Sunday, July 15, 2012


So blogging about Ice-T the other week has got me revisiting all his old albums. Lots of fresh production on Rhyme Pays, and Power still has me wanting to skip right to "High Rollers." But what about the stuff even further back than that? Before he was a gangsta rapper on Warner Bros/Sire Records?  Well, fortunately, I have a compilation of a bunch of that stuff I could rock in the car, and... it's more interesting than I remember it.

The compilation I'm talking about is called The Classic Collection, released on Rhino and Excello Records in 1993. It's pretty cool. It compiles the early singles Ice-T released on Saturn, Electrobeat and Techno Hop Records before he signed with Warner Bros and became the icon he is today.  These records are a lot of fun, because he's on some really old school breakin' stuff, which at first seems pretty far removed from his more famous Iceberg Slim-inspired styles (though, listening to all his early material, you can hear him bridge that gap pretty naturally). This is the Ice-T who dressed in crazy outfits, rapped about graffiti and performed elaborate break dance routines in early hip-hop movies. It's really good times, and would probably surprise the heck out of people who only know him for songs like "Colors." "Body Rock," in fact, is probably my favorite Ice-T song ever.

But for some reason - maybe rights issues, or maybe Rhino just wasn't up on Ice's history well enough to know about them - they leave out all the stuff Ice did as a member of The Radio Crew and the records where his producer, Chris "The Glove" Taylor got top billing. So, it's not a terribly complete collection. In fact, it winds up being pretty short.

So, what is Rhino to do? Fill! Now, they don't go quite as far as Macola Records and steal an entire other group's songs and pass it off as the main artist; but they still manage to come up with some pretty quirky padding. First off they include some extra 12" stuff, which is what you'd expect a compilation to do when it's short on material (or, like Traffic, just looking to be as completist as possible)... So, not only is his 1983 track "The Coldest Rap" on here, but so is "Cold Wind Madness (The Coldest Rap Pt 2)," even though "Pt 2" is really just the dub mix of the original, and not a new song with new lyrics, etc. We get "Dog'n the Wax (Ya Don't Quit Pt 2)" which actually is a proper, new song that follows "Ya Don't Quit" (also present), but then we get "Iceapella" as well, which is just the acapella mix of "Dog'n the Wax" from the original vinyl (even though the rather extensive liner notes write about it as if it's a proper song on its own).

But there's nothing unusual or unwelcome about that.  I mean, I'd rather have the Radio Crew songs than dub and acapella mixes; but still, you expect that stuff.  Now, here's what you don't expect.

The album starts off with "Ice-A-Mix." This is an original mix recorded for this compilation, produced by Al Eaton (who's produced a bunch of west coast stuff), with cuts by DJ Rob-Scene (whoever that is). They basically make a little mega-mix of the Ice-T records you're going to hear later on this compilation, something Rhino Records did a lot of on compilations they put out in the 90's. Did I say Al Eaton produced it? Well, that's what the liner notes say. But, interestingly, this mix was actually released as a 12" single (okay...), and there the credit is given to DJ Flash. This makes more sense, because he did a bunch of this stuff for these compilations around this time (including those Rock On Crew ones). It's not bad, but not too exciting, as it mostly just features beats and verses we're about to hear in a few seconds anyway. The most noteworthy thing about it is the very dramatic trumpet solo that jumps in about midway through by a guy named Tim Larkin. I can't exactly say it blends in seamlessly - it sticks out like a sore thumb against these simple, old school programmed drum patterns; but it's not bad. Just odd.

But that's not as weird as what we get on the B-side, "Ice-O-Tek." This one's an original dance track that throws in a couple of random Ice-T vocal snippets "my name is Ice-T" and sporadically drops them over a very unrelated, poppy techno track. Seriously, even Technotronic would be like, "this isn't street enough to be on our album." It's not bad, though, in a very upbeat, bubbly sort of way; but man has it ended up on the wrong side of the streets amid Ice-T tracks like "Killers" and "6 In the Mornin'."

What? "6 In the Mornin'" is on here? Yup. Even though it's on Rhyme Pays on Warner Bros, it's here, too. That actually fits, because before it appeared on Rhyme Pays, it was released as the B-side to "Dog'n the Wax" on Techno Hop. And it's one of his greatest hits, so I'm not complaining that it's here, although it's a little redundant having it on both albums. I'm just surprised they could put it on here, since it's now the property of Warner Bros.

Plus, redundant or not, like I said, Rhino needed to pad. Honestly, if you took all the random shit like that and "Ice-O-Tek" off of here, you'd have a one-sided tape. It's that short - five songs. The fact of the matter is that, if you don't include the stuff Ice did with Chris Taylor/ Radio Crew, Ice just didn't release enough unsigned material to fill an album. In fact, if not a one-sided tape, I wish they would've at least put those five songs all on one side, and the odds and ends on the flip. That way you could listen to all that stuff through in a quick listen like an EP (and visit the other stuff on those rare days you're feeling adventurous). But instead, they mix it all together, so you're constantly having to fast-forward or skip ahead on your CD player. But still, unless you're going to collect all the original 12"s, this is worth picking up.

Now, interestingly, Blue Dolphin released an alternate version of this in 1996 with a different track-listing called Cold As Ice. I call this an alternate version, as opposed to just another compilation of early Ice-T tracks, because not only are many of the songs the same on both albums, but it even includes the "Ice-A-Mix" recorded specifically for Rhino's album. Cold As Ice includes those Chris Taylor/ Ice-T tracks from the the Breakin' and Breakin' 2 soundtracks like "Reckless" and "Go Off" (titled "Party People" here), which is a big plus. In fact, I'd say forget about The Classics Collection and rock this, except, frustratingly, they don't include "Ya Don't Quit" or "Dog'n the Wax," which are great, essential Ice-T classics. Why on Earth did they include shit like "Ice-O-Mix" and the dub version of "Coldest Rap" and leave those off? It could've been the definitive version, but instead it's just a weird, alternate version that's less desirable than the first Rhino comp, because it's missing two of the five most important songs. Bad, dolphin, bad!

Oh well, like I said, this is still a pretty handy, definitely enjoyable, collection if you aren't quite prepared to go digging for all the original 12"s. There's still room for a really definitive collection, though, that would include all this stuff, the Breakin' stuff, and the Radio Crew songs into one really solid album. And those crazy, original mixes do add to the fun, even if they're cheesy as Hell. And I don't think anybody's going to dig for that 12"!


  1. I suggest you track down the 7 min 12" mix of new jack hustler on the that's how I'm livin single. The classic collection and this single were my 1st 2 cd's when I was a kid and that mix is still one of my favorite songs!

  2. The "6 In The Mornin'"-version by Techno Hop is a different version than the LP mix... better if you ask me.