TV show Law & Order for the past five years.
After dissecting the 1st Amendment, Ice directed his attention to the 2nd, The Right to Bear Arms. “Have any of you actually looked at what these amendments say? If you read the 2nd Amendment it says all citizens have the right to bear arms so that they may protect themselves against tyranny. If you realize this was written over 200 years ago; who do you think they were talking about? They were talking about the police! People could bear arms to protect themselves from the police!” His bold declaration created a stir in the auditorium. I had never given it much thought but Ice T was completely right; when the Union was founded, our founding fathers wanted to make sure the United States did not turn into a monarchy. All citizens were granted the right to bear arms so that they could protect themselves from the government if need be, which essentially meant protecting yourself from the police! It’s funny how most Americans do not think of the 2nd Amendment in the way it was originally intended.
On international armed conflict Ice T presented the audience with a powerful analogy. “The way I like to look at it is, say all of us are living in an apartment building, we are all relatively happy. Everything is going well, we know a couple of neighbors, others who live on different floors we don’t know, etc… But then one day our landlord starts beefing with the landlord in the building across the street. So then we get caught in the middle of this since we live in the building; it may have nothing to do with us but yet we get caught up in the conflict. So if you think about it like that, why get involved in something that has nothing to do with you”. Ice T stopped short of denouncing the war on terrorism electing to take a more reserved position of non-intervention.
Ice T’s wit and sharp logic made his two hours at the podium fly by in an instant. My only complaint would have to be the title of the seminar as it had very little to do with Racism, Riots or Revolution. In fact, Ice advocated that Rutgers students not revolt against society as he insisted the government and modern bureaucrats were generally at a level so high above the common citizen that our efforts would be much better spent forging our own futures rather than attempting to impact a situation where we would have little relevance. Offering opinions on subjects ranging from censorship and proper parenthood to the music industry and Michael Jackson, Ice welcomed well over a dozen questions following his lecture. Before sitting down at a table and signing hundreds of autographs Ice T urged students one last time to look for answers within themselves; “Remember, the most important thing to do is to think. But don’t think the way I do or follow everything I say, because then it will be just one of us thinking”.
For more on Ice T please visit www.IceT.com.