Ice-T ~ Greatest Hits: The Evidence (2000)

Posted on August 25, 2012

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This is classic gangsta material, from one of the best to ever do it. In gangsta rap’s three decades of existence, perhaps no rapper has given the genre more dimension than Ice-T, the Los Angeles kingpin that virtually started it in the early 1980’s. With his blend of hustler wisdom and social awareness, Iceberg offered a depth and authenticity few gangsta emcees could match. In his prime, Ice-T challenged the authorities, championed free speech rights, and dropped dope albums consistently. Like a true maverick, Ice chose not to wait for someone else to honor his legacy. On his own label Coroner Records, Iceberg issued Greatest Hits: The Evidence, a 16-shot clip of his most well-known songs; and did an excellent job in its assemblage.

Most of the 16 cuts found on The Evidence come from Ice-T’s first six albums; running from his 1987 debut Rhyme Pays through 1996’s Ice-T VI: Return of the Real. Iceberg specialized in gangster stories; and The Evidence has some of the hardest “G” hits in his catalog. The disc begins with “6 In The Morning”, one of Ice’s first singles from ’86; and producer Afrika Islam‘s bass-heavy drums form a nice tandem with Ice’s tales of money and murder. “High Rollers”, from Iceberg’s 1988 album Power, is a throwback to a different time, with the murky thump of Edwin Starr’s blaxploitation classic “Easin’ In” supporting Ice’s verses, and Ice giving us an up-close look at hustlers and scramblers, and the mindset that makes them do what they do. Colors, the 1988 film centered on L.A. gang culture, is the source of “Colors”, a sinister street crawler with Ice playing an O.G. completely immersed in gang life, and his DJ Evil-E scratching non-stop on each bridge. On the chilling “Peel Their Caps Back”, from 1989’s The Iceberg (Freedom of Speech) album, Ice-T takes his storytelling to another level; playing a vengeful gangster seeking payback for a murdered comrade, and outlining a grisly drive-by slaughter. “New Jack Hustler”, a high-octane burner from ’91, was on both the soundtrack to the film New Jack City – which Ice starred in – and Ice’s 1991 album O.G. Original Gangster, and this cut moves with fury; casting Ice as a druglord similar to New Jack City’s Nino Brown; on a path of destruction for a shot at wealth. And Ice walks the mainline on “The Tower”, an unsettling cut off O.G. Original Gangster, with Ice as a convict trying to survive behind bars, and vividly detailing the horrors of prison life.

Besides his storytelling, Ice-T’s savvy, charisma and lyrical versatility also made him legendary; and several cuts on The Evidence show these traits. “I’m Your Pusher” (from Power) is a prime example, with Iceberg using the melody and refrain from Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” to play a dope pusher, who moves music instead of drugs. On “You Played Yourself” (from The Iceberg), Ice chastises people done in by their own poor judgment, over a sweet loop of James Brown’s “The Boss”. “O.G. Original Gangster” finds Ice examining the evolution of his style of rhyme, while producer DJ Aladdin causes tremors with his volcanic track, built on samples from Melvin Bliss (“Synthetic Substitution”) and James Brown (“Funky Drummer”). 1988’s “Power” is a real Hip Hop fan’s dream; featuring Ice flying at light speed over merged James Brown and Jimmy Castor loops, and jumping from forceful bragging to thoughts on the exercise of authority, and mixing it all together effortlessly. “I Ain’t New To This”, from 1993’s Home Invasion album, is truly exquisite; complete with a rumbling, Gang Starr-style jazz track (from DJ Aladdin), nimble scratches from Evil-E, and liquid battle verses from Ice-T, who shows he can go word-for-word, line-for-line with any emcee on the planet. “I Must Stand”, taken from Ice-T VI: Return of the Real, was inspired by Ice’s participation in 1995’s Million Man March; and this cut reflects on Ice’s growth as a Black man: from hustling and larceny, to legit life and congregation with other forward-thinking brothers. “Squeeze The Trigger” bounces as hard as it did back in ’87; and it addresses the urban decay that shaped Ice-T’s life and career, and the persecution he received for speaking the truth. And The Evidence ends with “Money, Power, Women”; a new track laced with soundbites from the film Scarface, and sage counsel from Ice-T, who advises rookies on how to get their game tight, and improve their odds with females.

Greatest Hits: The Evidence is a superb tribute to one of rap’s most influential artists. It’s fitting that Ice-T assembled this album himself, as he knows his catalog better than anyone. Iceberg’s involvement offers another fringe benefit; in the self-penned liner notes, where he breaks down each song on the disc, and explains the thoughts and emotions behind each composition. Ice-T has one of rap’s most impressive catalogs, and this release shows just how timeless and essential his music is.

To listen to Greatest Hits: The Evidence, click here.

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