New Jack City, one of the culture's greatest cinematic creations, might not have found its hero if it wasn't for some ear-hustling done by director Mario Van Peebles.
"I was in the bathroom and I was on my shit," said Ice-T, who starred in the film as Detective Scotty Appleton, while visiting Drink Champs recently. "I [was talking to somebody]; I said, 'Yeah, nigga, if the mothafucka could find a microphone and find one molecule of me that gave a fuck, then they could angle me. But they can't angle me because there's not a molecule there that gave a fuck.' [Van Peebles] said, 'Whoever said that, is going to be the star of my movie.'"
When he left the bathroom, Ice was talking to three ladies and Van Peebles approached him with an offer to star in New Jack City. Ice entertained the director, but in the back of his mind he thought the talk was "Hollywood bullshit."
The two exchanged numbers and agreed to meet at the Warner Bros. movie studio the next day. Coincidentally, Ice was already signed to Warner Bros. Records and thriving as a platinum artist.
"I show up and I look at the script," Ice said. "I'm expecting to get four or five lines. I read Scotty's part and I'm like, 'Yo, this the whole movie. Son. Really, I'm not actor. He's like, you can do it. And I'm like, this nigga got dreads. I got a perm. And he's a cop? Damn. I don't know."
Ice, who had just released his OG: Original Gangster LP, had major qualms about portraying a cop. He was concerned that his street credibility would suffer and thus hurt alienate some of his music fan base.
But as he started asking his friends (some of which were incarcerated) and everyone was excited, he cozied up to the idea.
"No one was saying 'no,'" he said. "Everyone was like, 'Nigga, that's a opportunity.' And the girls where I used to get my hair did. I used to get my hair done twice a week. I had my shit permed up. More wavy than the ships in the Navy. Got to keep it sharp as steak knives up in this bitch. You dig what I'm saying? The girls at the beauty parlor, they was like, 'Ice, you gotta do it, nigga. 'Cause you gonna be one of them real niggas and when you get over you ain't gonna forget the 'hood. You gonna tell everybody what the fuck's going on. And if you don't do it nigga, don't come back up in this mothafucka.' So yeah, the sister sent me out on that mission and I did the movie. I was shitting nervous."
Ice's philosophy is to take advantage of the chances you're given.
"I believe this, we come from a background with no opportunities and we are upset about that," he said. "When you get an opportunity [and] you don't take it, you a real live sucka because you bitchin' about it and you don't take it. You put the jets on when you get that opportunity because we don't get it. So I went and did the movie. I was nervous. This was the time Original Gangster came out. This is my biggest album. I was platinum. I was like, 'I might fuck this all up.' My album was hot. New Jack City was, 'Can I risk this and fuck up my record?' I was playing a cop and I had a album called Original Gangster. That was a dilemma."
Obviously, it all worked out.
"I did the movie. It was a huge success. Hip-hop embraced me." Ice said. "Nobody tripped off the cop thing."
Watch Drink Champs with Ice-T on Saturday, June 3 at midnight ET and Sunday, June 4 at 11 p.m. ET.