On November 4th 1987, the proclaimed Godfather of “gangster rap” Ice-T, released his first studio album, Rhyme Pays. And the single that emerged from that album defined the “gangster rap” genre. “6 N’ the Mornin’” (which was the B-side to “Dog ‘N the Wax” (Ya Don’t Quit-Part II), produced by DJ Unknown), had a storytelling element that provided social commentary and eye opening insight from an emcee that understood the message he was conveying.
“6 ‘N the Mornin” was and still is a lyrical depiction of the everyday lives of young males involved in criminal lifestyles in South Central, LA. At a time when Hip Hop was mostly party orientated and synthesizer based on the West coast, Ice-T broke the mold and allowed rap artists to speak about the crime and violence that surrounded them. He provided a voice on wax for the pimps and street hustlers and gave them the storyboard they needed to appeal to a national audience.
From the moment the song started, it took you on a seven minute and eleven second journey into the streets. It began with the L.A.P.D. raiding Ice-T’s home followed by him escaping out the window. Then it bounced around from topic to topic with each verse bringing up a new subject ranging from gambling, violence against women, jail time to drug dealing and pimpin’. It was a barrage of plots within one concrete storyline that had an intensity contrived from everyday accounts of existence as a South Central resident. And the imagery Ice-T painted throughout was surreal to those who did not know of the life he spoke about. Throughout the song, he mentioned how he and his crew “did not have time to ask,” which left some to elude that a numbness was attached to a day full of peculiar events.
Ice-T also gave reference to some of the things that were going on in L.A at the time. He gave his outlook on the police raids and the usage of the battering ram, used during those raids, because of increased gang and drug related activity. He also revealed the heightened use of crack cocaine, which was an epidemic that swept through urban America as a whole.
Initially, what also made the song even more defining was Ice-T’s knack for vividly portraying street life through wordplay that came off like street poetry. This was a point of view that almost seemed to be an exaggeration to East cost artists and listeners who were unaware of the high level of gang violence and criminal activity that encompassed L.A. If anyone was uncertain about the state of the West coast hoods, Ice-T could have easily become their overqualified tour guide. Not only had he lived the life, he used the platform he helped create to educate those who were not privy to the ills of a sometimes glamorized lifestyle. And what may have seemed like an exciting thrill ride concluded in a cataclysmic chain of events; “Deuced it to the Bronx to rest our heads/Where a shoot out jumped off nine people lay dead/It sounded like it happened with a mack 10 blast/
But it was 6’in the mornin’ /We didn’t wake up to ask…”
Ultimately, Ice-T’s “6 ‘N the Mornin” created the sound and provided the foundation for what we now know as “gangster rap.” He inspired other artists to represent where they were from and speak about what they knew. In later years, Three 6 Mafia recorded their own rendition, “3 6 in the Morning” off their 1997 album, Chapter 2: World Domination. It was also covered by Master P on the 1997 compilation album, In tha Beginning… There Was Rap. In addition, the classic, “Today Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube could almost serve as an ode to Ice-T’s “6 N’ the Mornin” as both emcees chronicled everyday life on the West coast brilliantly.
Despite the negativity and exploitation that’s surrounded the sub-genre along with Ice-T, his relevance is philosophical and he provided inner-city youths with the opportunity to vent and express themselves about their realities. Therefore, “6 ‘N the Mornin” will always be regarded as the magnum opus that opened our eyes to another side of Hip Hop.