Ice-T has been in the public eye for 30 years, both controversially as a rapper with his 1992 song "Cop Killer" and as a mainstream actor on NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and on the reality show "Ice Loves Coco."
And in all that time, he notes, "No one ever asked me how I did it" -- meaning rapping.
That inspired him to make "Something For Nothing: The Art of Rap," a documentary that debuts in theaters this weekend in which Ice-T speaks to more than 50 of his fellow MCs -- including icons such as Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Run-DMC, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and Detroiters Eminem and Royce da 5'9" -- about the actual crafts of rapping, rhyming, composing and sound generation.
"People would always be more concerned with the beefs, the cars, the girls, the celebrity side of it, but not how it's done," says Ice-T, 54, who was born Tracy Marrow in New Jersey and worked on "Something For Nothing" for the better part of two years. "To me that meant people thought you just s*** it out. There's no creative process. There's nothing to it.
"But some of these cats, it's like very intricate wordplay, and they have their own ways to do it. I tried to get people who spoke on all the different styles of rap -- the underground battle rappers or the conscious rappers. There's lots of different styles."
Ice-T had a prepared list of 15 questions for each of his subjects, which led to lengthy, in-depth interviews. Among the hardest to nail down, he says, was Eminem, who "agreed out of the gate" to be part of it but was difficult to schedule "because I wanted to get him in Detroit and the man keeps moving. We actually came to Detroit because I thought it was important to talk to him where he lives and works. It finally happened, but it was...difficult."
A 23-song soundtrack for "Something From Nothing," which was shown at this year's Sundance Film Festival, came out digitally this week, and Ice-T says the film is "just the first embodiment of 'The Art of Rap.' We've got the DVD. We have a television show. We have so much material that we want to get out there...
"But I don't want to promote our secondary plans and take away from the film. I want people to see it on the big screen, hear it with the big speakers and take that ride, and then we'll hit 'em with the rest of it."
"Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap" debuts Friday, June 15, at several area theaters. For a full list and other information, visit www.theartofrap.com.
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