I was a guest star on Law & Order SVU in an episode called Branded. It was a pretty gruesome episode. I was so excited to finally be on such an iconic TV show, but honestly, more excited to be in a scene with Ice T.
See, I was a kid who was raised in the Bay Area during the birth of hip hop. And Ice T is a pioneer. He’s an Original Gangsta. I was scared of him as a kid because of the truth he was spilling out into the airwaves. I didn’t understand it fully as a white and privileged kid, but I listened. I respected him and all of the artists coming up in rap music. It was poetry and art.
And now I’m about to be on set with this artist from my youth.
So, the day comes on set and I hear that voice from across the way. That voice is iconic. Ice T was in the hallway. We were in NYC filming on location in an actually apartment building and it was time to rehearse and shoot the scene. On the outside I was cool, but on the inside I was all butterflies. My character was the “shocked and crying wife” of one of the victims, (my on set husband, actor Michael Gladis). We all did the scene, and the time came when Ice T just had to say a line to me and gently guide me by my arm off camera.
Nothing huge but I just was so giddy! So strange I had such a reaction to this? But I was just super pumped to be in the same scene with him! We filmed part of the scene, then cast and crew went to lunch.
Finally at lunch, Michael Gladis, who was playing my husband, asked me if I was nervous around Ice T? I admitted yes, I totally was. And he said, he was just as excited as I was! We began to talk at lunch and reminisce about Ice T, NWA, other rappers of that time and that era.
Then I made a joke to Michael that I know the lyrics to COLORS, one of Ice T’s hit songs. He dared me to rap a little to him, so of course I did. Michael laughed and insisted I rap to Ice T next time the opportunity arose. I said, No no no, it’s too embarrassing and I don’t want to make a spectacle of myself.
But the seed had been planted, shooting had just begun, and the day was long.
So we break from lunch and head back to the apartment building to continue filming the scene. There is an elevator going up to set and Michael and I get on, then a hand reaches out to hold the elevator and we see.....it’s Ice T.
Holy shitballs. It’s Me, Michael and Ice T all on an elevator alone.
Ice looks at us briefly and says “Hey” then is silent. Michael makes eye contact with me and hints at his dare for me to rap. I smile and begin to blush. Then something in me decides as we are ascending the floors to just say, Fuck it! I’m gonna rap to Ice T!
“Excuse me Ice?”
I used to rap one of your songs as a kid.
Oh yeah? You did? (more emphasis on the word YOU)
He said, “Which one?”
Then, with my head down, I just began....
“I am a nightmare walkin’, psychopath talkin’
king of my jungle just a gangster stalkin’
Livin life like a firecracker, quick is my fuse
Vendettas of death back the colors I choose
Red or Blue Cuz or Blood it’s just don’t matter
Sucka dive for your life when my shotgun scatters
The gangs of LA will never die - just multiply
I never truly looked up at Michael or Ice T’s face until the very end. When I was done, I was petrified. Did I insult him? Is this appropriate? I just froze.
Then suddenly Ice T just busted out clapping and laughing and with a big smile on his face said
“I ain’t never heard no white chick rap my music to me! Damn girl!”
He was happy. I was happy he didn’t get mad. Ha ha! Michael’s jaw was hanging wide open.
I can’t believe I fricken rapped to Ice T!!
The next thing that happened was quite possibly the biggest compliment to me. Ice sat down with me while we waited for the set to be ready and talked to me about life as a rapper. And how funny he thinks it is that kids now think of him as an actor. How most of his friends from back then are either in jail or dead. How the song Colors and Cop Killer were revolutionary. He talked to me for a long time, and I felt so privileged to be let into his life for that moment in time.
So, my advice? If you have a chance...take it. You never know what can come of it. Go with your gut and live for the moment. I’m so glad I did.
Now maybe, LL Cool J? I know all of “Mama Said Knock You Out”. My friend Barrett Foa could make this happen.