If any album needs to live up to its advance hype, that record is Ice-T’s Home Invasion. In the last year, the man has run a disturbing public gauntlet, starting with the uproar over his hardcore grenade ”Cop Killer” and continuing with his abrupt break with the Time Warner-owned Sire Records in connection with Home Invasion. The album has finally arrived — on an indie label — with the promise of being a take-no-prisoners assault on the evil music-biz empire.
If only it were. Ice-T may be a godfather of West Coast rap (as heard on the funky, if dated, electro-beats of Rhino’s The Classic Collection, due out April 6). But with the exception of 1989’s terse, tough-minded, and funny The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say, his albums have mostly been muddled (O.G. Original Gangster) or unlistenable (Body Count, his ill-conceived shot at headbanging). Sonically, Home Invasion continues that downhill tumble; with its muddy, sluggish beats, the album sounds like a long, dull thud.
Yet those are minor complaints compared with the change in Ice-T himself. In a skit toward the beginning of the record, a member of his posse informs him that ”the organization” (i.e., Time Warner) won’t distribute his album. ”We have absolutely no option but to move forward,” Ice-T replies in the somber tones of a rap godfather. ”I can’t put any cut on the product. I just can’t live like that.” You’d never know he was talking about a mere album, and you’d barely know he has a sense of humor; an air of self-mythologizing runs rampant. ”Now they killed King, and they shot X/Now they want me, you could be next,” he warns young rappers. Addressing his legal hassles on ”It’s On” and ”Ice M.F. T,” he resorts to slamming anyone who didn’t side with him, be it cops (”pop pop pop to the dome,” he fantasizes, almost perfunctorily), ”punk reporters,” rappers who go pop, the FBI, Charlton Heston (who gave a melodramatic reading of the ”Cop Killer” lyrics to Time Warner stockholders), and the hip-hop magazine The Source.
Ice-T is free to spew whatever he wants, be it pointed or ill-directed. But instead of tackling the complex and chilling issues involved with corporate censorship, he spends too much time bragging about his record-making skills, his collegiate fans, and his wealth. Way too much time, in fact: At 19 tracks, the album is more padded than a Sealy Posturepedic. And for all his talk of integrity, he spoils the mood by letting a member of the 2 Live Crew (one of many guest rappers) tell a sexual conquest, ”I hope you took your pill/’Cuz I won’t pay the bill.”
Home Invasion has its moments. On ”Gotta Lotta Love,” Ice-T sounds wary but heartened by the truce in the L.A. gang war. ”Race War” condemns anti-Asian violence, and he seems both hopeful and sad with lines like ”Every night I pray/That people get this s— together one day.” And he exhibits his formidable storytelling skills on ”Addicted to Danger,” the tale of a dealer on his way to a drop-off that is so vivid it practically puts you in the car’s front seat. For the most part, however, Ice-T is caught between calling for harmony and blasting everyone on his case, and his invasion gets beached at every step. C-