Ice-T Power Sire/Warner Bros Records/1988
As one of the first to push the West coast to the forefront, Ice-T shook up the rap game in the early eighties. He released his debut Rhyme Pays in 1987, which was the first Hip Hop album to have a parental advisory label. His first effort contributed to the rise of “gangsta” rap but we truly saw the brilliance of Ice-T when he released his follow up, Power.
- The Syndicate
- Radio Suckers
- I’m Your Pusher
- Girls L.G.B.N.A.F.
- High Rollers
- Grand Larceny
- Soul on Ice
Ice-T’s second offering had an impressive track listing that gave an inside look into the harsh realities of the West coast that was far beyond the faux images of Hollywood. Full of gritty, honest accounts of violence, pimpin’, hustling and gangs over funk and electronic infused beats, Power had a magnetic force that could not be tampered with.
Inspired by Ice-T’s idol, Iceberg Slim, “Soul On Ice” gave a detailed look into the last hours of a hustler named “Ice” who was murdered the day he decided to quit the game. The background music created a sleek, menacing energy that was reminiscent of Blackplotation movies and the Last Poets making it one of the most bone-chilling tracks on the album. Ice-T revealed the uncertainty to a lifestyle that was often glorified and shared the possible ramifications for anyone who followed that path.
Emcees were known to challenge and battle on wax and Ice-T was no different with the aggressive track “Personal.” With a rock and roll energy from the heavy guitar licks that flowed with T’s voice, the track displayed a true master of ceremony who intimidated his competition through belligerent verses. The intensity felt throughout showed an uncompromising emcee that exuded confidence and the endurance to carry his own.
Before a slew of Hip Hop artists flowed over Edwin Starr’s “Easin In,” Ice T served justice to the timeless song on “High Rollers.” The production was polished and charismatic along with T’s unruffled demeanor as he exposed a true hustler’s life and the characters he was likely to encounter. Rather than preach, T educated his listeners by exposing a side of the game they most likely would never see.
“I’mYour Pusher,” which garnered Ice-T exposure on MTV, was often a misinterpreted track that had an opposing message contrary to critical belief. Using Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman,” T sent a subliminal message with this anti-drug song that was clever and witty. T acted as a pusher of rap music urging his fans to get addicted to the music rather than a destructive substance. Tracks like “Radio Suckers” took veiled jabs at Chuck D and “The Syndicate” which blatantly called out LL Cool J creating a short lived beef between the two. Not all the tracks were complimentary to Ice-T’s persona. “Grand Larceny” and “Girls L.G.B.N.A.F” were not as captivating making them less likely to be in constant rotation.
But for many, Power was one of the first accounts of “gangsta” rap that shaped their relationship with West coast Hip Hop. Ice-T played a significant role in diversifying the culture with his ballsy approach to storytelling. The album harbored production from DJ Evil E and Afrika Islam that would help mold the West coast sound. Even the album art was provocative enough to catapult the record to legendary status. The cover showcased Ice-T and DJ Evil E standing alongside Darlene Ortiz (T’s first wife) in a barely there bikini holding a Mossberg, making it one of the most recognizable covers in history. So it goes without saying that Ice-T earned the right to label himself a pioneer with an album that had all the components of a dope LP that lived up to its moniker.