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FFF Fest review: Ice T

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Ramon Ramirez

Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 9, 2013

Early during his boss-made, imperial force, 50-minute raid of the Fun Fun Fun Fest’s Blue Stage, 55-year-old rap icon Ice T claimed colors. He said something about rolling with Crips toward the beginning, which tells me that in the ongoing Bloods-Crips saga, Ice has a team. The Crips, in icon fashion, don blue for all of their promotional events. And Ice is on the Blue Stage, rapping about being an “O.G.” over minimalist, militant drum and bass beats that all sound like 1986. Some are from the ’80s, many others are recent recordings that I haven’t heard. It’s heavy and enduring. Sullen punk rockers in Lou Reed tees under dark denim are smiling and throwing hands in the air.

“The fact that you’re over here by my stage means that you came to hear some gangster rap,” Ice T said.

He wasn’t bitter or curmudgeonly. He was just, to borrow a cliche, keeping it real. Soon after, Ice made the stage entirely his in ways no other performing artist has this weekend.

Sporting black khakis, a droopy bandana tucked into his back pocket, a black, fitted baseball cap, dog tags and a bracelet, Ice-T carried a prideful, nonchalant tone as he deftly told stories like a classic emcee. I am the type of rap fan that celebrates bleeding heart creativity and new ideas; that never pines for “real rap” or any bygone era. But what’s lost in modern rap is a tendency to plainly, effortlessly scribe narratives that keep you hanging on every couplet. This is what Ice does. I learned, for example, that Ice was born in New Jersey and moved to Los Angeles to live with an aunt at 12. He wound up in a gang in Crenshaw. He was in the military. He got into a terrible car accident that left him hospitalized for 10 weeks. This was all one story told in three verses, over three minutes. It’s about simple, pointed sentences like “when I went to parties somebody die” that get evocative and resonate.

“Who got the power?” Ice later rapped, “Whites? Blacks? Or the gun tower?”

Ice T’s Body Count thrash punk outfit rocked the Black Stage two-plus hours earlier. It was reportedly heavy and it inspired circle pits. Ice alluded to the history there, “Did you guys here Body Count was here earlier? That’s the group that got in trouble for ‘Cop Killer.’”

Without the guitars Ice is just as political and heavy. More so, really, because gangster rap is entirely his element. He is “O.G. like purple Kool-Aid,” after all, and with two know-your-role hype men accenting his phrasing to forge barking cadences, plus a DJ that was actually scratching for musicality, the performance was a caged tiger.

He brought out local Geto Boy made good Bushwick Bill to show respect. He brought out his wife, reality star and model Coco, to show off.

“I did not come here to party for you,” Ice said during his three-song encore, “I came here to party with you.”