Ice-T stays true blue

Seven years too late, all the hip-hop acts that you wanted to see when you were 13 have passed through Calgary: Public Enemy, Naughty by Nature, Run dmc, Tone Loc & Young mc, and now–finally–the original, original gansta, Tracy Marrow aka Ice-T.

The old school hip-hop acts try to keep themselves going face an unusual situation here in Calgary. Most fans have a lot of affection for the old rappers, but they want them to stay old. When Naughty by Nature came through, people weren’t interested in hearing much more than "Hip-hop hooray."

Occasionally, as in the case of Public Enemy’s show, the group can reinvigorate their fan base. In other cases, like Young mc, you could hear the final nail being driven into the coffin.

Ice-T has a history longer than most people care to remember. He invented gangsta rap, back in 1986, the same years the Beastie Boys debuted, but by the time 1993 had rolled around, he was spending more time in movies good (New Jack City), bad (Johnny Mnemonic), and ugly (Tank Girl). He also started one of the first rap/metal bands, Bodycount, and was responsible for all the hoopla surrounding the eventually banned track "Cop Killer."

Recently, the amount of albums produced have slowed while his roles in straight-to-video films have increased. History had little reason to suspect Ice-T’s show would be much more than a nostalgia session.

The night started off ugly and boring. For four-and-a-half hours, folks tried to content themselves with drinks, and the heroic efforts of local artists Bubble B and Nupanell’a to halt the mounting waves of sleep.

But, by 11:30 p.m., with the force of a drunken rhinoceros, Ice-T hit the stage, like a ball of exploding energy.

Thankfully, the shameless self-promotion that accompanies most artists with a new album was kept to a minimum, with only a few discrete mentions, and few song performances. Lots of acts tend to hit the stage, play their songs exactly as heard on the album, and leave. Hip-hop shows at least make an effort to involve audiences, but Ice-T brought himself a show to town.

In addition to intense performances of the songs, Ice-T went off on a variety of topics, including his solution to racism ("I’m going to leave as many little black babies up in here as I can"), his opinions of females in the audience ("It takes a special kind of lady to hit an Ice-T show, ’cause this is some male shit right here") and a spontaneous local mc battle right in the middle of the concert. Ice asked five folks who "think they can rhyme" to hit the stage, and gave them all a shot at the mic. Those who impressed were allowed to stay, those who weren’t were told to "get the fuck off my stage."

Ice-T has not spent the last five years wasting time; He has learned exactly how to play the Original Gangsta image for all it’s worth, regardless of current connections with reality. But most of all, one gets the sense Ice-T had as good a time as anyone else, and his energy couldn’t help but transfer over to the audience.