Giving Up The Battle And Joining The War

King Tee, Ras Kass and Tash put in appearances.

The only deadly sin this album comes close to examining is one so fatal that it never made the original list. The name of that sin: boredom, a close cousin to sloth — which rears its ugly head on 7th Deadly Sin in the form of unoriginality. Ice-T should have learned from Return of the Real that you can only rest on your laurels for so long before you begin to crush them. On 7th Deadly Sin, Ice-T and company rap over tracks seemingly shoplifted from RZA's slush pile. Ice-T seems to have forgotten that his best work is done solo over funk loops.

Ice-T used to rhyme about the hustler's life with an eye toward keeping people out of the game because there was no way they were as good at it as he allegedly was — though songs such as "Bitches 2," "The Tower" and "Drama" showed that even he occasionally got caught up in the game. On 7th Deadly Sin his rhymes are still about the hustler's life, but gone is any social commentary, any remorse, any demonstration of consequences for his actions. Songs such as "Check

Your Game" (RealAudio excerpt) warn old players like Ice-T to stay on their toes so the youngsters don't sneak up on 'em, but there is no connection to old Ice-T "get-out-of-the-game" anthems like "Escape From The Killing Fields." There are a lot of rhymes here about shooting — especially on "The 7th," "Eye of The Storm," and "Fuck It" — yet very little commentary about the personal, social and political effects of these actions, which was once an Ice-T staple. The rough-riding "Retaliation" (RealAudio excerpt) toes the line between advocating hustling and justifying hustling, but in the end it fits in perfectly with the album's hardcore pro-gangsta, pro-game stance.

The best song on this album is the disturbing "Always Wanted To Be A Ho" (RealAudio excerpt). This is the Ice-T we know. On "Always ... " he takes on the role of a pimp who tells a naive girl he loves her so he can make money off her. The only other song that comes close to capturing Ice-T's traditional anti-game advocacy is the spooky but smooth "Common Sense." Such songs succeed in delivering ethics lessons because they're dramatic and indirect rather than matter-of-fact and preachy.

Whatever it is that's happened to our beloved O.G. Ice-T — whether it was too much time spent in front of the cameras, on the lecture circuit or surfing the Web — he should be studied. Did he think he had to come back ultra-hardcore with Wu-Tang backing tracks to be relevant? Did he take Too $hort's "don't fake the funk" advice and decide that hard rhymes over funk loops were a thing of the past?

Whatever it was, it needs to be dissected and explained so that others might learn from his mistakes. After all, we wouldn't want anything like 7th Deadly Sin to happen again.