Ice-T – Home Invasion (March 23, 1993)

By 1993, Ice-T had 5 albums under his belt (four solo albums and one with his experimental rock band, Body Count, which I’m not touching with a ten foot pole on this blog) and 5 gold or better selling albums, which is impressive in any genre of music. Along with a successful run in the music industry, Ice-T also begin his career in Hollywood, making his impressive acting debut (I’m not counting his cameos in those corny Breakin’ movies from the early eighties) as police detective Scotty “I want to shoot you so bad my dick’s gettin’ hard” Appleton in Mario Van Peebles hood classic New Jack City. This would lead to a string of more starring roles in movies and television, including his current starring role as Odafin Tutuola in Law In Order: Special Victims Unit. It’s kind of ironic that the man behind “Cop Killer” has made a living acting like a cop since the nineties. But I digress.

Hollywood would not stop Ice-T from continuing with his first love. He would return in 1993 with his fifth solo release, Home Invasion. The album was originally supposed to be released on Sire/Warner Brothers, but after the controversy and heat they received for Body Count’s 1992 single “Cop Killer”, the powers that be demanded that Ice-T change the “controversial” cover art for Home Invasion (which depicts a white male teen with headphones on listening to hip-hop, with images of violence, sex and murder (and Ice-T) surrounding him (he also has some Donald Goines novels and Malcolm X books to go with his diet of Ice Cube and Public Enemy)). Ice-T wanted to stay true to his art and kept the original cover, which led to him parting ways with his long time label home and releasing Home Invasion on his newly found Rhyme Syndicate Records distributed through Priority Records.

With all the delays and label switching, many of the songs from the original cut of Home Invasion were altered or completely removed from the final product. Home Invasionwould receive mixed reviews from the critics, but that wouldn’t stop Ice for earning his sixth gold plaque.

But you already know what it is. I’m not concerned with quantities, I demand quality.

WarningHome Invasion opens with this short interlude that has Ice-T giving a list of dirty and derogatory words you can expect to hear on the album. Then he informs the listener that “this is not a pop album”, so leave now if that is what you’re looking for, before finally ending it by telling every one to “suck my muthafuckin dick”. Awe, what a gentleman.

It’s On – Ice-T takes on The Source (who apparently dissed him, Ice Cube and Chuck D? I must have missed that issue), fair weather fans, cops, labels and wack emcees.  The DJ Aladdin/SLJ instrumental is solid and Ice-T sounds cool, but the hook is trash.

Ice M.F. T – I’ve mentioned this on past Ice-T album reviews, but I’ll say it again: Ice has decent lyrics (most of the time) but his flow and delivery get sloppy quite often. That is very evident on this song (he actually reminds me of Willie D on this one), as he raps with a chip on his shoulder. The hook (which is simply Ice repeatedly saying “Ice, Ice muthafuckin T”) is corny, and the DJ Aladdin/SLJ concocted backdrop is pretty generic.

Home Invasion – Over a mediocre Aladdin/SLJ instrumental, Ice uses this title track to invade white kids heads and fill their brains “with hard drums, big guns, bitches, hoes and death”(see the album cover artwork). Some of Ice’s bars are so sloppy on this one it’s almost laughable. This was not good.

G Style – DJ L.P hooks up a decent backdrop for our host to brag and boast as he puts his gangster style on display. Not one of my favorite Ice-T records, but it’s decent.

Addicted To Danger – Aladdin and SLJ create a dark instrumental (which is suitable for midnight marauding) that Ice-T uses to paint a tale of a street hustler whose hustle catches up with him by the end of the song. Ice sounds like he just woke up as he literally talks his way through his rhymes in a sleepy monotone vocal. I love the backdrop, but Ice’s delivery kills the good vibes.

Question And Answer – This is a brief interlude that Ice uses to dis rappers who started off hard-core only to switch to making intentionally pop records when their hard records didn’t hit any more. Ice hi-lariously, makes it clear that he’s not dissing rappers who started out pop, which is pretty much his way of giving his boy Hammer a pass, who he gave a shout out to on O.G. Original Gangster.

Watch The Ice Break – Aladdin (and SLJ) throw our host “some old fly smooth shit” to talk his shit over. Ice-T has struggled on most of the album thus far, but he actually sounds pretty tight over this brilliant backdrop.

Race War – Over a frantic Aladdin/SLJ backdrop, Ice-T warns of a looming race war if America doesn’t straighten some of its issues out. The sloppiness of Ice-T’s flow reaches new heights on this one. Not a fan.

That’s How I’m Livin’ – In the same sleepy monotone talking style he used on “Addicted To Danger”, Ice-T layouts his bio over a brilliantly bleak Aladdin/SLJ concoction. The instrumental borrows a few different loops from Herbie Hancock’s “Ochoa Knose” (from the Death Wish Soundtrack) that gives it a sinister feel and makes it a bit unnerving to listen to, which I’m sure is what they were aiming for. Unlike “Addicted To Danger”, Ice’s sleepy style actually works well over this dark backdrop.

I Ain’t New Ta This – This was the first, and I believe only single, released from Home Invasion. Over a dope instrumental driven by an infectious bass line, Ice-T sets out to prove he’s a vet in this here rap game. This is definitely one of Ice’s better rhyming contributions to Home Invasion (the dude uses “pugilist” in a rhyme, how often have you heard an emcee use that word? And he gets cool points for showing Gang Starr love on the final verse), and combined with the dope Aladdin/SLJ instrumental, this may be the strongest song on the album.

Pimp Behind The Wheels – Ice-T and his deejay Evil E switch roles, as E grabs the mic and Ice provides the cuts on DJ L.P.’s decent instrumental. Evil E doesn’t sound terrible (spitting his Ice-T penned rhymes), but he shouldn’t quit his day job. I’m just sayin’.

Gotta Lotta Love – Our host dedicates this one to all the gangs who came to a peace treaty after the Rodney King riots. Kudos for the sentiment, but Ice-T’s rhymes are trash, and Donald D’s instrumental is very forgettable.

Hit The Fan – Over yet another dark instrumental (produced by Ice-T and someone named Trekan), Ice reminisces about a mesmerizing chick he met in a club and shares every intimate detail of their encounter. Am I the only one that finds it hilarious that Ice multimillion albums selling T is naïve enough to believe some strange chick he just met at a club when she tells him “I’ve seen you on the movies and T.V., I love your records but I ain’t no groupie”? Once again, Ice’s flow isn’t tight, but this time his lyrics manage to paint a pretty vivid picture, as the backdrop accommodates them well (I love the tribal like drums that come in at the end of the song).

Depths Of Hell – Aladdin and SLJ once again break Ice off with a nice canvas, and this time he uses it to share his rags to riches story. Well, kind of. He takes a few detours, like when he threatens to “fuck up a nigga and drop kick his bitch”, and later boasts how his posse will kill you in the club if you get out of line. Reggae artist Daddy Nitro drops by and provides a chant for the hook that works well with this song. Side note: This song was also included on the Trespass Soundtrack that was released a few months before Home Invasion.

99 Problems – Ice-T invites 2 Live Crew member, Brother Marquis to join him on this duet, as the two take turns counting off all the different types of women they have as a round about way to let you know that getting women is the least of their problems (Jay-Z would later borrow Ice-T’s hook and song title on The Black Album (which coincidentally was going to be the album title for Home Invasion after Ice-T initially agreed to change the album cover due to pressure from the heads at Sire/Warner Bros), which does a lot better job of getting the song’s point across). The hard instrumental is quite the contrast to the duo’s light-hearted content, but this is still a fun record.

Funky Gripsta – Ice introduces his 14-year-old female emcee protégé, Grip to the world, as she gets a solo track on Home Invasion. Grip sounds like a female version of Mr. Funke (from Lord Of The Underground, whom I’ll be discussing further very soon) only less lyrical. Ice-T, Aladdin, Wolf and Grip are given a co-production credit for the instrumental that switches more than a hooker in a ’64 Impala hooked with hydraulics, and ultimately ends sounding a hot mess. At the end of the song Ice-T promises a solo album from Grip, which we’re still waiting on (well, I don’t think anyone is really waiting on it, but you know what I’m getting at…). Legend has it that Grip’s vanity label, Tuff Break, was dropped from A&M Records before and album was ever released. Now that’s a tough break (*rimshot*). Grip, the production, hook and the song title all fall short of the glory of God.

Message To The Soldier – Ice-T goes back to his sleepy speaking style, as he gives advice to all the rappers who want to stand for something in the name of hip-hop. The Aladdin and SLJ backdrop uses portions of the same loop Eric B & Rakim made popular on “Don’t Sweat The Technique”, although not nearly as effective as the latter. And the ill piano loop brought in on the hook sounds like something Premo would use. Ice-T’s verses are pretty useless, but he does drop a few jewels at the end of the song.

Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed – Ice-T ends Home Invasion spitting a short accapella spoken word piece. And with that, we’re done.

I’m not sure if it was all the controversy and changes prior to the album’s release, his budding acting career, or maybe him coming to the realization that he would no longer have the fine ass Darlene Ortiz on his arm. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that Ice-T wasn’t totally focused and committed to Home Invasion. Ice-T has never been a great emcee. His flow is often sloppy and I wouldn’t classify him as tier 1 wordsmith, but he does have hustle, charisma, strong song ideas (usually) and a great knowledge and understanding of hip-hop and its history. On Home Invasion, other than his new found obsession with Ice Cube (he mentions him on at least four different songs), Ice doesn’t really cover any new territory, and his past issues with sloppiness reach new plateaus, and at times is down right embarrassing. DJ Aladdin and SLJ (who provide the bulk of the production) do their best to steady the ship, and even though they hit more often than they miss, the voyage (at just under 74 minutes with 19 tracks) is too long and Ice-T’s shoddy microphone work causes too much damage to keep the vessel from sinking.

-Deedub

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