The songs Ice-T thought fans wanted to hear guided his choice for tracks on The Evidence, a greatest-hits album due Aug. 8.
"Our prerequisite ... was ... would you know who made it, damn near when it came out or what you were doing when it came out," he said. "That makes it a big record to you."
For a veteran who has been rapping since the '80s, his list of songs includes a hefty catalog of hits from such albums as Rhyme Pays (1987), Power (1988), O.G. (1991), Home Invasion (1993), Cold As Ever (1996) and last year's The Seventh Deadly Sin.
When Ice-T (born Tracy Marrow) had finished sifting through his collection, he came up with a group of signature songs he knew had to be included on The Evidence. Among them are "6 N' the Mornin' " (Real Audio excerpt), "New Jack Hustler," "You Played Yourself" (Real Audio excerpt) and "Original Gangster"(Real Audio excerpt). Some tracks, such as "Colors," were previously available only on movie soundtracks.
The album also features a new song, "Money, Power, Women," which was inspired by "Scarface," the 1983 movie that has become a cult favorite among hip-hop heads. The song includes an audio sample of Al Pacino as the Tony Montana character, delivering his famous lines about how to get ahead in the United States, Ice-T said.
"You know in the 'Scarface' movie, he says, 'In this country ... first you get the money, then you get the power and then you get the women,' " he said, adding that he approached Pacino personally to get the audio clip released.
Making The Move
On the track, Ice-T said he goes back to one of his signature themes: dishing knowledge to rap fans about how to make power moves.
It's an "interesting song. It's a good song," he said. "I'm breaking down [that] first you get the money. Then I break down how you get the power. And then I break down why you get the women."
The single was produced by DJ Ace, a producer who molded cuts on The Seventh Deadly Sin.
The album's introspective theme will be felt even in the disc's liner notes, where Ice-T reveals the inspiration behind some of his most noted work over the past decade.
That includes a 1990 Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Group or Duo for "Back on the Block," the title song from a Quincy Jones album that featured Big Daddy Kane, Melle Mel and Kool Moe D. The 42-year-old West Coast rap legend also made headlines in 1992 for "Cop Killer," from his Body Count album with his rock-rap group of the same name. That rhyme raised the ire of police officers across the nation and made him one of the nation's most controversial rap figures.
Those and many other career highlights will be covered in an Aug. 27 VH1 episode of "Behind the Music," Atomic Pop publicist Amy Welch said. (Sonicnet.com's parent company, Viacom, also own VH1.)
Now, Ice-T said he records music to please himself. That means he can experiment with Kool Keith and a loose-knit group of rappers called the Analog Brothers on "way out" projects, such as Pimp To Eat. The album is scheduled to hit stores Aug. 15.
The rap great likened the disc to Dr. Octagonecologyst, an acclaimed Kool Keith album of abstract hip-hop.
"We did an album similar to that. It's like five people doing that sh-- and it's bananas. It's not normal hip-hop. It's way out there."
That creative stretch isn't a gamble when you have a full, 15-year career behind your name, Ice-T said.
"I am also in a position hip-hop-wise [that] I don't financially give a f---. It's not like this record has to have [a] hit or the rent ain't gon' get paid," he explained. "I don't give a f---, so I am in a real creative mode to kick back and have fun with the music and sh--."