Ice-T Kicks Off The Players Tour With Style

Stalwart rapper returns to stage after year-long absence to promote new disc, The Seventh Deadly Sin.

LOS ANGELES -- If clothes do indeed make the man, then the new Ice-T is out

to prove that he is a man among men.

Decked out in black-velvet pants and jacket, a black fedora and what appeared to be an

ankle-length mink coat, the artist who pioneered gangsta rap with words rather than

wardrobes kicked off his first tour in more than a year on Friday night by making

something of a fashion statement.

The veteran rapper, whose new music is less about politics and more about material

goods, emerged onstage at the intimate Key Club on the Sunset Strip decked out to the

nines. Rounding out Ice-T's funky fashion statement was his hair, which he'd had curled

in perfect, chin-length ringlets.

"This is nice. Nice crowd. We can tell jokes," he mused as he looked out from the stage.

He made a few off-color wisecracks that got the crowd laughing and said, "Ice-T lounge

act, takin' it to Las Vegas," before crooning a few loungy bars of his 1988 hit "Colors."

Ice-T (born Tracy Marrow) launched what he's calling the Players Tour in this playful

spirit, remaining in character as a player throughout the night, calling out for "ladies" and

"b----es" and "homies" and "niggas." It is Ice-T's ability to change his colors, perhaps, that

has helped him persevere through so many generations of the here-today,

gone-tomorrow rap world.

At 39, he is embarking on a 25-city tour to promote his new record, The Seventh

Deadly Sin, which includes some of the most dance-oriented material of his career.

On the latest album, Ice-T has mostly abandoned socially conscious lyrics for new raps

that focus more on the money he has accumulated and the things he can buy. In the end,

it's all part of the player's game, he'll tell you, and his fans are only too happy to have

him back any way they can.

"I grew up in L.A.," said Tom Horn, 26, of Los Angeles. "I've been listening to Ice-T

practically all my life. I'm psyched to see him playing out again."

The evolution of such a lengthy career was apparent during the show. About 200 fans

were treated to an early version of sampling with "I'm Your Pusher," from 1988's

Power, in which Ice-T rapped over the instrumental to Curtis Mayfield's

"Pusherman." As beats slammed around the theater, he then rocked the house with a

stuttering and scratching version of "Colors." Likewise, his new songs, such as the title

cut "Seven Deadly Sins," thumped with macho lyrics and phat beats.

During the gig, Ice-T was joined by a posse of rappers, including King T, Smoothe Da

Hustler and Trigger Tha Gambler. A real surprise was the appearance of KRS-One --

scheduled to perform later that night at the House of Blues -- who joined in for some

freestyling at the close and pleaded with DJ Evil E to slow the beat down to something

mellow.

During the raucous freestyle session, Ice-T remained an island of calm amidst the

onstage frenzy of bobbing and gesturing rappers.

Two enthusiastic female concert-goers in braids pumped it up for his radio hits. More

than once, audience members climbed onto dancers' podiums at the sides of the room,

wiggling and grinding on the brass poles there like amateur strippers. Three camcorders

bobbed around the room and the photographers swarmed to record the dancers' moves.

Emerging with Ice-T's crew, one cameraman diligently taped each rapper, getting

closeups while trying to stay out of the way. Otherwise, the stage was bare, with Ice-T up

front, joined by whomever he called to help with each song. At one point, Ice-T asked for

the stagelights to be turned down -- the bright lights were flooding the stage, making it

look almost more like a soundcheck than a show. As they remained bright, he wryly

commented, "I bet if Prince was on this motherf---in' stage, the lights would come down,"

and they promptly did.

DJ Evil E stood on an elevated podium, doing some mixing and scratching, and the other

players hung back, waiting for their turn up front. As the evening grew later, the crowd

formed a semi-circle, bobbing to the beat. KRS-One, in a bright-yellow T-shirt, stood

almost a head taller than the rest. But still, Ice-T stood out.

"Ice-T is dope!" said a smiling Tammy Jackson, 27, of Los Angeles, as she stepped

breathlessly off the dance floor. The devoted fan said she has Ice-T's records, has seen

some of his films and has even watched his television show, "Players."

Ice-T's acting skills were evident in concert, as well, whether he was posing as the

hardest man around or singing about hanging with his "set" and doing time.

Other songs included "You Played Yourself," "New Jack Hustler" and

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Ice-T/O.G._Original_Gangster.ram">"O.G. Original

Gangster" (RealAudio excerpt).

Some of Ice-T's older songs referred to getting out of the ghetto by using brain power

and staying away from drugs. That positive message stood in contrast to the controversy

that followed the rapper in the early '90s, when Ice-T's metal band, Body Count, openly

challenged the police with the cut "Cop Killer."

Despite a backlash from conservative groups and law-enforcement officials, the rapper

went on to become one of the top-selling gangsta acts in the business over the past

decade.

As the title of Ice-T's 1987 debut album astutely observed, Rhyme Pays.

You don't need to look much farther than his wardrobe these days to figure that one out.