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Ice-T reveals what's really ''Behind the Music''

The original gangster gives props to Eminem and dismisses the bicoastal rap feud

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Ice Cube
Deverill Weekes/Retna Ltd.

The Iceman cometh back. Before Eminem and DMX, West Coast rapper Ice-T ruled the charts with hits like ”Colors” (’87) and ”Original Gangster” (’91). Both appear on his latest album, ”Greatest Hits: The Evidence,” which hit stores in early August. Not only does the rapper have a new website and his very own VH1 ”Behind the Music” special (airing tonight on VH1; check local listings), his acting career is kicking into overdrive. Next up he stars in the Kevin Costner thriller ”3000 Miles to Graceland,” (due in theaters early next year) and will be playing Det. Odafin Tutuola¬†on ”Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” starting this fall. Clearly, he’s not taking his original gangster status as a license to chill. EW Online talked to the new jack hustler about his latest rap.

How did you feel about getting the ”Behind the Music” treatment?
I had mixed emotions about it after going through it. They come at you and say, ”Yeah, it’s going to be positive,” and this lady walks in your house and does a good one on you. But then you start getting calls from your friends, and they’re saying ‘This chick just called asking if I had any dirt on you.’ And the next day the lady’s back in your face.

So, what dirt did they dig up about you?
I’m sure when you see it there’ll be some big, 300 pound baby’s momma popping up on there talking about me, saying, ”Ice-T did me on the Def Jam tour!” Personally, I don’t advise anyone to do the show if they’ve spent a lot of time in their career lying about shit — they’re gonna get to the bottom of it. I’ve been honest, though. With me, people are going to see it’s more real than they ever imagined. Like, ”Oh yeah, he really was a pimp.”

How did your friends respond to someone looking into your past?
I think the lady from VH1 got robbed by one of my boys. She asked one of my buddies to take her down to the hood, and he told her he’d do it for $600. She made the mistake of saying yes then turning around and saying, ”Well, I’m paying you $200, take it or leave it.” So he said, ”I know where you work, bitch, and I’ll be up there.” That’s one thing you don’t do in my neighborhood, is promise something and not keep up on it. But I figured, maybe it will give her an understanding, because when you’re dealing with rap, no matter how often you tell people what you’re talking about is real, they don’t understand it. I told him to leave the lady alone, because she was going to call the police. But I warned her, you’re gonna do Snoop Dogg next, and then you’re gonna end up in another zone.

Have you seen the show yet?
I don’t really want to see it. I think they want to find a downbeat part, and the part they’re gonna find is the whole ”Cop Killer” thing [the ’92 song was protested by the NRA and police activist groups]. Because I haven’t gone broke or went out on drugs or killed my girlfriend or anything. I been through all that shit before I became a rapper. I became a rapper to stay out of that.

Shortly after the ”Cop Killer” protests, you asked to be released from your contract at Warner Brothers. Are there still hard feelings?
The thing is, we’ve never been on bad terms. We just got thrown into a situation that made everybody sick. They had no problems with me, but when the cops started making a big thing and the company stock started going down, people start to panic. It’s business at that point. Even though they liked me, it is a business.

You were one of the first popular West coast rappers. Is the East versus West feud really over?
After the tragedies that happened with Biggie [Smalls, murdered in ’97] and Tupac [Shakur, murdered in ’96], all the aggression is played out. I think people in L.A. go out of their way to show rappers they aren’t about all that bullshit, and in New York the kids go out of their way to be nice to us too.

How do you feel about Eminem?
What he’s doing is shock rap, but because he’s a white kid he’s blowing everybody’s minds. If you listen to his album, his black buddies rhyme just like him but it’s not as good because you’re used to black kids talking crazy. When you hear a white kid doing it, it sounds way crazier. Plus he’s got a lot of skill, he knows what he’s doing, he’s paid his dues. He’s gonna roll right past all those lawsuits and sell 10 million records and get on with his life.