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Black Ice Q & A

Ice Flows

Philadelphia is steeped in revolutionary people and ideas. Its history stretches from the 1700s, when early Americans bucked Britain’s colonial system to today’s cause célébre -- death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal -- who continues to fight the U.S. prison system from behind bars.

Black Ice marks the latest addition to the bunch. The poet-turned-rapper started his career on Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam before focusing on his musical pursuits. His debut album The Death of Willie Lynch (a political statement in itself) is littered with lyrical barbs aimed at everything from Bush and the Hurricane Katrina aftermath to the degradation of black women. He spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from Philly.

SF Station (SFS): “Black ice” is often considered hazardous and dangerous, do those qualities represent you as an artist?

Black Ice (BI): My name is kind of like the weather term, in sense that I’m unexpected.

SFS: After years of being a successful poet, why did you choose to switch over to music now?

BI: I haven’t switched over to music, I’ve always been involved with music. The Def Poetry Jam shows are a cappella, but the way we did poetry in Philly, we always had a band. The Roots and all of your major producers now, were our house band. It was pretty much one big clique down here, Black Thought (of The Roots) did poetry at one point and Jill Scott is obviously a poet.

I’ve always considered myself synonymous with music. The a cappella thing was actually new for me. But, without music my poetry is hip-hop. I always discuss things that are discussed in hip-hop music. I never imagined making an album without music.

SFS: Why did you name your album The Death of Willie Lynch?

BI: I wanted it to be the death of those stereotypes that Willie Lynch described in a speech he gave to slave owners. If you read the speech, a lot of things in there are true ailments of black American culture and a lot of it is stereotypical as well.

I wanted my album to symbolize the death of that thought process and those stereotypical views that we put on ourselves and let people put on us.

SFS: You have some other very potent messages on you album, do you ever worry that your album might face repercussions from people in the industry that are not really feeling your point of view?

BI: Somebody is gonna feel it somewhere and that is where my opportunities lie. I didn’t make my album thinking about the higher-ups. It’s just my choice of the coin, it’s going to do what it’s going to do.

Ani Difranco, Cody Chestnut and so many other artists have proven that despite what popular opinion says, you don’t need organized religion to see god. I prescribe to that message, so I don’t really worry.

SFS: Were there any major challenges recording your first album?

BI: The only major challenge for me was just life. Life was happening while I was making this album -- I had to deal with my children and my marriage ended during the making of the album. Those are the experiences that I think helped flush out my ideas. I was forced to evaluate my philosophy and evaluate what my whole steez was on this planet. I opened up in a way, and I started looking at things in differently.


The Death of Willie Lynch was released on Koch Records on 9/5/06.