The legendary West Coast MC’s Hip-Hop documentary, Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap, is set to appear in theatres on July 15. In the lead up to the release, Ice-T shared his thoughts on directing the doc, and on his reaction to modern Hip-Hop.
Ice-T spoke to Time about his recent directorial debut, and the effect of the mainstream on rap. He explained that the whole motivation for his documentary stemmed from an increasing dislike of current Hip-Hop, and its lack of lyricism. Ice said that he felt it was time to ask his rapper peers what they felt Hip-Hop meant to them, outside of the industry’s influence.
"I wanted to start directing," he explained. "I’ve been in film for a while and that’s something I want to do down the road, and I said, 'Maybe this should be my first project.' I was looking at the state of Hip Hop and I was like, 'I don’t feel people respect it as much as they should.' So I went out and called all my friends. I said, 'I want to do interviews with you, but I’m going to talk to you about not the money, the cars, the jewelry, the beef. I want to talk about the craft.' They were like, 'Nobody ever asks us those questions.'"
Ice-T then went on to explain his disaffection with modern Hip-Hop, explaining how the effect of the mainstream on the genre had damaged its counter-culture identity. Ice-T laid the blame on the industry, claiming that artists feel pressurized not to say certain things.
"In the movie Mos Def quotes Q-Tip: 'Rap is not pop. If you call it that, then stop.' The true origin of rap is counter-culture. The true origin of rap is say something that they’re not saying on the radio," Ice-T said. "When you kind of blend into what popular culture is doing, you’re losing the power of Hip Hop. We’ve got to keep rocking the boat. We’ve got unemployed people, we’ve got a black President, we’ve got election year, we’ve got Occupy Wall Street. If you’re just going to rap about ‘I got money and we balling,’ and all that, you’re not doing with it what it was meant to do. It’s meant to rock a party, but it was meant to change the world."
"I think that a rap aficionado, the hardcore rap fan, will always go away from pop, in the same way a hardcore jazz fan will never think Kenny G is really a jazz artist," he went on. "You gotta kind of know there’s always going to be that purist who’s going to be like if it ain’t beats and rhymes, if there ain’t a DJ, then that ain’t Hip Hop."
- By Fiona Guest