Ice-T Takes Sweet Time With The Seventh Deadly Sin

Gangsta rapper says new disc will be more collaborative and more fun than his previous work.

LOS ANGELES -- Self-proclaimed "Original Gangsta" Ice-T is taking his sweet

time completing the follow-up album to his 1996 release, VI: Return of the Real,

claiming that he has nothing to prove at this point in his career.

"I'm making this album at a time when I really don't have to make an album," the

39-year-old Ice-T said Wednesday from the office of his new label, Coroner Records. "It's

a very relaxed, laid-back album for me mentally. It's not like I have to worry about radio or

being a hit. When you get this far into your career, you just make 'em."

"I feel like Frank Sinatra," he added with a laugh.

With 13 tracks finished and almost that many left to go, the legendary rapper has his eye

on a Jan. 1, 1999, release for his seventh album, The Seventh Deadly Sin, which

he said will include collaborations as well as a more improvisational party feel than his

previous work.

The Seventh Deadly Sin -- which Ice-T said may become a double album --

features the pioneering hardcore gangsta-rapper collaborating with a slew of West Coast

and East Coast rappers, including such big names as Kool Keith, King Tee, CJ Mack,

Ras Kass and Buckshot from Boot Camp Clik, to name a few. Also featured on the album

is Tash of Tha Alkaholiks and New York-based newcomer Mark Live.

"At this point in my career, I have never done an album featuring a lot of [big] name

artists," Ice-T (born Tracy Marrow) said. "This is going to be a different album -- a lot more

club-oriented, a lot more danceable -- it's gonna be fun. It's more like a freestyle album. I

put the artists in the studio and we just collaborate right off the head and take it in

whatever direction it goes."

Ice-T will perform his first live show in more than a year Friday night (Aug. 21) at the Key

Club in Los Angeles. The show is the kickoff date on his 25-city tour. "Getting off the

ground is exciting," Ice-T said. "The first show's gonna make it or break it. We want to hit

L.A. hard." He added that fans can expect to hear four or five new songs from The

Seventh Deadly Sin, as well as such classics as "O.G.," "High Rollers" and "I'm Your

Pusher."

Among the 13 completed tracks on the upcoming album are the title track and the Kool

Keith collaboration "Check Your Game," as well as songs called "Get Yo' Money Ma' "

and "Grab Your Bitch." Ice-T said much of the subject matter is "fun" and less

message-based than his previous albums, with the exception of the song "Valuable

Game," on which he reflects on the positive effect hip-hop has had on street life.

"I'm speaking about how hip-hop is the game that's left for the kids in the streets, outside

of the drug game, and a lot of the violence that was going on with Biggie and Tupac has

to stop because [hip-hop's] an opportunity for us to get a step up in life," he said, referring

to the consecutive murders of rappers Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. "We can't

destroy hip-hop with this foolishness. We've got to keep it going, keep the peace, 'cause

it's saved a lot of people's lives."

Ice-T, who was orphaned as a child, first made his mark in the rap world in the mid-'80s

when he helped father gangsta rap by setting his songs in the midst of Los Angeles

street life. His 1987 full-length debut, Rhyme Pays, which included such classics

as "6 'n the Mornin' " and "Squeeze the Trigger," is recognized as the first real gangsta

album and was the first album to receive an explicit-lyrics sticker. His popularity rose with

a series of albums that helped to define gangsta rap, including 1988's Power and

1991's O.G. Original Gangster.

"An Ice-T album -- you've got to call it as you see it," the rapper said. "I always write from

all different angles -- the hustler lifestyle, the life I'm living ... It's all about perspective.

That's how I've been making records for years, just calling it how I see it at the time,

whatever's going on then. If the cops are going crazy, I write about cops. Right now, cops

ain't my first agenda, so I'm writing about other issues."

From the sounds of it, fans are anxious to hear what Ice-T has in store for them this time

around.

"I can't wait 'til Sept. 21," wrote Ice-T fan Dana Jackson, 24, in an e-mail, referring to the

last date of Ice-T's tour, which will take place in her hometown of Washington, D.C. "It's

been too long, and dammit, I'm ready."

After completing the album, Ice-T plans to take a script he wrote called "Marks" to the big

or small screen. The rapper -- who's no stranger to acting, having starred in such films as

"New Jack City" and "Trespass" as well as his own TV show -- plans to star in the movie

as well as assemble its soundtrack.