Thanks to the 2 Live Crew’s Nasty As I Want To Be album and all the controversy that surrounded it, hip-hop became Tipper Gore and her pet project PMRC’s, main subject of affection in the late eighties. The PMRC would eventually broaden its scope taking aim at more hip-hip artists with material they deemed offensive, further stirring the pot in the debate between censorship and freedom of speech. The PMRC applied pressure to the record industry, which led to the RIAA forcing record companies to place parental advisory stickers on the packaging, preventing retailers from selling these stickered albums to minors, and some stores (*cough* Wal-Mart) deciding not to sell them at all. While I don’t consider placing an advisory sticker on an album to inform a concerned parent that the material inside may contain inappropriate content for their kid (isn’t that the same concept as moving ratings?) as a violation of the 1st Amendment, I do believe rappers had a legitimate beef when local law enforcement begin enforcing censorship at rapper’s live shows.
Ice-T was one of many rappers effected by locally imposed censorship. Before a show in Columbus, GA, Tracy was warned he would be arrested if he used profanity during his show. This episode and all the controversy would lead to Ice-T’ titling his third release (at least a portion of it) The Iceberg/Freedom Of Speech… Just Watch What You Say (which is way to long of a title, so from here on out I’ll refer to it simply as The Iceberg). The Iceberg would go on to receive decent reviews from critics and be the third consecutive Ice-T release to reach gold status or above (which is really impressive when you consider the limited airplay Tracy got back in the day).
Unlike his first two albums, there’s no Darlene Ortiz gracing the cover art with her beauty, bikini, and curves. Yep, things have already gotten off to a bad start.
Shut Up, Be Happy – Over a dark guitar sample a voice interrupts your normally scheduled program to inform the American public that all their constitutional rights have been revoked and the country is now under Marshall law. The voice then gives a list of can and cannots (including only being able to take drugs administered by your supervisor? that was kind of weird and random to hear). At least it does set the tone for the albums over all concept.
The Iceberg – This is the only song on the album not produced by Afrika Islam. Johnny Rivers gets credit for this James Brown sampled instrumental, which is barely decent. What starts out sounding like a song for Ice-T to reintroduce himself and, break the ice (rimshot), turns into Tracy sharing random tales about his crew’s sexapades, which kind of sounds gay. This was a hot mess.
Lethal Weapon – I’m not sure if I like Afrika Islam’s instrumental or not, as the synthesizer sample brings a nice dark feel to the track but also borders on cheesy. Though I’m torn on the instrumental, I’m positive that Ice-T sounds better on slower mid-tempo beats as the faster paced joints, like this one, expose his limited flow and breath control issues. He does makes some solid points on this one, so I can’t completely write this one off.
You Played Yourself – Islam hooks up James Brown’s horn heavy “The Boss” for this mid-tempo groove. Tracy sounds like the wise old owl, sitting in the treetops watching different scenarios unfold as the subjects play the fool, sharing their errors with the listener so you don’t walk their path. Like I said in the previous song, Ice-T is at his best when he lays in the cut on a mid-tempo grooves like this. This was and still is dope.
Peel Their Caps Back – Islam provides a bangin’ dark instrumental for Tracy to paint his murder portrait on . Tracy and crew are seeking revenge for the murder of one of their crew members, but retaliation ultimately leads to both sides loosing. In true Ice-T fashion he leaves an underlying message that will leave you with a lot to chew on. Tracy dates the song with mention of dubbing movies off his VCR. This is easily one of Ice-T best works. Brilliant.
The Girl Tried To Kill Me – Over a rock-tinged guitar Tracy shares a tale about a chick he meets at a club and after going home with her, to his surprise, discovers she’s a dominatrix. I know, on first thought it sounds like fun, but this chick is wicked. She back flips onto his dick! I don’t care if she looked like Halle Berry with Kim Kardashian’s body, that’s some painful stuff. Tracy and the gymnast are interrupted by an unexpected guest, who happens to be her 6’10 husband, making that two people seeking to take his life. Tracy screams each line of the song as if he’s battling the guitar sample. Even though Tracy’s delivery is poorly executed, his animation and hilarious storyline, ultimately make this song work.
Black ‘N’ Decker – This was a dumb and completely useless skit.
Hit The Deck – For the first time on IceBerg Tracy abandons a topic and just spits random freestyle rhymes. Islam’s instrumental work is a hot mess, so it was hilarious to hear Ice-T describe the beat as treacherous. I was think of another word starting with “t”. Terrible.
This One’s For Me – The title doesn’t really fit the song, as Tracy’s in “dis mode” taking on a black radio station that wouldn’t play his music, the government (for allowing drugs in the hood and then arresting the ghetto dwellers who sell it), and fake people in general. He even dedicates an entire verse discussing the internal feuding that when on within Public Enemy, calling out PE’s fair-weather friends, and proclaiming himself a dedicated supporter of both Chuck and Professor Griff, taking neither side. Boy we could all use a friend like Tracy in our corner. Islam’s track, samples from yet another James Brown song, but the results are only decent. Tracy’s sleepy delivery only makes matters worse.
The Hunted Child – This first person narrative, has Tracy in the role of a running 17 teen-year old wanted for murder, even backtracking the path leading up to the murder. I could careless for Islam’s instrumental, and I think I’ve clearly expressed how I feel about Tracy rapping over these faster paced beats. This is no exception. On a positive note, I’ve always appreciated Tracy’s attention to detail as this storyline clearly displays. It was just poorly executed.
What Ya Wanna Do? – This posse cut runs on for nearly 9 minutes (which is nearly 9 minutes longer than it should be) as each member of the Rhyme Syndicate gets two verses. The only stand out on this song is Everlast, who turns in two solid verses. Islam’s track is forgettable, and there is really no reason to listen to this more than once. Tracy mentions at the end of the song that two members of the syndicate, Kid Jazz and Rangol, for whatever reason, couldn’t make it to the session for this song. Imagine how much longer this torture would have gone on if they did show up. Thanks, guys!
Freedom Of Speech – The second of two title songs finds Tracy “articulately” defending and questioning, the 1st Amendment. He takes a few shots at Tipper Gore, PMRC, Columbus, GA (which apparently threatened to arrest him if he dropped the f-bomb at a concert: reliving that got Tracy so upset he completely abandons his flow for an angry rant), but still manages to make a few good points. This song suffers from Islam’s generic instrumental work and Tracy’s sloppy execution.
My Word Is Bond – Over a simple Islam drum beat Tracy and crew take turns telling tall ridonkulous tall tales. This reminded me of an update version of L.L’s “That’s A Lie”. And just like “That A Lie” this sucks as well. Terrible way to end the album, Tracy.
Iceberg is like that girl in junior high that you thought was extremely hot and had a huge crush on, then years later when you stumble across her picture in your old yearbook, you’re hit with an epiphany: she wasn’t all that. There are 3 really good songs (“You Played Yourself”, “Peel Their Caps Back”, and “The Girl Tried To Kill Me”) and a few other decent joints, but overall The Iceberg suffers from too many lackluster beats, and too many up-tempo tracks exposing Tracy’s weaknesses. At least the cd jacket doubles as a two-sided poster collage full of hip-hop legends for you to pick out, providing a visual distraction to keep your ears from realizing they just witnessed a very underwhelming hip-hop listening experience.