As part of HiLoBrow‘s “Herc Your Enthusiasm” series, named in honor of legendary DJ Kool Herc, which consists of 25 posts by 25 critics about old-school Hip-hop tracks, I was asked to contribute one from 1983. That was kind of an in-between year being just after the reign of Kurtis Blow but before Run-DMC became the Kings of Rock. Fortunately, 1983 was the year of Ice-T‘s “The Coldest Rap.”
Here’s an excerpt:
Ice-T’s first single, “The Coldest Rap”/”Cold Wind Madness (a.k.a. The Coldest Rap, Part 2)” (1983) consists of a two-part rhyme-fest of boastful wordplay. The single is backed with “Body Rock,” an electro-dance number that puts in extra work trying to explain what Hip-hop is all about. Past all of the playful posturing and woefully dated structure, one can hear the seeds of Ice-T’s lyrical heyday. His distinctive delivery, his cadence, his occasional turn of phrase, and his gift for innuendo all shine through, hinting at his future success on the mic. “The Coldest Rap” is a player anthem, a party song, a Hip-hop trope that Ice-T would revisit throughout his recording career. The power production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who were then core members of Morris Day’s band, The Time, as well as close associates of Prince, provided the backbone for the track. They stretch out a bit on Part 2, but Part 1 is all Ice-T’s, though the track originally had female vocals on it. “They stripped the girl’s vocal out,” he told Wax Poetics in 2010, “gave me the instrumental, and I rapped over it that night in the studio.” In spite of the single’s inauspicious origins, Ice-T sounds as authoritative as ever, if not as focused as he would become a few years later. “Those were just some rhymes I had in my head,” he said.
So maybe Melle Mel and Kurtis Blow are the most revered and remembered emcees of the time, but Ice-T was in the mix, and he was just getting started.
You can read the whole post over on HiLoBrow. Many thanks to Joshua Glenn for the opportunity and Jeff Newelt for the push.