Ice-T’s Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say

24th July 2016

Title: Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say

Label: Music on Vinyl

Original name, Tracy Marrow, just doesn’t cut the same ice with the same ice pick so Ice-T it is then.

Ice-T has been a godsend to the entire hip-hop genre because of his intelligence and his articulation. He acts as a sometimes devastating spokesman and educator for an often contentious and, to some, alienating and threatening genre of music.

In terms of education, Ice-T has painted an effective portrait of gangster life and ghetto existence while his comments on broader, social issues have often been enlightening. Some outsiders hail his inclusive nature but the man is no saint and there are just as many critics who point to his sometimes sexist lyrics that can glory in violence. ’Twas ever thus for the complex out there. Besides, no-one wants to write as much about one-dimensional characters. Maybe this is why the mainstream media is so attracted to him.

This third album, released in 1989, is a portent, if ever there was one. It also confused the hell out of most hip-hop fans (who may have only expected the bling, the cars, the girls…) while forcing music critics to scratch chins and open debate instead of pointing yet another accusing finger. The Freedom Of Speech dominates the sleeve of this album and the grooves within. Shut Up, Be Happy is devastatingly cute as an Orwellian political statement and says more in four words than your regular politician could say in four hours. Accompanied by former Dead Kennedys man, Jello Biafra, it jabs at government control. Censorship is paramount as a subject to be highlighted and aired. While not a polemic (The Hunted Child takes a distinct Gangsta Rap slant as a themed tangent), this album leaves you in no doubt that Ice-T his pointing his finger right back at the authorities. My god, do we need a young vibrant stream of Ice-Ts in the current climate.

Like any drama, there’s light, um, relief in there too. The Girl Tried to Kill Me is a scream! Well, Ice-T kinda did, “Yo, my pants were on, but so what?/She ripped off my shirt and tied my monkey-ass up/Faster than I could say, ‘No’/It was like a rodeo, I was with a sex nut.” It gets scarier from there on in for our hero but the sense of schadenfreude is strong because this ditty is laugh-out-loud funny.

Technically, the album is refreshingly lacking in compression, cut at a low volume to allow your hi-fi to dig out detail from the complex soundstage at high volumes. I wonder if the original master was digital in form because dynamically, it is slightly stilted but, even so, this production is eminently listenable.