Latin Conference & Awards

Ice-T: 'The Art of Rap' Will Be More Than Just a Movie

Ice-T in Stussy and shades at All Points West, August 1, 2009.

As he prepares for the June 15 theatrical opening of his documentary "Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap," Ice-T promises that the campaign "won't end with this film."

"We've got a DVD. We have a television show. We have a soundtrack album," the rapper told before a suburban Detroit screening of the film, which was attended by fellow MCs Chuck D of Public Enemy (who Ice-T had joined on stage the previous night at the Movement Electronic Music Festival), D-12's Denaun Porter and Trick Trick. "I've got 52 (MCs) in this movie, and I have at least an hour to an hour and a half of in-depth interviews. I've got, like, two hours with KRS-One. So the film will just be the first embodiment of 'The Art of Rap,' but I don't want to promote our secondary plans and take away from the film. I want people to see it on the big screen, hear it with the big speakers and take that ride."

Ice-T spent two years working on "Something From Nothing," chatting with the likes of Afrika Bambaataa, Run-DMC, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kanye West, Grandmaster Melle Mel and scores of others about the actual crafts of rapping, rhyming, composing and sound generation. "In my 25 years of rapping, no one ever asked me how I did it," explained Ice-T, who licensed more than 400 songs for the film and commissioned Smooth Hustla to compose the original track "109 MCs." "People would always be more concerned with the beefs, the cars, the girls, the celebrity side of it, but not how it's done. To me that meant people thought you just s*** it out. There's no creative process. There's nothing to it... But some of these cats, it's like very intricate wordplay, and they have their own ways to do it. I tried to get people who spoke on all the different styles of rap -- the underground battle rappers or the conscious rappers. There's lots of different styles."

Exclusive: Watch Ice-T Discuss His 'Art of Rap' Documentary

In addition to a list of 15 standard questions, Ice-T also asked each of his subjects to bust an original rhyme for the cameras, yielding stunning, off-the cuff performances whose lyrics often reflect on the craft and on what rap means to them. "What made this movie so special is Ice is alongside the person he's interview, so he's navigating the audience and he's navigating the artists and the rappers and he's doing a great job on both sides of the coin," Chuck D noted. And Ice-T said his friendships with the subjects allowed him to cut deeper than the standard interviewer.

"By me knowing each one of these artists I had the ability to get, like, that Barbara Walters interview," he explained. "I could get them into a place where I'm like, 'That's bulls***, man. Come on! I was there.' 'Ohhh...You want the REAL?' and they start giving it up. Some of the best stuff is just wild stories -- you would've never expected the KRS story about [how] he started rapping, or Run telling me what it's like being on the top. It's crazy."

"Something From Nothing's" official premieres will take place June 5 in Los Angeles and June 12 in New York. Ice-T predicted that "this is going to be a word-of-mouth film. We're promoting it like a record rather than a film like...'The Avengers,'" but he's counting on a substantial hip-hop fan base and a cross-generation appeal to bring people to the theaters.

"Almost every artist in this movie sold a million records, so in the hip-hop community we haven't gotten one bad review," he said. "I believe there's a huge adult hip-hop audience that's dormant, that wants to show their kids what they went through and wants to take them back and say, 'This is when we wore Adidas.' I'm hopeful those people will bring their kids. I really think this could do a Michael Moore thing. This could just swell and be bigger than a normal documentary. That could really happen."

Meanwhile, the "Something From Nothing" official soundtrack is set to hit stores on June 12, with 23 tracks set to include live acapella performances from KRS-One, Immortal Technique, Ras Kass and Ice-T himself.