Ice-T will not read this interview.
How do I know? Because that’s what the 54-year-old rapper-turned-actor told me when we had lunch at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse in River North June 4. Ice — who is promoting his star-studded rap documentary “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,” in theaters Friday — said there’s no point in reading his interviews or concert reviews because he was there and knows what he said and did.
For those who weren’t sitting at the table with us in a private corner of the bar and didn’t see Ice spill potato chip crumbs on his lap and interviewer without a care in the world, here’s what he had to say.
[The following is an edited version of a longer conversation]
Ice-T: They got a hot dog in here?
Luis: No. That’s the one thing they don’t have.
Ice-T: They got something against hot dogs? How the (expletive) did I pick the one thing they don’t have? All right, (forget) it. I think I’ll maybe try the pulled pork.
Luis: When I told people I was interviewing you, they asked if your wife Coco was coming. Do you get that a lot?
Ice-T: Absolutely. We’re like Batman and Robin.
[The waitress takes our order]
Ice-T: You have lemonade? All right, I’d like lemonade. We’re ready to order too. I’m going to try the pulled pork sandwich with onion rings. … This is one of the rare occasions Coco is not with me. She, for the past 10 years, has been like my executive assistant. Her job is to stand right by me and keep me organized like some Sharon Osbourne stuff. Ozzy is great, but would he have a mansion if it wasn’t for Sharon? Somebody is holding this together. So Coco came in, and she goes to the “Law & Order (Special Victims Unit)” set with me, she got her own business that she’s running and she runs mine.
Luis: There are plenty of rappers with wives. Why did yours get so famous?
Ice T: I’ve always been a person that, if I’m with a woman, she’s in the picture. Even my son’s mom, Darlene, she was on my early (album) covers. I just feel like that’s a part of you. A lot of people play single to work some angle. I’m always about keeping it real. If that’s how I’m living, that’s how I’m living. Coco became popular because, of course she’s a bikini model and she’s beautiful, but she hit the urban market first, like all the magazines. She took time and got that fan base. They really respected her. At first, they were questioning her like “Who is this blond Ice is running around with?” Five years in, “You know what? She’s holding my man down.” And they gave her the thumbs up.
Luis: I saw your movie this morning. How difficult is it to schedule interviews with rappers (Eminem, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube) and get them to show up on time?
[Ice-T was a half hour late to lunch. But in his defense, he was coming from Indiana.]
Ice-T: It was not only difficult for them, it was difficult for me because I’m on “Law & Order.” I’m shooting this movie simultaneously. I callDr. Dre and he says “Come get me at 3.” You get there with a camera crew and somebody there is like “Dre is not going to be back ‘til 6.” You get there at 6 and it’s “What about tomorrow at 9 am? Dre is with his son.” Everybody is doing you a favor when you’re doing a documentary. You can’t pressure them into it.
Luis: Was it easy finding rappers willing to participate?
Ice-T: Absolutely. Everyone in the movie is my friend. All I did was crack open my address book on my laptop and make calls. I was like “Yo, I’m about to do a movie. I’m not going to ask about the money, cars, girls, jewelry or beefs. I want to know about the craft. Can I get an interview?” “C’mon, Ice, you serious? Yeah. Yeah. No one asks me those questions. I think that’s going to be dope.”
[The waitress brings out the food and says she forgot they no longer serve onion rings]
Ice-T: Lord have mercy. I can’t eat here. No hot dogs or onion rings? This is going in the newspaper.
Luis: Do you remember Harry Caray?
Luis: So you’re not a baseball fan?
Ice-T: I am, but I don’t remember Harry Caray. But he got a big head.
Luis: Did you have a hard time getting some rappers to open up on camera?
Ice-T: Some would tell stories and might hold back a little. I’d be like “C’mon, man.” They’d be like “Oh, you want the real?” Another thing about me dealing with the old school rappers, you see a lot of humility. When you’re new, nothing is wrong. Everything is tight. Because you’re trying to hype the world into believing in you. You can’t talk about mistakes. Once you’ve kind of done it and are doing your victory lap, you say “Man, I almost lost over there when this happened” and “Oooh, I thought it was over here.” That’s the funny stuff to hear about. That’s what makes other people inspired, like “Man, this wasn’t easy for them.” Like Eminem says, when you hit the wall, it’s how fast you come back.
Luis: Have you seen Fred Armisen’s impersonation of you on “Saturday Night Live”?
Ice-T: I’ve never seen it. I heard about it. I’m glad they think I’m important enough that they would be able to do an impersonation of me and that the audience would know who I am. You can’t do an impersonation of somebody nobody knows. ... They’re comedians, so it’s all good with me.
Luis: What does it say about you that you didn’t rush to your computer to see it?
Ice-T: I don’t know why I would. I’m doing this interview — I’ll never read it. I’ll be in another city. You can’t just follow yourself like that. I don’t need to read this. I know what I said. I lived it. Other people need to read it because they’re not here. Like when somebody gives a review of my concert, I’m like “I know this (expletive) was hot, so I don’t give a (expletive) what they said. I saw the people jumping off in the front row.” But with the movie, I need to know people’s response because I’m not there. ... We haven’t gotten one bad review. The only thing people say is they didn’t see their favorite rapper. My reply is “Well, don’t worry about that. Your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper is in the movie.”
Luis: Do you feel your reputation has changed because of your “Ice Loves Coco” reality show?
Ice-T: Absolutely. C’mon, they thought I was a serial killer. People think I’ll kill you if you make a joke. I compare it to Clint Eastwood. I’ve only seen Clint Eastwood in movies. You think if you make a joke to Eastwood, he might shoot you. But that’s his film persona. The other side of it is people go, “Oh, so everything else was an act.” The best way I explain it to them is “You not my enemy. I’m a nice guy if there’s no reason for me to be arrogant or an (expletive). If there was a problem, then you’d see the other Ice-T.”
Luis: I remember you playing a really evil guy on “New York Undercover.” I hated you.
Ice-T: Danny-Up. Smacking little kids like “BOW!” That’s how I ended up on “Law & Order.” I’ve done five shows with Dick Wolf. God bless him. He paid for a lot of (stuff).
Luis: He’s filming a show in Chicago right now. It’s a firefighter show.
Ice-T: “Chicago Fire.” I met with the producer of “Chicago Fire” — we went out to dinner. I leaned over like this and said, “If anything happens to ‘SVU,’ I’m a fire captain.” Hey, man, I’m like a monkey. You don’t let go of one branch until you get a hold of the other.
Luis: Those are all my questions. I’ll let you eat up.
Ice-T: I’m done.
Luis: How was your food?
Luis: But you wanted a hot dog.
Ice-T: It’s nothing. You can’t get what you want all the time in life.