ICE T – The Legend of ICE T: Crime Stories (Rhyme Syndicate Productions/Ruffnation Entertainment)

Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me? Damn it IS a gun. With his move into film and television it’s easy to forget how important ICE T was to the development of Rap in the 80s and 90s, particularly the Gangsta genre. A consummate storyteller (so good in fact that many found it difficult to discern the difference between fact and fiction in T’s tales of life on the streets of South Central), ICE T returns after a lengthy recording hiatus with a triple album collection. 

To be clear this is NOT a best of or retrospective of ICE T’s career; rather its a collection of his best stories of Gangster Life, spanning albums from 1987’s ‘Rhyme Pays’  through to 2006’s ‘Gangsta Rap’ and – this is the kicker – a previously unreleased track ‘You Got Me Open Girl’ and three limited release tracks from 2019-2023 which show that ICE T hasn’t lost his ability to deliver a dope ass rhyme. Indeed the 3 new tracks that make up Side 1 of Chapter 1 are actually 3 of the strongest cuts on this 22-track release.   

Other highlights are ‘The Tower’ as ominous as any metal track you’ll hear, replete with a repeated sample of the ‘Halloween’ theme, ‘Midnight’ with an oft-used Led Zep drum beat and Black Sabbath sample demonstrating ICE T’s early adoption of Metal into Rap,  and the outstanding ‘Peel Their Caps Back’ from 1989’s ‘The Iceberg’ (still one of my all-time favourite Rap albums). I would have liked to have seen one or two more tracks from this classic album, but that would have compromised the remit of this being a Collection of Gangsta stories, so props to ICE T for keeping this consistent and not going for the easy option of a Best Of compilation. The song selection also includes a few tracks that maybe went a bit under the radar on their original releases such as the Jazz-infused ‘Soul On Ice; from the Afrika Islam-produced ‘Power’ album which showcases ICE T’s versatility and breadth of musical influences.

The packaging is impressive with a 70s Blaxploitation film poster gatefold cover/poster and marble-coloured vinyl; add in the unreleased/limited release tracks, and this is an absolutely essential release for any fan of ICE T or Rap in general. A timely reminder how vital ICE T was, no, IS to Rap. A long overdue and most welcome return from the OG…. Ian Pickens


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