Daudi Abe - 6 ‘N The Morning ("If They Ask You If I'm Def...") lyrics
Ice-T was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from Crenshaw High School. He gained some mainstream exposure in 1984 with a single called “Reckless” that appeared on the soundtrack for the movie Breakin. Ice spent most of that song rhyming about the DJ, Chris ‘The Glove' Taylor:
He moves like a madman as he spins his disc,
He's the number one scratcher on the DJs list,
By 1985, an active hip-hop scene had developed in the greater Los Angeles area. In the book Rakim Told Me, Brian Coleman noted:
Even up through the mid-‘80s, the hip-hop scene in Southern California had taken its time building a real foundation. Ice had a couple of records out, and so did local legends like [Kid] Frost, Egyptian Lover and Uncle Jamm's Army, World Class Wreckin Cru, Bobby Jimmy and the Critters and the LA Dream Team. But much of the LA scene was localized before 24-7 rap radio stalwart KDAY started to rev up in 1983 and 1984.
While “Reckless” got his name out there, the song that would distinguish Ice-T was “6 ‘N The Morning,” which was actually released in 1986 as a b-side to the single “Doggin The Wax.” “6 ‘N The Morning,” named after the LAPD's practice of using a battle ram to raid suspected crack houses at 6 am, was at least partially inspired by the Schoolly D hardcore jam “P.S.K.” P.S.K. stood for Parkside Killers, a Philadelphia gang that Schoolly D claimed to have once belonged. A remixed, extended version of “6 ‘N The Morning” would appear in 1987 on Ice-T's debut album, Rhyme Pays. However, it was this initial version that still vividly represents the defining musical soundtrack to the atmosphere and events of the period. A hard 808 kick drum, a dramatic synthesizer, and Ice's “Word!” at the end of each bridge combined with his tales of escape from the police, assault, seven years in prison, release, and murder, brought life on the streets to a conscious level. In the midst of everything going on in the song, the substance of the streets was balanced by the hip-hop sense of style from that time. The first lines of “6 ‘N The Morning” display this:
6 ‘N the morning police at my door
Fresh adidas squeak across my bathroom floor
Worth noting is the fact that both the brand name and condition of the kicks are central to the lasting image left by these lines. Adidas, specifically the Superstar, or shell top model, were standard b-boy foot gear placed in the consciousness of the early hip-hop nation by Run-DMC. Additionally, athletic shoes had started their journey to becoming high fashion apparel, leading to the hip-hop proverb, “The kicks make the (out)fit.” Also it was not enough to simply have these shoes, you needed to have a ‘fresh' pair.
Ice-T had grown up a student of authors like Iceberg Slim, aka Robert Beck, and Donald Goines. The name Ice-T was inspired by Iceberg Slim. Iceberg Slim was born in 1918 in Chicago, Illinois. In the 1930s he briefly attended Tuskegee University, and shortly thereafter began living ‘the life' at age 18, back home in Chicago. After several stretches in prison, Slim decided to ‘square up' and moved to California in the 1960s. He published his first autobiographical novel, Pimp: The Story of My Life, in 1969. His gritty depictions of street life had a universal appeal that helped him sell over 6 million books. Slim's work was included in a literature course at Harvard University and has been translated into German, Spanish, and French. Iceberg Slim died in 1992 at age 73.
Donald Goines (1936-1974) was a prolific author who wrote 16 books in 5 years. He also depicted street life in his writings and was criticized for glorifying the lifestyles of murderers, pimps, hoes, thieves, and drug addicts. Goines was not known for ‘ride off into the sunset' happy endings, and works such as Dopefiend and Black Girl Lost fill a literary gap in American literature, which became part of the vernacular of West Coast hardcore rap.
In high school, Ice-T would memorize lines of Slim's poetry, and recite them for friends and classmates. Other influences included comedians such as Rudy Ray Moore, Redd Foxx, and Richard Pryor. Firmly rooted in this ‘blue' tradition, Ice-T wove brutal, explicit stories of Los Angeles street life into “6 ‘N The Morning:”
Posse to the corner where the fly girls chill
Threw action at some freaks till one bitch got ill
She started acting silly simply would not quit
Called us all punk pussies said we all wasn't shit
As we walked over to her ho continued to speak
So we beat the bitch down in the goddam street
[Lyrics from: https:/lyrics.az/daudi-abe/6-n-the-morning-west-coast-hip-hop-music-1987-1992-the-transformation-of-mainstream-culture/6-n-the-morning-if-they-ask-you-if-im-def.html]
But just livin in the city is a serious task
Bitch didn't know what hit her didn't have time to ask
This graphic description of violence against a woman was an early example of the misogyny that has continued to exist within rap music. Though violence against women may have been a fact of life for those who influenced Ice-T, the inclusion of it within the rap music spawned the ‘reporting' vs. ‘glorification' discussion. Were these kinds of lyrics just an acknowledgment that things like this happen, or did they simply serve to celebrate and normalize misogynistic attitudes?
By 1987, Ice-T was one of the predominant faces of rap outside of the greater New York area. This was due not only to the success of “6 ‘N The Morning,” but also his earlier mentioned soundtrack work and a brief appearance in the movie Breakin. However, Ice-T's debut album Rhyme Pays, raised the profile of non-New York based hip-hop music in the national consciousness. The album's cover intentionally expressed a West Coast vibe that would inform the flavor of the music. Rakim Told Me author Brian Coleman noted:
Of course Ice, the savvy, flashy LA player, knew that the album cover would be important. For that, he enlisted one of hip- hop's most important photographers: Glen E. Friedman. “Glen gave me that album cover for Rhyme Pays that made me stand alongside the big cats,” Ice says, of the image: Ice scowling from behind the wheel of his purple Porsche, with a fine female standing tall in the passenger seat, DJ Evil-E in the back, and a palm tree hovering strategically above their heads. “He made sure that we got the girl, the Porsche and the palm tree in it. He said: ‘The palm tree is the most important thing in this shot.' LA was very important to the image I was getting across. And images were very important back then for an album cover. At that time there was only like 10 or 15 albums out in total, so people were definitely going to see your cover.
The content of Rhyme Pays addressed a variety of topics, but rarely strayed far from Ice-T's street origins and fixations. Songs such as “Somebody Gotta Do It (Pimpin' Ain't Easy!!!),” “Sex,” “I Love Ladies,” and “6 ‘N the Morning” certainly fulfilled the obscene and misogynistic qualities present in toasting, but there was more to his concept. A song like “Pain” was a decidedly dark track that chronicled the agony often associated with street life:
Deuce-deuce revolver was my problem solver
Had a def girl really didn't wanna involve her
In the life of a gangsta used to rob banksta
But now I'm locked up I'm just a punk low ranksta
Jail cells know me too damn well
Seems like I've built on earth my own personal hell
“Squeeze the Trigger” was a socio-political joint that called out the hypocrisy of those who criticized Ice-T but ignored the issues he attempted to address:
Cops hate kids kids hate cops
Cops kill kids with warning shots
What is crime and what is not?
What is justice I think I forgot
We buy weapons to keep us strong
Reagan sends guns where they don't belong
The controversy is thick and the drag is strong
But no matter the lies we all know who's wrong
In the future Ice –T would be attacked repeatedly for the explicit and violent content of his music. However, it was precisely those things that helped Rhyme Pays generate a consciousness that would continue to influence hip-hop artists for years to come.