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Ice-T devotes movie to the art, history of hip hop

By Jihad Hassan Muhammad | Last updated: Jul 18, 2012 - 9:38:21 AM

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‘Something from Nothing’

Ice T and Chuck D, of the legendary group Public Enemy.
(FinalCall.com) - Many have heard the name hip hop, but most are familiar with rap music, its most popular variant heard on radio stations, and seen on television channels around the world.

The true culture of hip hop, which tells the story of the oppressed in ghettos everywhere, uplifts and reflects the movement of the oppressed, while often keeping a celebratory spirit. These are the roots of hip hop, but are very rarely seen in 2012.

But hip hop legend, actor, and now director Ice T intends to educate those unfamiliar with the culture of hip hop in his new film, “Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap.”

“A lot of kids don’t even know the roots of hip hop, how it started. I thought, do people really know where this comes from; do they really appreciate it as a culture? So I called all my friends in hip hop, and said I want to make a movie, but not talk about the money, cars, and material I want to talk about the culture, and about the art form, how you write rhymes,” said Ice T.

Ice T and Snoop Dogg.
Rhymes performed by the emcee, or rapper, are the most important part of hip hop because rhymes tell stories the world would likely never have heard.

Chuck D of the famed group Public Enemy, who appears in the movie, once referred to hip hop as the “Black CNN” because mainstream media would not tell the Black community’s story like hip hop would.

In addition to Chuck D, Ice brought together some of hip hop’s biggest names—Dr. Dre, Kanye West, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and Nas, just a few of the over 50 artists in his film.

Ice T points to himself when talking about a generation gap now present in hip hop. This gap leaves most of the youth who listen to the music uneducated about where it began.

“I’ve been on ‘Law and Order’ now for about 13 years. So you take a kid that’s 18 and ask them about Ice T, I went on ‘Law and Order’ when they were five so they don’t really have a reference point, and it’s not their fault,” the hip hop legend said.

Ice T faults what he calls a “pop vortex” that has taken hip hop away from its more real and conscious origins.

“There’s so many rappers and, in order to be heard, you’ve got to do radio, and radio doesn’t want you to really talk about nothing. They have diluted everything down to party records, crazy records, the cats that really have something to say, there is no platform for them to make these statements it has to get back conscious eventually. I remember when Kanye West said, ‘President Bush doesn’t care about Black people.’ People were overwhelmed. I was like they must have never heard a Public Enemy album,” said Ice T.

Ice T wants newcomers to hip hop to know their voices and rhymes should be used for a purpose, not just fun and games typical of most current rap music.

Something from nothing, which is part of the film’s title, is an important theme for Ice T personally and in regard to hip hop’s evolution. Originally from Newark, N.J., he moved to Los Angeles at an early age where he was engaged in street life later chronicled in his rhymes, rhymes that helped him to birth West Coast hip hop, or what would later be called “gangsta rap.”

“I was a kid from the streets who was homeless, and went through all the things we go through, the gangbanging, the drug dealing everything, but as opportunities came I took them; I taught myself how to rap, then the acting, now directing. I’m not special, I made the decision early on that I was not going to prison, hip hop saved my life,” he said.

Ice T and Dr. Dre, legendary music producer.

Hip hop’s evolution was much like his: The art form started in the streets of the South Bronx in the early 1970s and is now a global culture that has helped to change race relations. Ice T says hip hop helped put Barack Obama in office.

“If it were not for White kids hearing hip hop over the past 20 years, and it breaking down a lot of the racial barriers, I don’t think we would have had a President Obama. It got them in touch with who we are and our struggles,” he says.

The struggles hip hop captured and shared, alongside growing popularity, made it attractive for those outside of the Black community. Like a young White youth from Detroit named Marshall Mathers, who became hip hop star Eminem. Ice T knew he had to get Eminem in the movie as the rapper is called one of hip hop’s most talented lyricists and a performer whose career has grown. Eminem was the hardest to get in the movie since their schedules conflicted, Ice T recalls. Eminem rarely does interviews but was excited to do the film for Ice T, whose music he listened to growing up.

In its true form, hip hop has the ability to demand movement to curbing the violence found in inner city neighborhoods, Ice T notes, “Zulu Nation’s motto was ‘You come in peace or you leave in pieces.’ You got to use some of the same energy to reverse the violence, and hip hop has that, but right now for the most part it’s not really doing it since it has lost consciousness.”

Ice T offered a current example of using hip hop to stop violence in the Dynasty Hip-Hop Inc. Mentoring Program. “They know what they are doing, trust me, it’s a good look,” he says, referring to the program’s ability to help at- risk youth. Dynasty is a program founded by members of the Nation of Islam.

Ice T and Eminem.

“Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap” aims to bridge the gaps in hip hop by giving a thorough knowledge of the art form, the culture, and how that culture has helped to uplift the lives of the downtrodden masses in America and throughout the world. It shows how those from the worst living conditions, armed with a skill called rapping, could avoid the traps of prison, and death, and become world renowned for their lyrical skills.

“The Art of Rap” gives the viewer hip hop uncut, and how truth of a peoples’ condition can be given to the world. Ice T also elaborated on how The Final Call, like hip hop delivers the truth, “The Final Call newspaper there’s nothing better than this paper, read it, they got the truth,” he said.

Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap is in theaters now, and is rated R.