Ice-T's Latest Gigs: Counting And Dressing Bodies

Rapper launches clothing line, plans albums from SMG, Body Count.

NEW YORK — As in his career, there were a million things going on last week at Ice-T's launch party for IceWear, his pimped-out new clothing line.

A girl with a mouth full of gold teeth made a spectacle of herself on the dance floor to 50 Cent's "In Da Club," while hip-hop luminaries like Keith Murray wandered aimlessly and groups of chiseled male models stood on platforms, flexing and showing off their celebrity-designed threads.

"I'm trying to keep it real playa and classic too," Ice said of his street-savvy creations, sitting in the VIP section with his girlfriend. "The whole idea was to come up with a clothing line that matched what I wear. I go from jean suits to real playa sweaters. Sometimes I get L.A. and put on one of my khaki outfits. It's really an eclectic line. It really catches the spectrum of the East and the West flavors."

T said it was only right he finally come out with his own clothing label — when it comes to gear, cats know there is no battling him. He knows how to coordinate.

"I think deep down everybody knows Ice been dressing," the West Coast rap legend-turned-actor boasted jokingly. "Ice been dressing for years. Puffy knows I can outdress him. He got way more money than me, but if we both came together I bet people would put their money on Ice. He may wear some gators, but I'd come in riding on two live alligators. If I get in the competition [of] dressing, I'm gonna win."

His ambitious streak aside, the co-star of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" said there's more than enough room for him and rap designer friends like P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Outkast.

"I've never been competitive, I just wanted a piece of the pie." Ice said. "I don't need to have the biggest clothing line, I would just like to have one. If in three years IceWear is going strong, that would make me happy. It just has to be in there and respected. When I came into rap, I just wanted to be considered a rapper — not the best, just a rapper."

A decade ago, Ice was considered public enemy number one to some after his rock group, Body Count, set off a tornado of controversy with the 1992 song "Cop Killer." Now he's got the collective back in the studio for a new album.

"I can't walk down the street without people asking me, 'Where's BC?' It's funny that Body Count was 10 years ago and since then there hasn't been a powerful black rock band. So I guess they need us to come back, like Godzilla — he comes back every now and then and tears up the city."

The group's six-year hiatus, which went into effect right after Body Count dropped 1997's barely heard Violent Demise: Last Days, wasn't a result of the group's fear of causing another ruckus — it was because two of group's principals had died.

"We lost our drummer, Beatmaster V, to leukemia," Ice explained. "Then Mooseman, who played bass, got killed in South Central in those situations I rap about every day. Those were like two of the main players in the band, and to try to find somebody else was hard so I just let the band go away."

The group is now completely retooled and in the studio, preparing for a comeback. But Ice doesn't expect Body Count's music to inspire any big public demonstrations this time around.

"We're gonna come out here and rock and roll," the 45-year-old MC said. "I wasn't trying to start all that drama with that [Body Count] album. On the song 'Cop Killer' I was just being honest. I never really reached for controversy. I just said what was on my mind, like I'm saying now.

"Since Clinton was in the White House, everybody became very complacent, everybody kicked back," he continued. "He had sex in the White House, what's there to worry about? But now we got Bush — or son of a Bush — in there, and he's out to control the world. He's trying to be Julius Caesar and so it's time for more music about things. It's time for Body Count."

Before the new Body Count LP drops, Ice plans to release a solo album called Gangsta Rap as well as the debut from his hip-hop group SMG, which stands for Sex, Money and Guns. The group is fronted by Ice and Brooklyn underground wordsmiths Smoothe Da Hustler and Trigger Tha Gambler.

"We just finished an album called Repossession," Ice explained. "Actually there's also a DVD of Repossession with [us performing] the songs live. I'm just having fun with music. Chuck D told me, 'Ice, if you ain't having fun, don't do it.' So as long as I'm having fun and people are still buying it, I'm gonna keep on doing it."