Ice T. may not top many Greatest Rapper Alive lists. But the gangsta rap pioneer gets undoubted respect for keeping it real, even if he’s just playing the part.
Nearly three decades into his career, Ice T.’s shock-powered rap has expanded its cross-cultural fanbase to teen fans of corporate punk-rock. He’s among the many headliners on the sprawling, 15th annual Vans Warped Tour, which stops Saturday at the Gorge Amphitheatre.
Other notable bands on the bill include Chiodos, Guttermouth, P.O.S., Peachcake, Saosin, Silverstein, The Architects, The Reverend Peyton’s Damn Band, Thrice, TSOL and UK SUBS.
Ice T., who broke out from the emerging 1980s West Coast gangsta rap scene, has a personality bigger than hip-hop.
The sex-money-and-guns pimpology and streetwise mentality in his music hooked fans of the gangland mythos glamorized in movies like “Colors” and “New Jack City.”
He’s continued to cash in, selling his image on multiple platforms: television, movies and music.
The rapper/actor won a Grammy in 1989 for his work on the collaborative track “Back on the Black,” which also featured the likes of Ray Charles and Quincy Jones.
But he is perhaps best-known for his heavy metal band, Body Count, whose 1992 song, “Cop Killer,” was the target of widespread controversy, including criticism by President George H.W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle.
Ice T. won his first NAACP Image Award 10 years later – ironically, for his role as a cop on the TV drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Musically, his latest studio offering came in 2006 with the plainly titled “Gangsta Rap.” Featuring guest appearances from Smooth Tha Hustler and his brother, Trigger Tha Gambler, the album was protested by retailers who wanted it censored for the cover art, which pictured Ice T. naked in bed with his wife, the “original black Barbie,” Coco.
He was a part of another highly publicized hype last year when he got caught up in a beef with fellow rapper Soulja Boy Tell ’Em that got industrywide attention from artists such as Kanye West, 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg.
Ice T.’s lengthy film resume includes “Breakin’,” “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” “Rappin’,” “Trespass,” “Surviving the Game,” “Johnny Mnemonic,” “Leprechaun in the Hood” and Ron Jeremy’s porn spoof of John and Lorena Bobbitt, “Frankenpenis.”